As the NFL trade deadline approaches, here is one trade each team has to make.
At this point, all 32 NFL teams have to get realistic about their prospects for the 2018 season. Trades aren’t necessarily rampant heading into the NFL trade deadline, as they are in MLB, the NBA or the NHL, but occasionally a notable deal or two gets done.
This year’s trade deadline falls on the Tuesday after Week 8, Oct. 30, at 4 p.m. ET. Some big names could be on the move, most notably Le’Veon Bell and Earl Thomas, but their current teams will have a significant asking price.
Teams with veteran assets that want to stockpile draft picks should consider swapping said veterans to teams that have a need to fill now or looking toward 2019. The San Francisco 49ers willingly took from their pile of draft picks to get Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots last year at the deadline, then Garoppolo went 5-0 as the starter late in the season to bring hope for this year. We’ll forget about Garoppolo’s torn ACL that threw things off course in Week 3 this year though.
Realistically, most of these deals won’t get done before the deadline. But here’s one trade each of the 32 NFL teams has to consider making.
Arizona Cardinals: Sam Bradford to 49ers for 4th round pick
Bradford finally got benched before the end of Week 3, and while it was an odd place to insert Josh Rosen the Cardinals have made the move toward the future under center.
Before this year, Bradford hasn’t been a terrible quarterback when he’s healthy. Of course that’s the key caveat, with a twice-torn left ACL, and his two-year deal with the Cardinals is essentially a one-year deal.
The 49ers have the cap space to absorb the remainder of Bradford’s salary for this year, and even if they’re shifting into tank mode after Garoppolo’s injury C.J. Beathard is barely a backup-caliber quarterback. Bradford may be in his waning weeks as an NFL quarterback, with what has been described as a degenerative knee. So having an opportunity to play might be something he wants, and he can find it in San Francisco over the rest of the season. Now that the Cardinals are ready to take money out of his pocket, Bradford may be pushed to ask for a trade.
Atlanta Falcons: Jimmie Ward from 49ers for 5th Round pick
The Falcons are down both starting safeties, with Keanu Neal (torn ACL) and Ricardo Allen (torn Achilles) each injured by the end of Week 3. Their defense is just generally beat up all-around, and the secondary can’t hold up. A move to get Earl Thomas would have been obvious, but he’s out for the season (most likely) with a broken left leg suffered in Week 4.
Ward has started games at cornerback and safety over four-plus NFL seasons, albeit at something less than an All-Pro level at both spots. But that versatility has value, and the 49ers don’t seem to know what to do with him going into each year. In the final year of his contract, but making $8.5 million, trading for him won’t be for everybody. But San Francisco was open to moving him during the preseason, and they could surely be engaged again on Ward as the trade deadline nears.
It would not, or should not, take a bounty to get Ward. As the 49ers start to look toward 2019 with a full compliment of healthy players, being able to get an extra mid-to-late round draft pick for him should get a deal done pretty easily. The Falcons should be in line to add anything and virtually anyone they can to their defense.
Baltimore Ravens: Charles Clay from Bills for 6th Round pick
The Ravens offense is clicking nicely, with Joe Flacco clearly having a fire lit under him by the team drafting Lamar Jackson in the fist round. Three new wide receivers (John Brown, Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead) has helped, but Ozzie Newsome keeps throwing draft pick capital at the tight end spot to little avail.
To be fair, rookie (and first-round pick) Hayden Hurst was out with a foot injury early in the season. Maxx Williams, Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle shouldn’t keep him off the field, but good luck predicting how tight end snaps for the Ravens will be divided in any game.
Clay would seem to be a solid safety blanket for rookie quarterback Josh Allen in Buffalo, but it has not come to fruition in a meaningful way thus far. Clay’s usefulness to a team in reset mode is truly minimal.
Clay is not a very exciting player, but he is reliable (at least 49 catches each season from 2013-2017). Simply having that consistency from a tight end should add something to Baltimore’s offense that it’s not getting right now.
Buffalo Bills: Shaq Lawson to Raiders for 4th Round Pick
After posting a total of six sacks over his first two seasons, in two different defensive systems, Bills head coach Sean McDermott said Lawson needed to step up. He hung onto a roster spot during camp and the preseason, but a hamstring issue kept Lawson out for the first three games.
After trading Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has been berated with questions about the team’s lack of pass rush. He went so far as to say it’s hard to find pass rushers based on what’s happening in college football, which may be true but doesn’t excuse trading an elite one that was in place.
Lawson had 12.5 sacks and 24.5 tackles for loss in his final season at Clemson, which helped make him a first-round pick in 2016 (19th overall). It also shows he has some ability to get after the passer, as much as it has not been cultivated in the NFL yet.
