Mock GM: Jackson to Eagles, more trades we wanted to see happen
The 2014 NFL trade deadline came and went, with no big names changing zip codes (excluding the earlier trade of Percy Harvin moving from Seattle to the Jets).
SI's Chris Burke and Doug Farrar offer up a few scenarios that could have increased the excitement. Our trade deadline Mock GM:
The Riley Cooper experience has been far less explosive this season than it was in Chip Kelly's debut campaign. Cooper is averaging 10.5 yards per catch (down from 17.8 in 2013) and has found the end zone just once. Landing Jackson would make Cooper's struggles irrelevant -- Jackson would replace him in the starting lineup opposite Jeremy Maclin, immediately offering a better option in the red zone and beyond.
Jackson's contract, which carries a guaranteed $10 million base salary this season, might scare a few teams away. But Philadelphia has upward of $20 million in cap space still available, according to the NFLPA's website, so the prorated remainder of Jackson's 2014 pay would be little bother. For a potential Super Bowl contender, the price is worthwhile.
Doug Farrar: Chip Kelly has said over and over that he wants his receivers to be able to beat tight man coverage. Makes sense, really -- due to the structures of Kelly's offense, the Eagles face as much tight man coverage as any team in the NFL. Kelly let DeSean Jackson walk out the door because Jackson ostensibly couldn't do it, but his departure left the team without a receiver who could get downfield and make contested catches. Vincent Jackson would certainly cover that role -- he's a lot bigger than DeSean, and when healthy, he's got great acceleration downfield, and there's nobody in Philly's offense who can create after the catch like Jackson can. And Jackson's physical style at the line would certainly pass Kelly's most important test for the receiver position.
The concerns with Jackson are clear, however: He's 31, he's been dealing with injuries and his production has fallen off in the last couple of years. Jackson averaged 19.7 yards per catch in 2012, his first year with the Bucs, and that number plummeted to 15.7 in 2013. This season, Jackson has averaged just 13.7 yards per catch on 26 receptions, though that could be due in large part to a Tampa Bay offense that hasn't really looked right all season. Jackson's contract is certainly another issue -- he's due the prorated version of that $10 million this season, and he gets just under $10 million in guaranteed money in 2015 and '16. The pick is worthy because Jackson could have a career resurgence in Kelly's system. Still, for the Bucs, this is basically a salary dump in fire-sale mode.
Farrar: Seahawks trade Marshawn Lynch to the Patriots for a 2015 second-round pick
Throughout his tenure in Foxboro, Bill Belichick has enjoyed great success with running backs who fell out of favor in other organizations. The Patriots gave up a second-round pick for ex-Bengals back Corey Dillon before the 2004 season, and Dillon rewarded the franchise's faith with a 1,635-yard season in 2004, the last season in which Belichick's team won a Super Bowl. And in April 2013, the Buccaneers traded LeGarrette Blount for a seventh-round pick and receiver Jeff Demps. Blount put up 772 yards on 153 carries and added a much-needed power dimension to New England's overall offense.
With that offense very much in flux, and the Seahawks reportedly growing tired of Marshawn Lynch's "unique" personality, it may be time to engineer a win-win deal in which the Seahawks (who already have Robert Turbin and Christine Michael in the bullpen) gain a high pick for the future, and the Pats get the services of a player who can be transcendent when he's on his game. Lynch's contract has one more year on it after this one, and it's for a $5 million base salary with $2 million in in-game roster bonuses, giving the Pats the ability to cut bait relatively easily if things don't work out.
Tom Brady's window is closing, Belichick can't grow elite receivers overnight, and perhaps Lynch could be the catalyst for another team to get to -- and win -- the NFL's biggest game.
Burke: The Percy Harvin trade -- well, both Percy Harvin trades -- should have made clear that John Schneider and Pete Carroll are not afraid to live a little on the edge. This trade would qualify, considering how important Lynch has been in the Seahawks offense, especially en route to the Super Bowl last season.
Let's look at the facts, though: Lynch will be 29 by the start of next season with more than 2,000 carries under his belt. His role has been reduced in 2014 to the point that he has not topped 100 yards rushing since Week 1 and has carried it more than 20 times just twice. Those two young back mentioned above, Turbin and Michael, may not be as safe or effective an option as Lynch, but they could hold down the fort within the constraints of Seattle's offense.
Landing a second-round pick is decent boon in the NFL world, especially when the Seahawks are faced with losing Lynch with no return.
Let's face it -- the Locker era is over in Tennessee. The Titans refused to pick up his fifth-year option before the 2014 season, and he's been benched in favor of Zach Mettenberger, a rookie sixth-round pick. With Locker coming off the books next season, someone will likely take a shot on his potential (which is somewhat impressive) versus his NFL performance (which is spotty at best). It was impressive that Tony Romo could return following a back injury against the Redskins on Monday night, but he's had those types of injuries before. Romo is 34, and given his propensity for scrambling into pressure, he doesn't seem like the kind of quarterback who's going to hit the field when he's 40.
Jerry Jones' desire for Johnny Manziel aside, the Cowboys need a quarterback who can develop under Romo as long as he's there, with the ability to legitimately be an NFL starter in the right system. And Brandon Weeden isn't it. Dallas would give Locker time to shake the Titans' failures out of his head, to learn under a good coaching staff, and to maybe pay off in the long term. The Cowboys could sign him to a low veteran contract after this season, and all they'd have to pay this season is the prorated section of a $2.091 million contract. This could be a hidden win-win for all involved.
Burke: Not much left to explain here from the Titans' perspective. Getting any return on Locker at this point would be a win, even if it falls far shy of the No. 8 overall pick they initially used on him. Tennessee is not going to move to re-sign him, not with Mettenberger already sliding into the starting role. Assuming he is even remotely decent, the QB job will be his to lose in 2015 and a veteran backup (perhaps still Charlie Whitehurst) will sit behind him.
Time to move on from Jake Locker.
Burke: Buccaneers trade Doug Martin to the Dolphins for a 2015 fourth-round pick, 2016 fifth-round pick
There is still obvious value left in Martin, a first-round selection and then a Pro Bowler in 2012. Injuries and shoddy play around him have sapped Martin of that form -- he's averaging just 2.9 yards per carry this season. Still, he is 25 years old and potentially under contract through 2016.
Miami finds itself smack-dab in the middle of the AFC playoff race, both as a wild-card and East division contender. But with Knowshon Moreno landing on injured reserve, the Dolphins are shorthanded at running back. While Daniel Thomas has done a decent job complementing Lamar Miller, an upgrade would be welcome.
Martin could count there, if he regains any of his '12 form. With Miller and Moreno both impending free agents, he's worth the risk.
Farrar: The running back position has become the NFL's ultimate risk-reward scenario. If the Dolphins think Martin can be a part of their short-term future in a playoff sense, they should be able to ask for conditional tags on each of those draft picks. Because as good as Martin has been when he's healthy, he hasn't been good or particularly healthy lately.
Still, a team with a solid offensive line (which is the case in Miami) may believe that they can get more out of Martin than the Bucs have been able to, and Martin is a good first- and second-down back in the right circumstances. His limitations in pass protection make third downs a potential liability, however. Still, the Dolphins need to bolster their roster for a potential playoff run -- in Martin's case, there just need to be conditional escape hatches on any picks given in return.