Now that common sense has prevailed and (many) coaches streamline systems that can more easily accommodate newcomers on the fly, the NFL’s trade deadline has become more reminiscent of MLB’s or the NBA’s. General managers who stand pat are no longer seen as pragmatic, but instead as stodgy old-timers who are missing out on a unique spot on the calendar where sellers could see a slight increase in asking price and buyers could capitalize on a disgruntled asset.
Now two weeks out, teams need to start making these decisions. Some clubs are bottoming out at a breakneck pace, while some surprising contenders have emerged with a few noticeable weak spots. Let’s try and set the landscape with a few teams I’m interested in hearing from at this point:
Atlanta Falcons (1–5)
Tradable Assets: EDGE Vic Beasley, TE Austin Hooper
Beasley and Hooper are two players on expiring contracts who could be valuable in the right system. I’m not ready to turn the lights out on the Dan Quinn regime despite their truly puzzling performance in 2019. However, absent a minor winning streak in the coming weeks, they need to start thinking about their long-term financial plan and which players fit into that plan. Both could yield a solid return beyond the compensatory refund next year.
Denver Broncos (2–4)
Tradable Assets: CB Chris Harris, WR Emmanuel Sanders
This team was always going to go through an evaluation period in 2019 under first-year head coach Vic Fangio and then figure out how to reassess in ’20 once the division opens up a little bit. Their stockpile of veterans puts them in a decent position at the deadline to accumulate 2020 picks to bolster their offensive line and defense moving forward.
New York Jets (1–4)
Tradable assets: DE Leonard Williams, WR Robby Anderson
I don’t think the Jets would have moved for the ill-timed dismissal of their general manager if there were not some fundamental, and temporarily unsolvable roster conflicts that Adam Gase felt were dragging the team down. Their current circumstances provide the perfect cover for a late-season talent dump if you think about it: The Jets are already out of playoff contention and are hitting a definite soft spot on their schedule (third-easiest in football from here on out). They have the time and the cover to elevate the young players who will be part of their core strategy in 2020 and dump those who aren’t, without the requisite guilt of a normal sell-off.
Cincinnati Bengals (0–6)
Tradable assets: A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap
I know new head coach Zac Taylor has already said that he will absolutely not deal A.J. Green (remember when the Rams said they wouldn’t trade Sam Bradford?) but I tend to agree with sage Cincinnati beat man Paul Dehner here: If the Bengals are going to keep him around to set the tone in Taylor’s new regime, they need to make a show out of a market-pacing extension despite Green’s age. Keeping a caged veteran, who may be Canton-bound had he not been anchored to this offense throughout his career, to fritter away his remaining days as part of a lost season could end up causing more harm than good. There are a few players who could net solid returns here, but that would force them to abandon their reputation as a family business.
Tradable assets: Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff, Case Keenum
I would guess there are teams thirsting over Washington’s stable of offensive line talent who are either disgruntled and not in attendance, or on an expiring contract. Both Williams and Scherff would fetch a premium on the open market, and there are a lot of teams who might be desperate for plug and play stalwarts in late October. It would be ridiculous for Daniel Snyder to assume this team doesn’t need a rebuild at some point. Now is a chance to supplement what may be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
Philadelphia Eagles (3–3)
Needs: Wide receiver, defensive back
Howie Roseman has a great feel for the market this time of year, and the NFC East is going to continue to knot itself in the coming weeks with little separation. The Eagles are armed with one projected additional third-round pick, an extra projected fourth and two extra fifth-round picks. That might be enough to form the foundation of a deal.
New England Patriots (6–0)
Needs: Tight end, wide receiver
The Patriots are up against the salary cap right now, though that hasn’t stopped teams in the past from getting creative at the deadline. I think Bill Belichick has telegraphed his desire for another high-powered receiver to join Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon. The tight end corps could also use an upgrade, unless, of course, the plan was for Rob Gronkowski to flee the booth after just a few weeks on the job. Everyone stay vigilant at your local Planet Fitness in case Gronkowski decides to start packing some muscle back on.
Detroit Lions (2-1-1)
Needs: Really… not many.
The Lions are surprisingly deep—barring injury, of course—but this is a good chance to layer talent and make it more difficult for the rest of the division to keep pace with them. GM Bob Quinn has shown a willingness to do deals and Detroit has the easiest remaining strength of schedule among all the teams in their division. They have a premium passer and a new offensive coordinator; both reasons to believe that they might be able to sustain their surprisingly fortuitous start to the season. I love Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press’ idea that the Lions could go after Patrick Peterson once he comes off suspension, even if he’s not totally high on it. I think giving Matt Patricia a chance to diversify his coverages over the second half of the year would be troublesome for a few of the pass-happy teams they’ll see down the stretch.
Seattle Seahawks (5–1)
Needs: Wideout, OL depth, secondary
These aren’t really needs in a sense that the Seahawks would flounder without them, but I put them here for two reasons:
1. They are getting some pressure from within the division. It’s sensible to suggest that Seattle would want to load up if there are cost-friendly assets available given the road they will have to travel to the playoffs and beyond.
2. Russell Wilson is having a spectacular, MVP-caliber season. Why not give him more talent?
Buffalo Bills (4–1)
With their Football Outsiders playoff odds eclipsing 70%, the Bills have to go all-in here, even if they don’t have a surplus of picks to throw around (a bonus six and two bonus fives without compensatory selections factored in). I thought Bill Barnwell’s Melvin Gordon proposal was smart given Buffalo’s fading armada at running back. Both Cole Beasley and John Brown are catching nearly 70% of their passes and John Brown is a top 15 receiver statistically at the moment (Cole Beasley is only 100 yards behind and is still in the top 50). They have been great, but diversifying Allen’s weapons as he continues to develop would be a major bonus late in the season.
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