The Bills may take virtually anything they can get just to shed Lawson. It’s easy to see the naive personnel man that is Gruden making an unreasonably good offer, on the idea Lawson was a “great college pass rusher”. That would be an offer general manager Brandon Beane simply won’t be able to refuse.
Carolina Panthers: Tyler Kroft from Bengals for 5th Round pick
With Greg Olsen out again with a foot injury, and even with some quick optimism he’ll be able to return sooner that expected (UPDATE: possibly in Week 6) the Panthers have a big void at tight end. Rookie Ian Thomas hasn’t done much with the starting job, and Chris Manhertz is not a threat to usurp him even with that.
When Tyler Eifert was healthy, Kroft was automatically a tradeable asset. He set career-highs last year while playing in Eifert’s place (42 receptions for 404 yards and seven touchdowns). He’s also in the final year of his contract, and being in line for an extension or just outright hitting free agency next March automatically makes him highly unlikely to return to the Bengals in 2019.
A capable tight end is clearly a valuable target for Cam Newton , and one he hasn’t had for most of the last season-plus. The Panthers offense also functions better with that threat from a tight end on the field, and Olsen’s absence eliminates a weapon offensive coordinator Norv Turner has used well when his system has been at its best.
Eifert’s nasty leg injury in Week 4 means the Bengals probably need to keep Kroft around for the rest of the season. But they may still get some calls about his availability, and the Panthers should be one of the teams with interest even if Olsen is nearing a return.
Chicago Bears: Kevin White to Cowboys for 7th Round pick
White is healthy right now, which itself is noteworthy since he only played five games in his first three seasons. But through four games entering October he did not have a catch, and without an injury on the wide receiver depth chart the former first-round pick doesn’t have a place in the Bears’ offense.
The Cowboys decided to let Dez Bryant go last offseason and Jason Witten retired for the Monday Night Football booth, and they’ve struggled to find reliable targets for Dak Prescott all season. White is not that kind of proven commodity, but if he can stay on the field his physical tools (perception or reality at this point) are enough to give him a chance somewhere. The Bears seem to be done with him, so maybe that place is Dallas as he plays out his rookie contract over the rest of this season.
A former first-round pick with a theoretical high ceiling would surely grab Jerry Jones’ attention regardless of who it is or what position they play. But from a practical standpoint, if only to find a body at wide receiver, taking a flier on someone like White for a late-round draft pick makes sense for the Cowboys.
Cincinnati Bengals: Elijah Lee from 49ers for 7th Round pick
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict returned from suspension in Week 4 to help a run defense that was tied for 21st in the league through Week 4. But his history suggests he can’t be relied on, and without a change in his playing style more punishment from the league office is lurking around the corner at any time. So some linebacker depth is a likely need in Cincinnati, even it’s not obvious.
Lee was drafted in the seventh round of the 2017 draft by the Vikings. then he latched on with the 49ers and played in 14 games on special teams last season. He got a starting nod this year against the Detroit Lions in Week 2, and finished with 12 total tackles and a sack. But Reuben Foster’s return from suspension has limited his action since then, and the 49ers could be open to fielding trade offers.
Lee was a productive player in college at Kansas State, with equally good evaluations as a run and pass defender going into the pre-draft process. The notably stingy Bengals may not have the front office personnel to go deep into other team’s roster. But if someone goes looking for linebackers to trade for. Lee has a chance to stand out.
Cleveland Browns: Tyrod Taylor to 49ers for 4th Round pick
Taylor’s poor play and concussion in Week 3 opened the door for Baker Mayfield to play, and the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner isn’t going to give the starting job back barring injury.
Taylor was only going to be a placeholder for Mayfield in Cleveland this year anyway, for part of or even the entire season if the Browns were winning games and he was healthy. They were a capable kicker away from being 2-0 in games he started and finished against the Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints. So while he has flaws, Taylor is an adequate NFL starting quarterback.
As they try to survive Jimmy Garoppolo’s absence over the remainder of the season, the 49ers would probably take adequate quarterback play rather than whatever it is C.J. Beathard is offering. They had rumored interest in Taylor before the Bills restructured his contract to keep him from hitting free agency, so they eventually pivoted to Garoppolo at last year’s trade deadline.
After giving up a third-round pick to get Taylor, Brown general manager John Dorsey should seize an opportunity to recoup a draft pick rather than lose him for nothing in free agency. And Taylor surely wants to play somewhere as he looks toward free agency, even if he won’t formally demand a trade, rather than sit on the bench for the Browns while Mayfield plays.
Dallas Cowboys: Earl Thomas from Seahawks for 4th Round Pick
Yes, Thomas is out for the season with a broken left leg. It was obviously a badly-timed injury, in the final year of his contract amid trade rumors and real indications Thomas wanted no part of being a Seahawk.
