Roundtable: Which NFL trades would we like to see at the deadline?
The NFL trade deadline is rapidly approaching—Tues., Nov. 3 at 4 p.m. ET—and there are plenty of teams who are likely looking to sell this season. From the reasonable to the crazy, here's the trades that the SI NFL staff would like to see at the deadline.
Colin Kaepernick to the Eagles. It’s hard to fathom Chip Kelly going bigger and bolder than he already has in 2015, but why not double down and deal for enigmatic 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick at Tuesday’s trade deadline? Desperate times call for desperate measures, and former Pennsylvania governor and world-class Eagles fan Ed Rendell is right! The Sam Bradford gamble certainly isn’t paying off and I can’t see the Eagles deciding to make that marriage a long-term commitment at this point. Bradford has looked anything but comfortable and confident in Philly’s offense through seven games, and I’m guessing even Kelly knows by now that we likely have reached the square peg being forced into a round hole stage of the proceedings.
Kaepernick’s time in San Francisco is all but finished, and no matter how many team meetings and clear-the-air sessions the 49ers hold, there’s no putting the genie back into the bottle in a situation that grows messier by the week. His athleticism and mobility would be a fine fit in Philadelphia, and it would be up to Kelly to help restore the mechanics of his passing game that have faded over the course of his past two frustrating seasons. New starts all around might be just what Kaepernick and Bradford could use. Maybe you can work Bradford into the deal, letting him briefly find his way back into the NFC West before he hits free agency next spring, while Kaepernick tries to re-create himself with the Eagles, a team that would seem to value exactly what his dual-threat skill set has to offer.
Justin Forsett to the Broncos. I'd love to see Eric Weddle get moved to a contender, though for a variety of reasons (his remaining salary, a recent groin injury, etc.), it's hard to fit a find. Atlanta? Miami, if it still considers itself in the mix? The Chargers probably can land a high comp pick down the road should Weddle walk in free agency, so there might not be much internal push for this type of move.
How about Justin Forsett to Denver? The Ravens' season is a lost cause, and even though he just recently signed a three-year extension Forsett's contract is movable—the only guaranteed money left after this season is $1.4 million in signing bonus, for which Baltimore would be responsible. The Broncos have to get more out of their run game, hence Ronnie Hillman's push to swipe the starting job from an ineffective C.J. Anderson. Forsett just turned in a career year under then Baltimore coordinator Gary Kubiak, so he would drop right into the offense without any scheme-induced delays.
Calvin Johnson to the Raiders. The obvious problem with trade scenarios? Salary cap implications. It's all well and good to hypothetically ship Calvin Johnson off to the Patriots, or Jay Cutler to the Texans, but financial realities on both sides (the player's cap hit is far too big, and the receiving team's cap space is far too small) tend to intervene.
Here's one that makes sense—how about Megatron to the Raiders? Oakland is far from the receiver graveyard it used to be, and the prorated remainder of Johnson's $20.558 million 2015 cap hit would be doable for the Raiders, given their current cap space of $13.645 million and change, per overthecap.com. Johnson's cap hit does shoot up to over $24 million next season, but the Raiders would be on the hook for only about half that if they let him go.
With Raiders WR Amari Cooper excelling in his rookie season, Johnson would come into a situation in which he wouldn't be pressured to be the main man. He could take many more shorter throws, which is QB Derek Carr's preference and fitting for Johnson's skill set at this point in his career. Johnson can be a particularly exciting slot weapon, which also fits right in with what the Raiders like to do.
And let's face it: the Lions—perhaps the NFL's most directionless team right now—will likely undergo a severe overhaul in the offseason that could involve a new head coach and general manager. Why not get as many draft picks as possible for the new regime, understand what you do and don't have at this point, and move on from the once-transcendent Megatron era? Johnson deserves to play with a legit contender, and the Raiders are definitely trending up. The Lions owe it to themselves to be honest about their immediate future—things have fallen apart, and expensive, aging receivers are luxuries rebuilding teams can't afford.
Steve Smith to the Packers. Steve Smith says he’ll quit if he’s traded, but that was before the Ravens put up another loss in Week 7. Add another likely clunker Sunday against the Chargers and perhaps Smith will decide the comfortable confines of a 1–7 Baltimore isn’t where he wants to end a Hall-of-Fame worthy 15-year career.
Smith’s loyalty is impressive, no doubt. But he’s not Larry Fitzgerald of 2012, losing with the Brian Hoyer/Ryan Lindley/John Skelton trifecta. Fitzgerald could weather the storm, knowing he had the luxury of multiple years left. Smith does not. If he stays true to his word and retires upon season’s end that leaves nine games on a team that could be mathematically eliminated a month from now. Is that really how a guy with as much grit and passion as Smith wants to go out?
If Smith changes course, there are a number of playoff contenders who could use his service. But Green Bay would be a perfect fit. Smith is not in his prime but he’s not far off. On pace for over 1000 yards, Smith can play all over the field and adds toughness that the current Packers WR corps seems to be lacking. As Greg Bedard mentioned in his column this week, the Packers are having issues with the vertical passing game this because they don’t have the receiving personnel to excel in man coverage. Smith can excel when double-teamed—even triple-teamed in spots. He’s the toughest receiver in the game and exactly what the Packers and Aaron Rodgers need.
As for the Ravens, well, here’s a chance to get an extra (mid round?) draft pick. Given how desperately they may need to rebuild, that’s nothing to scoff at. One thing is certain: they’ll be getting nothing for Smith next year.
Golden Tate to the Panthers. After losing WR Kelvin Benjamin to a torn ACL suffered in training camp, the Panthers have made do without their No. 1 wideout and climbed atop the NFC South with a 6–0 record. But as they prepare for what will be a likely playoff run, there's no doubt that they would like a receiver to lean on down the stretch. And with the Lions season heading down the drain, their best option is to sell off some of their commodities to make room for the future. While it's tempting to sell off Calvin Johnson, his massive contract makes trading him far too unrealistic. However, trading Golden Tate isn't out of the question.
There's no doubt that Tate didn't expect to be playing for a sinking Lions team when he arrived from Seattle last season, and the 27-year-old could certainly make much more of an impact (and enjoy some success) playing with the Panthers, quarterbacked by the dynamic, mobile Cam Newton. The Lions need a ton of draft picks, and the Panthers would likely be more than willing to give some up to bolster their receiver corps.
Martellus Bennett to the Broncos. The 2–4 Bears are already in complete rebuild mode (Proof: As I was typing out their current record, I accidentally typed 4–12…which very well may be their record come January.) With Matt Forte also potentially on the move, this offense is going to look very different next year, and the Bears might as well get a jump on that now by dealing the 28-year-old tight end to a team in desperate need of one—the Broncos—in exchange for some draft picks that will help John Fox and Ryan Pace build their team of the future. Denver’s depth at tight end is as follows: Owen Daniels, Virgil Green, Richard Gordon. Even if they don’t get Bennett, they better go out and get somebody to fill that gaping hole.