The Colts stunned the league last September by swinging a trade with Cleveland for running back Trent Richardson. Such big-name deals are extremely rare in the NFL (and the results from Richardson thus far might indicate why).
As the preseason rolls into its second full week, though, rumors -- some more farfetched than others -- are circulating around several starters.
We play the speculation game, offering up some possible deals and attempting to explain our rationale.
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Burke: Trade idea: Arizona for Larry Fitzgerald and Ryan Lindley
May as well finish with a bang. The combination of Michael Floyd's emergence and (more importantly) Larry Fitzgerald's contract situation may be pushing Fitzgerald toward a sooner-than-expected end in Arizona. Johnson, meanwhile, briefly staged a frustrated holdout from the Texans this offseason, setting in motion the possibility that he would be dealt.
This is a swap of headaches, to some extent, but this would offer fresh starts for both players and teams. Lindley is tacked on here because Fitzgerald's contract is more of a future issue than is Johnson's. Perhaps adding in a 6-4 QB with the arm to reach all areas of the field would help Houston get over that.
Farrar: Trade idea -- Cleveland for QB Brian Hoyer and a mid-round pick
Sometimes, these things are all too easy. The Browns need a receiver, because Josh Gordon will be suspended at least eight games this season. And the Texans need a quarterback, because their quarterback is Ryan Fitzpatrick. The 33-year-old Johnson has been one of the NFL's best receivers for a long time now, and he's not at all happy with his current team's quarterback situation. Based on what we've seen so far, he shouldn't be. Problem is, the team that trades for him incurs an $11 million cap hit, and no matter how good Johnson is, that's a lot of scratch. However, the Browns have over $21 million in available cap, and a quarterback in Johnny Manziel who needs reps.
Burke: Trade idea: Atlanta for ... something?
I'll be honest: I just do not see it -- neither the Bills trading away Spiller nor a team in dire enough circumstances at RB to cough up a 2015 pick for an impending free agent. The Bills do have both Fred Jackson and Bryce Brown on the depth chart as well, but Spiller remains their best option out of the backfield. They did not go all-in on Sammy Watkins just so they could start dumping key pieces in anticipation of the future.
And I mention Atlanta here only because of the continued issues, injury and otherwise, with Steven Jackson. The Falcons have Jacquizz Rodgers and Devonta Freeman to share the load. Neither, though, provides the all-around talent of Spiller.
Farrar: Trade idea -- Indianapolis, for a second-round pick
The Bills have said flat-out that they're not interested in trading Spiller, who's in the last year of his rookie deal. But teams always listen to offers, and if the Colts were to call them about Spiller's services, it would make a lot of sense. Indy's running back rotation consists of Trent Richardson (um, no), Vick Ballard (torn Achilles, out for the 2014 season), Ahmad Bradshaw (neck injury, played in three games last season), Dan Herron, and the delightfully named Zurlon Tipton. If general manager Ryan Grigson is ready to admit that the Richardson trade was a relative disaster, the addition of Spiller would be an enormous boost to an offense that Andrew Luck has been carrying since his first NFL snap. An early second-day pick in return for a chance at another AFC South title, and further advancement in the playoffs? Grigson should be working the phones on this one, if he isn't already.
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Burke: Trade idea: St. Louis for a third-round pick and WR Chris Givens
So you want a little off-the-wall trade speculation? Allow me to comply. Bradford's status in St. Louis remains very uncertain because of his massive contract and the fact that he is still, slowly, working his way back from an ACL tear. Yes, Hoyer had the same injury last season, but he's not owed $13 million next season. This would give the Rams a legitimate out on Bradford and adds a deep threat to the Browns' receiving corps. Currently, Givens is en route to being squeezed out of St. Louis' rotation.
Farrar: Trade idea -- Houston for receiver Andre Johnson
OK. Hoyer's cap hit would be negligible compared to Johnson's, so the Browns would have to include some draft compensation. Let's say a 2015 third-round pick (negotiable to a second), and an initiative to try and renegotiate Johnson's contract, with Hoyer off to Houston. Hoyer worked with current Texans head coach Bill O'Brien when both men were with the Patriots, and Hoyer is the kind of non-flashy signal-caller the Texans could use right now. Losing Johnson would be a hit, but it's time for DeAndre Hopkins to shine, and this team won't get much better until it acquires a credible quarterback. Meanwhile, the Browns become a fringe wild-card contender ... if Manziel doesn't implode.
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Chris Burke: Trade idea: Houston for a fourth-round pick
Unless the Texans are absolutely desperate to unload Andre Johnson, it's hard to see the real value for them in giving up Johnson (and a pick?) for Mallett or any other available QB. New England spent a third-round pick initially on Mallett, who will be a free agent after this season; given how he's looked so far this summer, including in a dreadful showing at Washington, recouping a fourth-rounder would be adequate. And Houston coach Bill O'Brien would have another big, strong-armed QB -- and a better version of that prototype than Tom Savage -- to mold.
Doug Farrar: Trade Idea -- St. Louis for a fourth-round pick and WR Stedman Bailey
Mallett's trade value will start to drop the more other teams actually see him throw the ball and move around in the pocket, so the time for the Patriots to strike is now. The Rams are in clear need of help at quarterback, especially if Sam Bradford can't stay healthy, though it's not known how Mallett's deep-ball preference would work in Brian Schottenheimer's horizontal offense. And the Patriots could use a reliable receiver, which Bailey proved to be as Tavon Austin's sidekick at West Virginia. The Pats have a rookie quarterback they like in Jimmy Garoppolo, and whatever appeal Mallett still has as a potential NFL starter will evaporate soon. Bill Belichick needs to drop the hammer on Mallett, and soon.
Burke: Trade idea: Indianapolis for a third-round pick
With the Buccaneers seemingly waiting in the wings for Boone to become available, the price here might elevate a bit. Boone would be worth the price, within reason. The Colts suddenly find themselves in a tough spot at guard with Donald Thomas done for the season, so the need is there. Dropping in an elite run-blocker like Boone might even help Trent Richardson start to reach his potential.
Farrar: Trade idea -- Tamps Bay for a third-round pick
With Davin Joseph off to the Rams and Carl Nicks effectively retired, the Bucs are currently going with Jamon Meredith and Oniel Cousins at the guard positions, and that could poke a rather large hole in all the good feelings about the franchise's work in the draft and free agency. Boone has said that he won't report to the 49ers unless he receives a new contract, and that kind of hardball approach won't go over well with Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke. Boone is an above-average overall player who dominates in the run game, and he'd fit what Jeff Tedford wants to do on offense. Flipping a mid-round pick or two would be an estimable swap for a Bucs team in serious need of help at the position.
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