The NFL trade deadline is upon us. While we may not see the avalanche of deals we did a year ago, we’re off to a good start with Carlos Hyde, Eli Apple and Damon Harrison all changing teams in recent days. What’s left? That depends on how many of these teams logjammed at 3–4 or 4–3 believe they are truly contenders, or if they have some excess fat that they could turn into something to benefit them down the road.
Here are five deals we might actually see, and five that we’d really like to see.
Five trades we might see
1. Janoris Jenkins to the Chiefs
Patrick Peterson’s announcement that he would stay with Arizona took both the most enticing and practical trade deadline maneuver off the board before this weekend’s action hit. That being said, the Chiefs are probably not finished yet. It would be foolish to imagine that the team could not win the Super Bowl in Patrick Mahomes’s first season as a starter. It would also be foolish to think that teams won’t eventually catch up to what they’re doing. In short, this is the season to strike. Jenkins has not been playing like a top-tier cornerback this season, but he has the ability. The Chiefs are in need of some patchwork in the secondary. Might that extra second-rounder they got for Marcus Peters come in handy?
2. Chandler Jones to the AFC South
While the Cardinals seem to be recoiling from the idea of a rebuild, which is something you do when the coach and general manager are fighting for their jobs, their 28-year-old pass rusher would make an awfully nice chip for a few teams fighting for playoff positioning. Why the AFC South in particular, you ask? I think there are a lot of teams there built on a defense-first philosophy—a construction that could take a huge hit if one of their marquee pass rushers went down. Jones could be protection and a wonderful change of pace for Jacksonville (Campbell, Fowler, Ngakoue). The same goes for the Texans, who are relying on excellent but injury-prone rushers across the board. Then, there is Mike Vrabel in Tennessee, who has spent year working in a Bill Belichick-inspired system with the Texans. Jones could be a nice addition to their young core, who are still relying heavily on Jurrell Casey to provide quarterback pressure. Jones’s contract is prohibitive, but can be wriggled out of after the end of next season.
3. Demaryius Thomas to the Jets or Eagles
If the Jets defeat the Bears this Sunday in Soldier Field, evening their record at 4–4 for the season, I don’t think it would be difficult to see Mike Maccagnan getting in the mix for someone to help out Sam Darnold. Thomas is still relatively sure-handed and could replace (and upgrade) the big-bodied receiver role the team has been missing since Terrelle Pryor went down with an injury (but really, since Pryor played himself out of the lineup). While it’s not optimal, he may be available for the right price and could win some 50–50 balls for a young quarterback searching for dependable hands. The Eagles, meanwhile, were in the mix for Amari Cooper. Does that mean they’re looking for help now, or did they see the advantage of gobbling up a 24-year-old on his rookie deal? If the answer is now, Thomas would make Philadelphia a devastating offense for the second half of 2018—a team that could reinvent itself mid-season.
4. LeSean McCoy to the Eagles/Buccaneers
It’s foolish to keep McCoy in Buffalo only to have his remaining years wither away on a rebuilding football team. The Eagles, who have already lost Jay Ajayi for the season and are waiting for word on Darren Sproles, could use the security of an established dual-threat back and would ride the boon of unimaginable fan delirium. Reacquiring McCoy would be one of the last hammer drops in Howie Roseman’s arsenal to undo the Chip Kelly era, and it would probably be surprisingly affordable.
As for the Buccaneers, don’t be surprised to see them make moves. Dirk Koetter and Jason Licht want to hang around, and the only way to do so at this point would be reaching the postseason, it seems.
5. Tyrod Taylor to a competitor (DAL, HOU, TEN, CAR)
Baker Mayfield has “won” the Browns’ quarterback position and won’t be giving it up amid a rough patch this season. Taylor was there to start in 2018 and challenge Mayfield in the summer. Now, fellow backup Drew Stanton is the valuable one, as he can teach Mayfield how to prepare and handle the various pitfalls of the position without threatening to take the job. Taylor, on the other hand, would be gold for an NFL team that suffers an injury at the quarterback position. Dallas, Houston, Tennessee and Carolina could all use a major upgrade at the backup position and could all theoretically win games with their current infrastructure and Taylor behind center if an injury occurred. Trading for a backup is the least sexy trade deadline swap…until you need one. Then, you’re pragmatic.
Five trades we’d love to see, but won’t happen
1. Larry Fitzgerald to anywhere
It’s a well-worn trope to suggest a retiring legend would chase one more championship elsewhere at the trade deadline. For some valuable perspective here, I’d re-read Jenny Vrentas’s interview with Joe Thomas about what it was like rebuilding in Cleveland, and the prospect of chasing a ring at the end. Larry Fitzgerald may not want to go anywhere. The idea of retiring a Cardinal may be more attractive than, say, joining the Patriots and losing in the AFC title game. But if that’s not the case, a move makes sense from a strategic standpoint. Fitzgerald is a great route runner who blocks well down field and doesn’t drop many balls. What is more valuable in January?
2. Le’Veon Bell to the Jaguars
Worried about the effectiveness of your running game? Concerned you won’t be able to capitalize on this window of aging veteran stars and young cornerbacks who are about to become wildly expensive? Make a three-headed monster that is nearly impossible to stop in November and December. You worry not about Fournette injuring himself again and you give Blake Bortles the ultimate gift: A dependable, mid-range receiving option.
3. Derek Carr to the Giants:
The move makes zero sense from a cap perspective if you’re Oakland. In addition, if Gruden traded his Pro Bowl quarterback, players would begin voluntarily walking out of the facility. There would be no reason to show up for work and sacrifice a career-ending injury for a teardown that transparent and heinous. But it would be nice to see the Giants not have to go through a three-year rebuild on the shoulders of a rookie quarterback. The real concern I have with the Giants’ current roster construction is that, by the time any drafted passer is capable enough to lead them, Odell Beckham will be too old and Saquon Barkley too high in milage.
4. Richard Sherman to the Rams
Aqib Talib is coming back from ankle surgery, so why not hedge your bets? The combination of Talib, Richard Sherman and Marcus Peters would be so beautifully gluttonous. There would be a fair number of receivers who would refuse to take the field on principal. In a chilly January game, imagine the effort offensive coordinators would go through in order to escape press man coverage. Yes, Sherman and Talib are at the end of their careers. But this is a chance for the Rams to go full Rams. It’s all leading to a Super Bowl-or-bust atmosphere before the new stadium is built, anyway.
5. Landon Collins bidding war
Again, this will probably not happen even though Collins is going to seriously hamstring the Giants on the free agent market next year. There are a dozen playoff-hopeful NFL teams out there right now who could use a versatile, hard-hitting safety like Collins. He is the Giants’ best coverage option right now and dealing him would essentially disinvite anyone interested in attending a home game for the remainder of the season. Still, dangling him out there for the Patriots, Chiefs, Saints and a few others searching for versatility would be entertaining.
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