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Jon Baldwin and AJ Jenkins - Their Chances in the "Challenge Trade"

We take a look at the recent history of "challenge trades" to see what potential may await Jon Baldwin and/or AJ Jenkins in their new cities.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

As we all know by now, the AJ Jenkins and Jon Baldwin sagas are over in their original locations, and have sprung anew with the other's respective team as the result of a good ol' "challenge trade."

As Football Outsiders (FO) explains:

"Here's something you don't often see in the NFL: a "challenge trade," where a player is getting straight-up dealt for another player at the same position solely to see who can improve with a change of scenery."

With the help of the ever-intelligent FO commenters, I was able to gather some examples of recent "challenge trades." I then took to pro-football-reference (and the occasional wikipedia glance) to see how the players fared in their new homes.

Consider this an exercise in the recent history of "challenge trades" and their outcomes to see if either San Francisco or Kansas City can strike gold with their new prospects.

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In 2004, Keyshawn Johnson was traded from the Bucs to the 'Boys straight-up for Joey Galloway.

At age 32, and already a three-time Pro Bowler, Johnson would accrue 1,800 receiving yards in two seasons with Dallas before topping off his career with another 800+ yard campaign for Carolina.

Galloway, who had produced three 1,000 yard seasons early in his career in Seattle, would go on to generate three more from '05 to '07 for Tampa Bay. He would play a few more years before retiring with New England at age 39.

Conclusion: Previous success can breed future success. These two wide receivers found new homes where they could continue or build upon their already-productive careers. No analogies to be found in this for Baldwin or Jenkins.

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That same year, the Browns traded Quincy Morgan to Dallas for Antonio Bryant.

Morgan had a breakout campaign in 2002, averaging 17.2 yards per reception and scoring 7 touchdowns. But he regressed the following season and his trade to Dallas the year after that rekindled nothing.

Bryant, in the mean time, managed a 1,000 yard season in 2005 before heading to San Francisco in '06 and then Tampa Bay for his final two years and one more 1,000 yard output.

Conclusion: Morgan did not work out despite having shown flashes of potential with Cleveland. Bryant, on the other hand, arguably had his best years after the trade.

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In 2005, Washington traded Laveranues Coles to the New York Jets for Santana Moss.

Both men already achieved a 1,000 yard season prior to the trade, with Coles having done it back-to-back in '03 and '04, before having a slight down year in '05.

Post-trade, Moss responded with his lone Pro Bowl season and would go on to have continued success in the nation's capitol while Coles, aside from a 90+ reception year in 2006, failed to find much of the same in New York.

Conclusion: Moss worked out alright, but had already shown talent.

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A year later, Chargers CB Sammy Davis was traded to San Francisco for Rashaun Woods.

Woods ended up injured in June and, by PFR's records, never played another snap of NFL football.

Davis stayed in the Bay Area for one year, defending 7 passes and recording 23 tackles, before shipping off to a different bay in Florida. Neither man ever made a Pro Bowl.

Conclusion: I assume YouTube offers no highlights of these fine athletes, so instead watch this awesome video of Sammy Davis Jr. doing impersonations while singing "One for My Baby."

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Also in '06, the Patriots traded WR Bethel Johnson to the Saints for DT Johnathan Sullivan.

Sullivan apparently never took the field in New England red & blue, while Johnson, by season's start, was in Minnesota as a kick returner.

The way a member of PatsPulpit -- our sister (brother?) SBNation blog for the Patriots -- described the trade reminds us all that sometimes things just don't work out:

"The Bethel Johnson experiment is over in New England. After three years of under-performance, the New England Patriots said goodbye to one of the best raw talent receivers in a Patriots jersey in recent memory."

Conclusion: Given that Randy Moss showed up next season to catch passes from Tom Brady, it's safe to say the real winner in all this is somehow Tom Coughlin.

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Keeping in the same year, Andy Reid's Eagles traded WR Billy McMullen to Minnesota for Hank Baskett -- the only American football trade since the presidency of Richard Nixon to feature two men who may or may not have a family history of feuding in West Virginia over Civil War allegiances in the late 1800's.

