x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Later trade deadline in NFL would build play-off anxiety

Baseball's late-season trade deadline helps build fan anxiety and anticipation for its play-offs. The NFL trade deadline, which has just passed, comes so early that none of that happens.

The St Louis Cardinals ascended to the World Series with help from a lead-off-hitting shortstop, a starting pitcher and two relievers acquired just before Major League Baseball's trade deadline.

Their opponents, the Texas Rangers, reached last year's Series on the back of a late-season trade for the esteemed pitcher Cliff Lee. A flurry of player movement, usually in the direction of playing non-contenders to contenders, spices the prelude to baseball's post-season. The same cannot be said for the NFL, which closed its trade market on Tuesday, just six weeks into the schedule.

Only three swaps beat the deadline. If not for the Bengals unloading Carson Palmer, the quarterback, which might never have occurred had the Raiders' Jason Campbell escaped injury, American football followers who blinked might have missed any deals. The Broncos sent Brandon Lloyd, the wide receiver, to the St Louis Rams for a draft pick.

The previous week, only two trades occurred.

A later deadline might generate more activity as teams fallen from the play-off race find trade partners with title aspirations and possibly in need of an injury replacement, but a baseball-style burst would be unlikely.

It is rare for a player to step into an unfamiliar environment and contribute to the team immediately. There are playbooks to memorise, teammates' tendencies to learn, coaches' screams to get accustomed to.

Pro football, with its soaring popularity, scarcely needs much improvement. Still, an experimental trade deadline in early December is worth trying for one year.