The best and worst NFL trade debuts ever: Khalil Mack has company

Gruden: 'Obviously Khalil Mack didn't want to play' in Oakland (0:45)

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden shares his frustrations about the situation with former linebacker Khalil Mack. (0:45)

Khalil Mack's debut for the Chicago Bears was the story of Week 1 -- until Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers led a second-half surge en route to a 24-23 comeback victory Sunday night.

Let us not, however, forget Mack's instant impact. Before the halftime gun had sounded, Mack had recorded a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception and a touchdown. Where does his outing fit in the pantheon of immediate NFL trade dividends? Glad you asked.

Pro football doesn't have a rich history of trades involving veteran players, although we have seen an upswing in significant deals during recent years. Regardless, there have been enough to consider the best and worst debuts following a trade involving a veteran player. This list does not include players traded during the draft process, but it does include some instances of the same player being traded more than once.

A big hat tip goes to a host of ESPN Stats & Information researchers, who quickly combed league history to produce a long list of nominations:


Herschel Walker, RB, Minnesota Vikings

The trade: The Vikings acquired Walker in 1989 from the Cowboys in the biggest trade in NFL history. The bounty included eight draft choices and four players.

The debut: Walker took the opening kickoff 51 yards, also had a 47-yard run and finished with 148 yards on 18 carries. The Vikings defeated their rival Packers 26-14 and were soon taking bows for stealing a franchise player from the Cowboys. Alas, Walker never played better in a Vikings uniform and moved on to the Eagles in 1992.

Randy Moss, WR, Oakland Raiders/New England Patriots

The trades: In 2005, the Raiders acquired Moss by sending the Vikings two draft choices, including a first-rounder, and linebacker Napoleon Harris. Two years later, the Raiders traded Moss to the Patriots for a fourth-round pick.

The debuts: Moss viewed both trades as if he had been fired and reacted accordingly. In his first game with the Raiders in 2005, he caught five passes for 130 yards -- including a 73-yard touchdown reception -- in a 30-20 loss to the Patriots. In his New England debut in 2007, Moss hauled in nine passes for 181 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown, in a 38-14 victory over the Jets.

Joe Montana, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

The trade: In 1993, the Chiefs acquired the future Hall of Fame quarterback from the 49ers for a first-round pick. The Chiefs also received a third-round pick and safety David Whitmore.

The debut: Montana threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-3 victory over the Buccaneers. You might not be blown away by those numbers, but keep in mind that a Chiefs quarterback had thrown more than two touchdown passes in a game only twice in the team's previous 36 games, dating back to 1990. The start also put the Chiefs on track to win their first division title in 22 seasons.

Terrell Owens, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

The trade: Owens' move from the 49ers to the Eagles is largely remembered as a free-agent move, but officially he was traded as part of a settlement of a grievance. The 49ers received a fifth-round pick and defensive end Brandon Whiting for Owens, who was 31 at the time.

The debut: Owens caught three touchdown passes in the Eagles' 31-17 victory over the Giants. It was an important division victory that put the Eagles on the path toward a playoff march and appearance in Super Bowl XXXIX.

Steve Largent, WR, Seattle Seahawks

The trade: At the end of the 1976 preseason, the Oilers shipped Largent to the expansion Seahawks for an eighth-round pick.

The debut: He caught five passes for 86 yards in 30-24 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. The numbers might not seem spectacular, but it's important to remember that passing statistics were much different in the mid-1970s. No player had more than seven catches in Week 1 of the 1976 season. Moreover, the game kick-started Largent's Hall of Fame career. He led the Seahawks in receiving that year and in each of the next 11 seasons. When he retired in 1989, Largent owned the NFL record for most receptions (819) and yards (13,089).


Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears

The trade: In 2009, the Broncos sent Cutler, then 26, and a fifth-round pick to the Bears for two first-round picks, a third-round pick and quarterback Kyle Orton.

The debut: Cutler's first regular-season game with the Bears had some eerie similarities to Khalil Mack's. It came on a Sunday night at Lambeau Field and was decided by late touchdown pass from Rodgers. Unlike Mack, Cutler played poorly. He threw four interceptions, was sacked twice and completed 47.2 percent of his passes in the 21-15 loss.

Joey Galloway, WR, Dallas Cowboys/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The trades: In 2000, the Seahawks sent Galloway to the Cowboys for two No. 1 draft choices. Then, in 2004, the Cowboys sent him to the Buccaneers for receiver Keyshawn Johnson.

The debuts: Both went poorly. Galloway caught four passes for 62 yards in his first game with the Cowboys -- a 41-14 loss to the Eagles -- but also tore his ACL and did not return until 2001. In his Bucs debut -- a 16-10 loss to the Redskins -- Galloway caught one pass (for no gained yardage) and suffered a groin injury that sidelined him for nearly two months.

Eric Dickerson, RB, Indianapolis Colts/Los Angeles Raiders/Atlanta Falcons

The trades: Dickerson was traded three times: In 1987 from the Rams to the Colts in a complex three-team deal; in 1992 from the Colts to the Raiders for fourth- and eighth-round draft picks; and from the Raiders to the Falcons in 1993 for a sixth-round draft pick.

The debuts: Alas, one of the best running backs in NFL history didn't provide an immediate burst in any of his first post-trade games. He rushed for 38 yards on 10 carries in his first game with the Colts, for 58 yards on 22 carries in his Raiders debut, and 10 yards on six rushes with the Falcons. His time with the Colts ultimately proved fruitful, with 5,194 rushing yards over five seasons. He managed 729 yards in one season with the Raiders and only 91 yards in four games for the Falcons.

John Hadl, QB, Green Bay Packers

The trade: A desperate Packers team shipped a stunning sum -- two No. 1 picks, two No. 2 picks and a No. 3 pick -- to the Rams in 1974 for a quarterback who was 34 years old and nearing the end of his career.

The debut: Whatever you think might have been necessary to justify this trade, well, Hadl fell short of it. He sat out his first game and, the following week, completed nine of 15 passes for 99 yards and an interception in a 17-6 loss to the Redskins. The Packers were 3-4 in Hadl's starts that season, 4-9 in 1975 and he was gone before the 1976 season began. With their future drafts gutted, the Packers made only one playoff appearance in the 19 seasons after this trade.

Carson Palmer, QB, Oakland Raiders

The trade: The Raiders acquired Palmer, who had retired after refusing to report to the Bengals, in 2011 for first- and second-round draft picks.

The debut: Palmer was rusty and the Raiders got smoked 28-0 by the Chiefs. Palmer completed only eight of 21 passes for 116 yards and threw three interceptions. The resulting 1.8 Total Quarterback Rating was the second-worst for a qualified player that season. The Raiders finished 4-5 in his nine starts and failed to reach the playoffs.