McMullen caught 23 passes for 307 yards and 2 touchdowns. Baskett also managed 2 touchdowns, but his 22 receptions netted him a whopping 464 yards. Three years later, McMullen was no longer in the NFL and Baskett spent the remainder of his career rotating between a few squads before following suit.

Conclusion: The century-old Baskett-McMullen feud ended peacefully when the latter's family reluctantly admitted that Baskett's 6 touchdowns and 1,098 receiving yards achieved over a stunning 5 year career dwarfed anything any McMullen had done in sports since Johnny Ray McMullen pitched 1 2/3 innings in 1903 in a relief effort for the Washington Senators, allowing two earned runs off four hits and a walk.

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The Packers traded RB Samkon Gado to Houston for Vernand Morency in what is definitely the only trade in history to feature two characters from the Elder Scrolls series of high fantasy role-playing video games.

Gado never again rushed for more than 220 yards in a season, while Morency stayed in Green Bay for one more year; the last of his three-year career.

Conclusion: Though Morency's career was shorter, he would get the last laugh, just edging out Gado in PFR's Weighted Career AV rankings, finishing in 7,909th place since 1950.

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During the 2010 season, Cleveland RB Jerome Harrison was sent to the Eagles for Mike Bell.

Harrison wound up in Detroit the following year and had 14 attempts for 41 yards before never seeing the ball in 2012 due to the discovery of a brain tumor. Gladly, he is okay now.

For Bell, 2010 would prove his final season in a 5-year career that took him to four different cities, with none ever mimicking the "magic" of his rookie campaign in Denver where he rushed for 677 yards at 4.3 a carry and garnered 8 touchdowns.

Conclusion: Neither did much before or after the trade, and neither notched any Pro Bowl honors at all.

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Just last year, the Rams traded former 2nd-overall-pick Jason Smith to the Jets for 31-year-old Wayne Hunter.

Hunter is currently a free agent and Smith is now in New Orleans. Obviously, neither worked out.

Conclusion: Give it another year...?

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"Another year" is something San Francisco and Kansas City refused to offer their young wide-outs. But, based on the cases above, a change of scenery has not been very useful in waking up underachievers. The only men to really find success in their new homes were ones who had shown at least moderate success prior to the trade.

If there is something fundamentally wrong with you, after all, no amount of life revelations or radical shifts in ideology, habit, or living environment can necessarily fix it. Just ask anyone who bought a treadmill thinking they would work out more if they had one. Or ask me, who keeps getting new jobs thinking I'll finally get my act together for the next one and start showing up on time. Pffffttt, as if!

Or ask my old friend who went from being an insistent "anarchist-without-adjectives" to a dogmatic "anarcho-capitalist" to a ridiculously-thick-headed "mutualist" within the span of one year -- none of those proud black flags ever addressing the root issue of him being a rabble-rousing, contrarian, nut-job (if you get these references, what the heck are you doing on a football blog?).

It is yet to be determined whether Jon Baldwin and A.J. Jenkins will mirror the results of past "challenge trades" in the NFL, or if a new coaching staff, a new team, and an early career slap to the face will wake them up.

Sometimes, the only thing that can fix an issue is age. Both men are only 24, and no amount of reflection, practice, force, or inculcation can replicate the value of experience.

Conclusion: "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." Here's a sweet live recording of Canadian legends Rush performing "Circumstances", with Neil Peart showing Joe Flacco how to properly rock a mustache.

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Moving Forward

What do y'all think will happen to these two young men? Who will emerge as the bigger star and why? Or are they both destined for obscurity?

San Francisco will have Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree back at some point, with Anquan Boldin already proving useful and Vernon Davis likely to continue as a threat -- and they still possess the best run-blocking line in the league with a studly corps of backs at their disposal.

Kansas City, meanwhile, seems to be leaning towards heavy tight-end use with newly-arrived Anthony Fasano providing a reliable target and rookie Travis Kelce moving up the depth chart. The ever-dangerous Dwayne Bowe is still out wide with Jamaal Charles, Dexter McCluster, and even fullback Anthony Sherman stepping up as receiving threats.

Both teams have weapons, are likely to feature a heavy amount of the run game, and neither Baldwin or Jenkins are expected to be the No. 1 pass target -- i.e., no is asking these guys to be world-beaters.

But a lot of people are asking them to step up their game and improve upon their previous lack of production.

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