But among risks Jerry Jones the general manager has taken, trading a mid-round draft pick for an injured player would be down that particular totem pole. Thomas’ two interception game against the Cowboys in Week 3 will surely be fresh in Jones’ mind too, for better or worse.
As of the morning prior to the game he was injured in, the Seahawks were still committed to getting a second-round pick in a trade for Thomas. Any idea they could trade him would be out the window now, but the early diagnosis of his injury suggested little residual damage and possibly being able to play in the Super Bowl if the Seahawks were to get there. A team with aspirations to play in the Super Bowl may have interest in trading for Thomas based on that prospect, however faint it may be.
Thomas seems to want to play for the Cowboys, and trade rumors pointing to mutual interest have never really gone away. There’s added risk now of course, but Thomas’ injury stands to lower Seattle’s asking price to a level Jones and the Dallas front office won’t be able to ignore. Signing him to a multi-year contract Thomas wants should be no trouble, and Dallas can put themselves at the front of the line by acquiring his rights in a trade now.
Denver Broncos: Jack Doyle from Colts for 5th Round pick
Doyle, as of this writing, was in line to miss a third straight game with a hip injury with the Colts on a short week. But there are no indications it’s season-ending issue, and with Eric Ebron stepping up Doyle could find himself on the move.
It’s getting hard to remember the last time the Broncos had a tight end who was a real threat in the passing game. Jake Butt is done for the year with a torn left ACL, after missing his entire 2017 rookie season with a torn right ACL. Jeff Heuerman and Matt LaCosse shouldn’t inspire great confidence.
Last year with the Minnesota Vikings, Case Keenum threw seven of his 22 touchdown passes to Kyle Rudolph and the Vikings No. 1 tight end had 78 targets in the 15 games Keenum played at least half of. So adding a legit weapon at the position should be a priority for the Broncos, if they want to get the best from their starting quarterback this year.
Doyle is not an explosive player, with a career average of 8.5 yards per catch. But he did have 139 catches during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, and if he gets healthy before the end of the month the Broncos should be making a call to the Colts.
Detroit Lions: Ameer Abdullah to Texans for 6th Round pick
The Lions appeared to be trying showcase Abdullah for a trade during the preseason, as he saw extensive action with the first-team offense. But he’s still around, albeit as a weekly inactive, with Kerryon Johnson, LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick rendering him useless. An injury to one of those three would change things down the road, but the Lions can’t deal in hypothetical needs when they clearly have no use for Abdullah.
Fumble issues and a career yards per carry average of 3.8 don’t foretell a booming trade market for Abdullah. But he’s the kind of player another team could see as fixable, with memories of two 1,600-yard rushing seasons to cap his career at Nebraska to foster that optimism.
At first glance, with a rushing offense around or in the top-10 of the league running back isn’t a need for the Texans. But take away quarterback Deshuan Watson’s production, a roughly one-third of Houston’s rushing output (as of this writing anyway) goes with it. Lamar Miller is who he is a this point (3.9 yards per carry this year entering Week 5), and what kind of immediate form D’Onta Foreman will have coming off a torn Achilles is a big question.
Abdullah needs a change of scenery, and the Texans could use something to try and spark their running back group. Taking a cheap flier could be in order for Houston, and Detroit should take whatever it can get for a failed second-round pick.
Green Bay Packers: Kelvin Benjamin from Bills for 6th Round Pick
Benjamin is on pace for easily the worst season of his career, with seven catches for 92 yards after four games (as of this writing). Target volume hasn’t been an issue, with 21 thus far, but Benjamin has always been wide receiver in a tight end’s body and he’s not helping out his quarterback by creating separation since the Bills acquired him.
Heading into Week 5, Bills’ head coach Sean McDermott called out Benjamin’s effort level.
“At times, yeah. Not all the time,” McDermott said. “I’d say that same thing from our entire offense. At times, I see it and at times it’s not good enough.”
With an expiring contract, questions about his effort level while playing for a bad team and another quote from McDermott questioning his place as a leader, Benjamin should be as good as gone by the trade deadline. The issue is whether anyone else wants him, but that’s where we land on the Packers.
Randall Cobb missed two straight games with a hamstring issue in Week 4 and Week 5, and that injury has a chance to linger all season. Davante Adams (calf) and Geronimo Allison (concussion) both came out of Week 4 banged up, leaving a group of rookies (Equanimeous St. Brown, J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling) to pick up any slack now or going forward. After Aaron Rodgers’ preseason criticism of the latter group, adding a more proven option could be in order.
Benjamin could at least be an effective red zone option, where his size can be an asset for Rodgers. Playing for a good team should also revive him some, and Bills surely want to rid themselves of an unproductive player who may be a looming locker room cancer as losses pile up.
