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2021 NFL Trade Deadline Primer: Buyers, Sellers, Targets and Dream Deals

Here's a look at which teams should be busy between now and Tuesday, which players could be on the move and a few of our favorite pairings.

We’ve arrived at the NFL trade deadline in a more extreme version of the league’s typical fashion: This year, it seems there are a handful of dominant teams surging and some easily identifiable bottom-feeders looking to shed talent in exchange for draft capital. Indeed, the Texans are built a little like one of those old-time merchant carts, wheeling their way through town hoping that someone will offer them shiny rocks in exchange for their goods. Mark Ingram has already been dealt to the Saints and he will not be the last Texans player on the move (we’re not talking about the quarterback, either).

Also on the trade front so far, the Cardinals acquired Zach Ertz from the Eagles for a fifth-round pick and cornerback Tay Gowan. The Broncos acquired Kenny Young from the Rams and Stephen Weatherly from the Vikings, both for seventh-round picks. The Panthers acquired Stephon Gilmore from the Patriots back on Oct. 6, in what ultimately may end up being the most significant deadline action we’ll see.

As for what is left, we’re here to answer that question as best we can. Who will move, who should move and who would we love to see moved? And who is doing the moving? Check down below to find out what will happen next.


Potential sellers


The Texans are littered with somewhat known commodities (like Ingram and, during the preseason, Shaq Lawson) who could act as vinyl patching on the tires of various contenders. Kamu Grugier-Hill, for example, is a linebacker with coverage range who is having statistically his best season while targeted, on top of a career high in targets. For teams looking to contend with versatile backs down the stretch, he is a perfect example of a player who could move for little to no cost and additional draft ammunition for Nick Caserio. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks (who voiced his displeasure after the Ingram deal) has played almost every offensive snap for the Texans and is still a decent take-the-top-off-the-defense threat in a thin market (DeSean Jackson is still kicking, after all, and coincidentally is now seeking his own trade).


I wrote about this earlier in the season, but if I were the Jaguars I would have my radar up on Urban Meyer trying to gut the remainder of this roster for draft capital. C.J. Henderson was already dealt to the Panthers. Say what you will about the Dave Caldwell era, but there were a ton of draft hits, albeit some that were difficult for him to keep due to the fire-and-brimstone Tom Coughlin era that overlapped his. Yannick Ngakoue was a third-round pick. Allen Robinson was a second-round pick. Jalen Ramsey was a Jaguar. Gardner Minshew was a sixth-round pick, A.J. Cann was a third-round pick. The point I’m trying to make is that if Meyer wanted to deal someone like K’Lavon Chaisson, for example, I would be hesitant to pull the trigger. We don’t know what Chaisson will look like, and Caldwell had a pretty good track record of picking players.


It will be interesting to see what Dan Campbell does at the trade deadline. The Lions are in good shape in terms of draft capital, with two first-round picks and, while I don’t expect it to stay this way, what’s currently the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft. But it is the middle tier of a draft class that builds an organization, especially one in this dire of a personnel situation, so would the Lions move some veterans on expiring contracts to build up that portion of their equity arsenal? It would seem Campbell’s culture-first approach would prevent a selloff (as would the relative talent level on the roster) and some of the desperation moves made by Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn have precluded the Lions from making any sensible deals (Trey Flowers, for example, would come with nearly $20 million in dead-cap charges, and it would be about half that for Halapoulivaati Vaitai.


The Eagles are already looking at three first-round draft picks in 2022, not to mention an additional fifth-rounder acquired from the Zach Ertz trade. At the moment, they have three picks in the top 13. That won’t stop them from shedding more assets as they get closer to the end of a developmental season for Jalen Hurts. Andre Dillard has surfaced in various reports, signaling an interest to develop a market for the former first-round pick. Another former first-round pick, Derek Barnett, has also been floated ahead of the deadline, though the Eagles may have to eat some salary and find a dreamer of a defensive coordinator assured he can change Barnett’s fortunes. Barnett’s usage has ballooned from about 50 to 60% to almost 90% of snaps over the last two weeks.


