During last year’s Super Bowl week, the long suspected trade of Alex Smith was consummated, stunning everyone at a time when all the focus is on the season’s biggest game.
It’s a good reminder that, while we think the rest of the league is sleeping, 30 other teams are trying to get there. Tampering rules be damned, the offseason starts earlier and earlier each year. Here’s a quick look at who could destroy the news cycle next week and get traded as we approach Patriots-Rams:
1. Antonio Brown
I, for one, never thought we’d get here. Part of me still believes that the pessimistic point of view taken by the Steelers of late is just the way they’ve chosen to posit themselves. However, Brown could elevate a team on the cusp of contention in a way that few offensive players could, and therefore will have suitors. There are a handful of teams—including the 49ers, Colts, Jets, Raiders and Texans—who have the capital and the cap space to make it happen (and some who have cost-controlled rookie-contract QBs who may be interested).
2. Joe Flacco
This one, like Smith, could go down sooner than expected. John Harbaugh already set the stage for a Flacco market, and teams know that he may be the best pro-style quarterback out there. If a club believes they are close and do not have a passer (that list is small, but the Broncos, Dolphins and Jaguars stand out in my mind), they could be inclined to deal before the draft and supplement from there.
3. Nick Foles
Interesting in that, the Eagles could agree to something in principle with the plan to pick up Foles’ option and then deal him, believing that he could command a return greater than the compensatory pick they’d receive for simply letting him go. Foles is another big name, but one who will inevitably come up second to Carson Wentz in Philadelphia. He’s four years younger than Flacco, and if a team views him as a long-term option (and the Eagles make it clear they’re dealing), the quarterback trade market may stall until he lands somewhere.
4. Jalen Ramsey
The Jaguars have already shut this down, and I’m inclined to believe them. Their efforts to mend relationships with Leonard Fournette and retain their staff show that they believe they’re a quarterback away from competing in the AFC South, and I think that, barring a mass exodus of veteran talent this offseason, I agree with that assessment. However, things change. And if they do, rebuilding with the help of a generous return of picks you’d get from an in-prime cornerback is not a bad way to go.
5. Odell Beckham Jr.
Ramsey and Beckham kind of complete the “wildcard” section here, and every list should include a home-run possibility because that’s the way teams are thinking. I don’t think it’s an accident that Beckham’s trade-ability continues to surface.
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