Houston Texans: Joe Staley from 49ers for 4th Round pick
Deshaun Watson has rebounded nicely from a poor performance in Week 1, with three straight 300-plus yard passing games since. But he is being hit a bunch, and sacked at a near-NFL record level rate, which is not a formula for keeping him on the field now or long-term (see David Carr).
Staley left Week 4 with a left knee injury, but it was not thought to be serious even with the likelihood of a missed game. As long as he is able to get back on the field between now and the trade deadline, the Texans should have interest.
Staley started 92 straight games at one point for the 49ers, before a hamstring issue ended that in 2016. He also missed a game in 2017, but that was due to an eye injury that was far more random in nature. Durability is a bit of a concern at age-34, but Staley is not in line to miss multiple games and Houston needs someone to capably protect Watson’s blind side.
San Francisco restructured Staley’s contract last offseason, which actually (reportedly, as an agent wants it out there that way) gave him a raise for this year and 2019 (the final year of his deal). But that also may make it a little easier to cut him next March, depending on how the cap hit/dead money would shake out. But the 49ers still have plenty of cap space going forward, so a decision to just cut Staley without worry about the financial consequences can’t be ruled out. Getting some of value for him a trade should be on San Francisco’s radar.
Finding a left tackle will be toward the top of Houston’s free agency and/or draft checklists in 2019. But Staley can be a nice solution for the rest of this year, assuming he is healthy, and he can hold down the fort next year while someone is possibly groomed to take over.
Indianapolis Colts: Mark Ingram from Saints for 2nd Round pick
Ingram is days away from suiting up again after a four-game suspension as I write this, and Saints head coach Sean Payton quickly assured the “right balance” would be found with Alvin Kamara going forward.
Ingram was productive last year alongside Kamara’s breakout, averaging 4.9 yards per carry with 12 rushing touchdowns and 58 receptions. But the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner is in the last year of his contract, and at 28 years old (29 in December) he’s edging toward the age where running backs drop off significantly. But it is worth noting, as a general nod to where the NFL has gone in recent years, that Ingram has topped 200 carries (or 175, for that matter) in a season just three times in seven previous seasons and he won’t be doing it 12 games this year.
The Colts have had a non-existent rushing attack this year, with injuries and a committee playing a role. Quarterback Andrew Luck is getting a little up in age himself, with a throwing shoulder that may never be the same, so general manager Chris Ballard could consider making a win-now move to add a proven running back to the mix.
Some pundits would point to the Colts as a potential landing spot for Le’Veon Bell. But Ingram is a good secondary option, and a less expensive one now as well as looking toward 2019.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Ryan Fitzpatrick from Buccaneers for Conditional Draft Pick
Through four games this season, Blake Bortles was characteristically up (375-plus passing yards twice) and down (331 total passing yards in the other two games). His next dud game is always around the corner, and if he were to go down to a major injury Cody Kessler would take over under center for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
“Fitzmagic” was in full force early this season, with three straight 400-yard passing games in place of the suspended Jameis Winston. But a three-interception outing in Week 3 was the precursor to a halftime benching in Week 4 , and barring an injury to Winston from here on out this year Fitzpatrick will be planted on the bench in Tampa Bay.
Fitzpatrick’s erratic tendencies and overall inconsistency would not be a great fit for a team that mostly needs its offense to avoid mistakes, and make the most of its opportunities, while the defense carries the day. But Bortles has had his bad moments too, and Fitzpatrick at his reckless worst is not a great departure from those lows Bortles can offer.
Even with a tentative commitment to Winston going forward, the Buccaneers should be looking to get something in return for Fitzpatrick while he has value (perceived or otherwise). A conditional late draft pick, tied to Fitzpatrick being on an active game day roster a certain number of games or if/how much he plays, should do the trick and Jacksonville should easily part with that to upgrade behind Bortles for the rest of the season.
Kansas City Chiefs: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from Packers for 2nd Round pick
Before he suffered a broken left leg in Week 4, the Chiefs were reportedly getting close to acquiring Earl Thomas from the Seahawks. An optimistic view of Thomas’ injury says he could return for the playoffs or the Super Bowl, but let’s shut the door on the Chiefs swinging a trade for him and look at some other options to make a deal for a safety. Eric Berry’s questionable status going forward with an ongoing Achilles/heel issue adds to the urgency.
Our friends over at Arrowhead Addict laid out a list of safeties Kansas City could trade for with Thomas off the board. Some are more realistic than others, and a couple are bigger names than the others. But I’m leaning toward a big name that is also realistic in a certain light.
Now that they’ll be paying Aaron Rodgers in line with his place in the quarterback market, the Packers will have some tough decisions to make regarding who to keep as guys hit free agency.