The one good thing about the Giants’ insular hiring process with executives (Dave Gettleman was a longtime assistant of previous general manager Jerry Reese, who was a longtime deputy to previous general manager Ernie Accorsi, who was a short-term assistant to previous general manager George Young) is that they are largely protected from panic maneuvers. Reese went on a spending splurge toward the end of his tenure with the Giants that ended up saddling the club with some bad contracts, which is why Gettleman was brought in to frugally upgrade their personnel. Some of his moves have been successes; some have not. But it’s clear the Giants are bloated right now with some expiring rookie contracts they should explore moving, not to mention some bulky veteran deals that are movable as well. (We wrote two weeks ago that they should even move Saquon Barkley.) They have a healthy middle tier to the roster that other, more successful clubs may be interested in nibbling on before the deadline, with Danny Shelton and John Ross coming to mind. Darius Slayton, who, at one time, was the best pass catching option in East Rutherford and a budding star, would also be an easily-movable contract that could net the Giants something close to a return on investment.

Contenders with obvious holes

The best teams are sitting atop their respective divisions for obvious reasons, but this is a time to begin exploring matchups against the best clubs in your conference and not just the best teams in your division. 

• For example, the Packers could—and should—explore the coverage linebacker market, as well as rotational defensive line and secondary pieces. 

• The Cowboys could try to poach the interior defensive line market, which should be relatively robust. 

• The Buccaneers will be scraping the bottom floor of the cornerback market.

• The Cardinals should be on the lookout for some ancillary pass rushing help and some interior defensive line. 

• While we say this perpetually, the Ravens could poach on the receiver market.

• The Bills look stunningly complete, down to the second tight end on their roster, which may have explained their hesitancy to remain in the Zach Ertz sweepstakes as they were during the preseason.

• There are also a number of middling teams that will tell us more about their internal confidence. What do the Browns, Colts, Chiefs and Vikings end up doing?

Potential big names available

Our Albert Breer noted the following, among others, in his Friday GamePlan column:

Colts RB Marlon Mack, and pass rushers Kemoko Turay and Ben Banogu; Dolphins WR DeVante Parker; Giants WR Darius Slayton and TE Evan Engram; Cardinals WR Andy Isabella; Falcons TE Hayden Hurst; Raiders DE Clelin Ferrell; Eagles LBs Eric Wilson and Alex Singleton, and OT Andre Dillard.

I’ll add to that list Josh Reynolds, the wide receiver from the Titans, who had a career year with the Rams last year with 618 yards, two touchdowns and a 64% catch rate.

And as mentioned above, DeSean Jackson is now looking for a trade partner. 

Some dream trades

Von Miller to the Cowboys for a second- and sixth-round pick.

Miller is going to hit the free-agent market at the end of this season, so the Broncos may be interested in trying to get something more than just a compensatory pick. Dallas is going to coast to the NFC East title and while Randy Gregory has been effective as an outside rusher in limited bursts, Miller would change the complexion of their defense and give them some heft against the heavier hitters out west who will have the cleanest shot at a Super Bowl berth. With Jerry Jones quietly sensing an opportunity, it would be surprising not to see him meddle in personnel this week and ask for a splash maneuver.

Allen Robinson to the Chiefs for a second-round pick

The signing of Josh Gordon indicated what we’ve all realized about the Chiefs, that without a sound running game they must upgrade their passing weapon set to the point where it can strangle any secondary. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce simply cannot handle that kind of workload anymore. Robinson would provide Patrick Mahomes with a high-volume, reliable possession receiver who has the broken play dexterity to thrive alongside Mahomes. Robinson could pull the Chiefs’ offense out of its rut and ease the burden currently placed on their offensive line.

Odell Beckham to the Lions for two third-round picks

We’ve seen this trend a bit in both baseball and football of late, where some teams that are clearly out of it but flush with draft capital get a jump start on the free agent market. Lions general manager Brad Holmes, a Les Snead disciple, can create a delicate balance between pick-averse high roller and pragmatic team-builder by cutting the line for Beckham. The Browns love long-term thinking and have some talent on the roster, including Donovan Peoples-Jones who, while not a one-for-one replacement of Beckham’s skill set, is more of a conservative fit for Cleveland’s run-first offense. Meanwhile, Beckham would arrive as an ambassador for the Lions’ next quarterback.

Grady Jarrett to the Packers for a second-, fourth- and conditional fifth-round pick

Jarrett is a luxury for the Falcons right now, a 28-year-old centerpiece defensive tackle who has a gargantuan cap hit. While the time to trade him would be this offseason when his hit drastically reduces, Green Bay could upgrade one of the league’s softer run defenses and spend one of its extra fourth-round picks. The Falcons, meanwhile, could continue efforting toward a full rebuild while Matt Ryan is still in a championship window. While it would gut the Falcons’ defense in the short-term, how much remaining value is there with Jarrett from the perspective of a team that has some serious long-term issues?

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