Clinton-Dix skipped OTAs this year, but was at minicamp and training camp as he expressed a desire for a contract extension before the season started. That new deal didn’t happen, but he started a nice rebound season (after a poor 2017) with a three-game interception streak from Week 2-Week 4. and 20 total tackles over the first four games.
The free agent market for safeties was slow last offseason, but Clinton-Dix is 25 years old (26 in December) and will be in line for a nice payday in free agency. That may make him too expensive for the Packers, even if he’s been a key piece of the secondary since he arrived as a rookie in 2014.
General manager Brian Gutekunst has been more aggressive than his predecessor Ted Thompson. While it’s unlikely he’d trade Clinton-Dix, if the Chiefs called and offered a second-round pick it would be hard to ignore.
Los Angeles Chargers: Shane Ray from Broncos for 4th round pick
Joey Bosa (foot) is still a month away from returning as the calendar flips to October, and the Week 5 return of defensive tackle Corey Liuget should help. But the Chargers need to get more from a pass rush that is struggling so far this season, with eight sacks through four games (five in one game). If they are to get anywhere close to whatever preseason Super Bowl buzz that was attached to them, addressing that need with the residual effect it’ll have on the pass defense (20th in the league entering Week 5; 275.8 yards per game) will be critical.
Shane Ray was essentially replaced in Denver when the Broncos drafted Bradley Chubb in April, if their decision not to pick ups his 2019 fifth-year option wasn’t enough. His left wrist has required multiple surgeries in a short window, including one in June, and while he didn’t land on the PUP list he has averaged just 24 snaps per game over the first four games this year.
Ray has mostly underachieved since being drafted 23rd overall in 2015. But he did play a key role in Denver’s Super Bowl run as a rookie, and followed that with eight sacks in 2016 before the wrist issue derailed him last year.
The Broncos may not want to make a trade with a division rival. But on the other hand Ray has minimal value to them right now, and they have no plan to bring him back next year. So it might be best to cash in however possible on any lingering perception of potential, and the Chargers should be mining for exactly that to bolster their pass rush.
Los Angeles Rams: Deone Bucannon from Cardinals for 5th Round Pick
The switch in coaching staff and to a defense scheme in Arizona hasn’t been kind to Bucannon, with a decline in snaps since starting and playing every snap in the season opener against Washington. Head coach Steve Wilks pointed to a lack of trust after Week 3 as an explanation for Bucannon playing zero defensive snaps in that game. But the way things are going for the Cardinals, not putting the best talent on the field is a critical mistake in a flimsy effort to send some sort of message.
After being banged up the last couple seasons, and dealing with a knee issue during the preseason, it’s possible Bucannon is a diminished player to a point of no return. The Cardinals are surely in no hurry to give him a contract extension, and he’s not getting much chance to prove he’s still a good player as he looks toward free agency next March.
If the Rams have a weak area on either side of the ball, it’s at linebacker. Trading Alec Ogletree last offseason opened up some needed salary cap money, but the group of linebackers looked subpar with Mark Barron banged up and unable to play the first few games this season. As the Rams try to make a full push toward a Super Bowl, that weakness will be attacked by good teams.
With their active offseason, the Rams showed minimal concern for how personalities may mesh in the name of adding talent (Ndamukong Suh). Bucannon does not seem to be a pot stirrer, but he is a good way for the Rams to supplement a weakness for the stretch drive of a season where they’re all-in.
Miami Dolphins: Darqueze Dennard from Bengals for DeVante Parker
This would be a swap of two disappointing first-round picks, in Dennard (24th overall in 2014) and Parker (14th overall in 2015). Parker had his fifth-year option picked up for 2019, while Dennard is playing out this own fifth-year option this year.
Dennard had the best year of his career in 2017, with 83 total tackles, and he’s off to a solid start this year (22 total tackles through four games). But he was not graded out well by Pro Football Focus last year (No. 93 of 119 qualified cornerbacks), and he’s been mediocre as essentially Cincinnati’s No. 3 corner.
Parker has been tabbed as a breakout candidate every year it seems. This year a preseason finger injury derailed him, and more recently a quad issue has kept him sidelined. The Dolphins have good depth a wide receiver (Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson, Danny Amendola, Jakeem Grant), so a decision that Parker just isn’t worth the trouble could come.
The Dolphins could use a healthy corner to go with emerging shutdown No. 1 corner Xavien Howard, and even with Tyler Boyd’s emergence this year the Bengals could look to add some talent alongside A.J. Green. The two teams happen to play in Week 5, so maybe that becomes a catalyst for trade talks.
Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell to Cowboys for Cameron Fleming
After registering one catch as a rookie in 2016, and only doing marginally better in 2017 (20 receptions for 200 yards), Treadwell has had multiple critical drops and has done little with an increase opportunity this year as the Vikings’ No. 3 wide receiver. Aldrick Robinson’s two-touchdown game in Week 4, just over week after signing and with his past connection to Kirk Cousins in mind, signaled a likely reduction in Treadwell’s snaps count going forward.
Treadwell may simply not be an NFL-caliber wide receiver, which will go down as miscalculation by the Vikings and anyone else who tabbed him as a first-round pick. But he pretty clearly needs a change of scenery, and perhaps a different coaching voice or two in his ear, and there’s no way the Vikings will pick up his fifth-year option for 2020.
The Cowboys’ lack of wide receiver talent is well-documented, but they are in position to take some calculated risks to change that. The Vikings need some offensive line reinforcements, and someone with Fleming’s ability to play tackle and guard looks like a solid fit.
The Vikings would love to get something of value for Treadwell, while there may still be a perception of upside attached to him. If Dallas is willing to part with a backup offensive lineman to take that flier, a deal could be done quickly.
New England Patriots: Larry Fitzgerald from Cardinals for 3rd Round Pick
The Patriots took no risk in acquiring Josh Gordon from the Cleveland Browns, and they now have Julian Edelman back from suspension. But their lack of talent at wide receiver is still glaring, and that has to put them in market for reinforcements as the trade deadline approaches.
Fitzgerald is likely playing his final NFL season, and a chance at a Super Bowl ring is not coming with the rebuilding Cardinals as they turn to Josh Rosen under center. So he’d presumably be open to a trade, if it gave him a chance to cap his Hall of Fame career with a title. There’s no better place to get that chance than New England, and it just happens that Fitzgerald would fill a critical need for the Patriots.
Through the years some new receivers have struggled to pick up New England’s playbook and get on the same page with Tom Brady. Fitzgerald would be one to not have those problems though, as a consummate professional who will put in the extra work to learn a new, complex offense on the fly. Even with some potential redundancy with how Edelman is used, Fitzgerald should be able to find a comfortable place in New England’s passing game.
It would be weird seeing Fitzgerald with anything other than that little red cardinal on the side of his helmet. But he’s of little use to a team with a firm eye on the future, and the Patriots have to put good pieces around Brady with an eye on another deep playoff run.
New Orleans Saints: Teddy Bridgewater to Dolphins for 4th Round pick
The Saints acquired Bridgewater from the New York Jets in late-August, and was pretty quickly made the No. 2 quarterback behind Drew Brees. No. 3 signal caller Taysom Hill has seen some action as a gadget player, but if Sean Payton believes the BYU product could step in if something happened to Brees Bridgewater would become a tradeable asset.
Now fully healthy by all accounts, Bridgewater surely wants an opportunity to start somewhere in 2019. If the prediction Brees will play longer than Tom Brady by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio comes true, that chance probably isn’t coming in New Orleans anytime very soon.
The Dolphins are committed to Ryan Tannehill for two more seasons after this one, at a total of just over $38 million in base salary with significant cap hits and dead money if he’s cut. But even with a mostly solid start this season, Tannehill is pretty much a JAG (Just A Guy) that hasn’t shown he has an elite level in him. Bridgewater might be the same kind of quarterback, but he’d at least bring a level of legit competition to Miami’s mix.
For what it’s worth Bridgewater is a Miami native and would presumably be a fan favorite instantly. He’d have to squint a little, and hope he gets traded to where he may prefer, but Bridgewater can see a possible starting opportunity with the Dolphins.
New York Giants: Seth Roberts from Raiders for 7th Round pick
The Giants seem headed for another bad season, which will give them a second chance to draft Eli Manning’s successor with a high first-round pick. There’s no one to bench Manning for this year (not that there was last year), so trying to add something to the mix with an eye on trying to stay competitive in the NFC East this year could be on the docket for general manager Dave Gettleman.
Roberts served as Oakland’s primary slot receiver the last few years, but Jon Gruden’s offseason moves pushed him down the pecking order and the Raiders may or may not have shopped him late in the preseason. Roberts was a surprising healthy scratch in Week 3, and he averaged 33 snaps per game in the three contests he played over the first four this year.
Sterling Shepard sees a lot of time in the slot, but outside of he and Odell Beckham the Giants still lack wide receiver talent and they shouldn’t discriminate based strictly on a perceived fit (or lack thereof).
Roberts doesn’t have a great ceiling, or at least he hasn’t shown one. But he is a functional player that Gruden and the Raiders seem to have little room for, and the Giants should consider taking a flier.
New York Jets: Terrelle Pryor to Cowboys for Terrance Williams
The Jets need more talent around Sam Darnold, especially at wide receiver and tight end. While Pryor may think he’s a “big play waiting to happen”, the team apparently doesn’t agree enough to give him more playing time. If that sounds along the lines of something Pryor has said before, it’s because he admitted frustration about being benched by the Redskins last year.
On the Dallas side, Williams has met career underachievement with being almost completely phased out this year. An offseason arrest that has him facing potential league discipline could be a factor, but if Williams can’t make playing time hay with the state of the Cowboys’ receiving corp right now he never will again.
Other than naive comments, there’s no sign Pryor is going to be a problem child for the Jets. But he’s also not doing much on the field, and he might automatically become the best wide receiver in Dallas. Looming suspension aside, Williams stands to benefit from a change of scenery from here on out in his career. Something just has not clicked with the Cowboys over the years, and he’s tapped out this chances.
A trade of Pryor for Williams won’t move the needle much, and Williams won’t give Darnold the legit No. 1 wide receiver he should eventually have. But equal value seems to be here in this deal, as both teams change their mix a little.
Oakland Raiders: Ezekiel Ansah from Lions for 2nd Round pick
Ansah and the Lions did not reach agreement on a long-term deal last offseason, so he is playing this season on the franchise tag. He also suffered a shoulder injury in Week 1 and missed three games, after offseason knee surgery, so durability is a concern.
Ansah has shown he can be a difference-making pass rusher, with seasons of 14.5 (2015) and 12 sacks (2017) on his resume. But consistency is the issue, with nine of last year’s 12 sacks coming in just three games and nine games with two or more sacks in his career.
The Raiders and Jon Gruden didn’t want to pay Khalil Mack what wound being a record-setting long-term deal from the Bears, so they traded him. Gruden hasn’t been able dodge questions about Mack and Oakland’s lack of pass rush in his absence, or avoid making a dumb comment about one or both topics on seemingly an alternating basis.
Trading for Ansah does not come with a financial commitment beyond this year, which would surely appeal greatly to Gruden. And if the former top-five overall pick is healthy, the Raiders’ pass rush will get a spark it desperately needs over the remainder of this season.
Philadelphia Eagles: Le’Veon Bell from Steelers for 2nd Round pick
The Eagles running backs are either banged up (Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles and Corey Clement) or hardly inspiring (Wendell Smallwood). So running back is something of a need, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports has suggested Philadelphia is interested in Bell.
Bell of course continues to stay away from the Steelers with reports he’ll come back during the team’s Week 7 bye came when the calendar flipped to October. The team’s stance has moved toward reports of “actively shopping” him, with the desire to get a second-round pick and a good player in return. The reports of his looming return were met with reports a trade is still possible.
The Eagles would have to clear cap space to take Bell on for the rest of the season, but a trade elsewhere on this list would do that pretty easily General manager Howie Roseman is not afraid to make moves, and a push to repeat as Super Bowl champions would drive interest in adding Bell.
The Eagles may not care about a long-term future with Bell, and it probably isn’t gong to be palatable for them anyway. That would point to some differences between player and organization to come, along the same line as Bell’s situation with the Steelers right now. But being essentially a hired gun might appeal to him, and the Eagles wouldn’t have to run him into the ground as he eyes a big payday next March.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Thomas Davis from Panthers for 3rd Round pick
Go out on a limb with me, won’t you? It’s no secret the Steelers’ defense has not been the same since Ryan Shazier went out with a neck injury late last season. So far this year the unit has been more like a steel sieve than a “Steel Curtain”, sitting 30th in total defense, 26th in scoring defense and 29th against the pass through four weeks..
Davis has defied the odds (multiple torn ACLs) and been a functional linebacker well into his 30s. But he has yet to play this year (entering Week 5, Carolina had a Week 4 bye) due to a four-game performance-enhancing drug suspension. He had previously said he would retire after this season, but the suspension may change his mind.
Davis has been a fixture in Carolina since coming in as a first-round pick in 2005, and the general manage that drafted him (Marty Hurney) came back to the organization in the same capacity last year. But any sentiment attached to his long tenure with the team may be out the window with his suspension.
The Steelers need someone to galvanize the defense, and at least help bring it to a functional, mid-tier level to go with a high-powered offense. For reasons tangible and intangible Davis looks like a solid fit. Teams will have ingrained thinking that Davis isn’t available, but Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert should consider placing a call.
San Francisco 49ers: Nick Foles from Eagles for 5th Round pick
After his peak performance in last year’s NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl, the Eagles could have traded Nick Foles pretty easily. But the uncertainty about Carson Wentz’s recovery from a torn ACL made keeping the reigning Super Bowl MVP around the better plan for Philadelphia, and Foles wound up starting the first two games this season.
But Wentz is back in action, and should only get better as he approaches a full 12 months post-injury. So now Foles is an excess asset, in the final year of his contract, with his best level of play still not too distant a memory.
The 49ers will be without Jimmy Garoppolo after his Week 3 torn ACL, but he’s firmly in place as the quarterback going forward until further notice with a big contract to confirm it. So the team really only needs a proverbial bridge quarterback, and Foles is at least a mild upgrade over C.J. Beathard over the rest of this season.
As 49ers general manager John Lynch sees nothing on the free agent market and perhaps turns to possible trades, he will have some options to consider when looking at other team’s depth charts. But combined the price to get him in a deal with him probably wanting the opportunity to prove he can have success outside of Philadelphia, and Foles looks like a nice fit for San Francisco. The Eagles should be ready and willing to engage in trade talks now .
Seattle Seahawks: Devontae Booker from Broncos for 6th Round pick
Operating as Denver’s No. 3 running back, Booker has 19 touches (11 carries, eight caches) through the first four games of the season. Rookies Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay have left him in the dust, with only an injury to open up much playing time for the 2016 fourth-round pick.
The Seahawks have been trying to find a consistent running game since Marshawn Lynch retired. Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and Mike Davis have been this year’s committee, but unless something turns with Penny (this year’s first-round pick), no one seems ready to emerge as a workhorse over multiple games. Booker has struggled to emerge himself over two-plus NFL seasons, as the Broncos have always had someone they liked more, so a change of scenery may be what he needs.
Adding another body to the mix may not spark Seattle’s rushing attack. But Pete Carroll has always tried to create a culture of competition, and making a trade for Booker or someone else may light a fire under the incumbents. And if Booker earns a genuine opportunity, he may just run with it. A late-round pick should be worth it for Seahawks to find out.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Noah Spence to Raiders for 4th Round pick
After adding 35 pounds during the offseason, Spence has not played since the season opener (heading into Tampa Bay’s Week 5 bye) and he only played four snaps in that game. A lingering shoulder issue limited him to six games last year, after he played all 16 games through the injury as a rookie in 2016 and had 5.5 sacks.
Off-the-field issues took Spence from Ohio State to Eastern Kentucy as a college player. But he has had no known issues thus far in his NFL career, and Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter was quick to say the team is not down on Spence after he was a healthy scratch in Week 2.
But Tampa Bay has too many shortcomings defensively to not put the best talent on the field however and whenever possible. So Spence is either injured and he’s not saying anything (or letting on that he is limited), or he’s in the dog house for another reason. The fact he played a lot in the final preseason game was a significant sign he was down the pecking order for snaps.
The Raiders are of course desperate for pass rushers after trading Khalil Mack. Based on potential alone Spence may get Jon Gruden’s attention, and that would give Buccaneers’ general manager Jason Licht a chance to fleece a team for one of his missed draft picks.
Tennessee Titans: Dwayne Allen from Patriots for conditional draft pick
Since Delanie Walker went down for the season with an ankle injury in Week 1, Jonnu Smith has not stepped up. Marcus Mariota’s early season elbow issue didn’t help, but it’s become clear the Titans need a veteran reinforcement at tight end.
After catching 10 passes as Rob Gronkowski’s backup last year, Allen took a pay cut to stay with the Patriots during the offseason. So far this year he has one catch for negative yardage, and as long as Gronkowski is healthy his role won’t be changing.
But in the right situation Allen could be productive. Sharing work with Coby Fleener on the Colts from 2012-2015, he had a season with eight touchdown catches (2014). Then he had six touchdown grabs in 2016.
Allen has never had more than 45 receptions in a season (2012). But his blocking ability would help Tennessee get their rushing attack going, and he can be something of a red zone threat for an offense than can use any kind of weapons. New England’s asking price is also sure to not be much for someone they would have cut last offseason, and don’t seem to have much use for regardless of Gronkowski’s health..
Washington Redskins: Adrian Peterson to Seahawks for Conditional Draft Pick
After rushing for at least 96 yards and one touchdown in two of three games heading into a Week 4 bye, Peterson emerged with a sprained ankle. The Redskins still need him to fill a big role, but a sell-high opportunity could be afoot too if they have faith Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine and Kabri Bibbs can fill the full compliment of snaps in the backfield.
The Seahawks need to shore up their rushing attack, as Chris Carson, Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny vie for playing time and consistent roles. Peterson’s recent history suggests he may not be able to stay on the field even if he remains productive, and Seattle’s offensive line remains a big concern. But adding something resembling a proven commodity at running back may be worth embracing the downside for Seattle.
Peterson is plain and simply a limited player, and the Redskins have squeezed a good bit of juice out of that orange right now already. Getting something for him at a high-point in his value, or the high point in his value more likely, has to be on the table in Washington.