NFL Trade Rumors: Every Team's Best Bargaining Chip
Trades in the NFL may not be as common as in other sports, but that just makes them more exciting when they do happen.
The NFL trade deadline comes in Week 8, and that means the time for speculation and rumors is peaking right now.
Some teams are sure to be quiet, while others would be wise to pick up the phones and talk business with other organizations.
In this article, we highlight every team’s best bargaining chip. Obviously, the best players are the most valuable, but that doesn’t make them realistic trade targets.
As a result, keep in mind that this article is not suggesting that all these players should be traded; rather, each of these players is a realistic trade option that offers the most value to his team.
Arizona Cardinals: Early Doucet
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John Skelton and Beanie Wells might be more appropriate names here, but based on Kevin Kolb’s recent injury and Wells’ status on injured reserve, neither is a candidate to be moved.
That makes Early Doucet one of the next best options for Arizona to deal.
In 2011, Doucet set career highs in catches (54), targets (98), yards (689), yards per reception (12.8) and touchdowns (five). Through six games this year, Doucet has just 119 yards and zero scores.
Meanwhile, teammate Andre Roberts has four touchdowns through the first six weeks of 2012.
Roberts’ emergence, paired with the addition of rookie Michael Floyd, makes Doucet a trade candidate. He’s not an elite option, but he offers value nonetheless.
Atlanta Falcons: Michael Turner
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A proven veteran with a lot of mileage on his tires, Michael Turner isn’t the same running back he was in his prime. He is no longer the focal point of Atlanta’s offense, and he recently sounded frustrated by this notion, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Atlanta is clearly moving on without the 30-year-old back in its long-term plans—especially with the passing game so potent. Despite seeing 300-plus carries in three of the last four seasons, Turner is averaging just 14 totes per game in 2012.
Meanwhile, the Falcons seem intrigued by Jacquizz Rodgers, who is quicker and more explosive than Michael "The Burner” Turner.
Nevertheless, a few other teams out there would be thrilled to have Turner’s services. He’s a durable back with a lot of experience and can do everything out of the backfield. He’s due $5.5 million in 2013 before becoming a free agent, so Atlanta could look to move him while it continues to feature the passing game.
Baltimore Ravens: Sergio Kindle
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Ever since the Ravens selected linebacker Sergio Kindle in the second round of the 2010 draft, the journey has been a rocky one for both sides. He suffered a skull fracture before he could even make his NFL debut, and ever since he’s been battling the road back.
Kindle certainly isn’t a marquee name, but another team desperate at the position could take a chance on the 6’3”, 250-pound linebacker out of Texas. Ray Lewis’ triceps injury might stall this idea due to depth concerns, and teams might be wary of Kindle’s health.
But the Ravens have been hesitant to put Kindle on the field even though he is healthy and cleared to play.
A move may be just the thing to resurrect his career, and it would come at a cheap price for his new club. The Ravens have already found new depth at the position, so acquiring an extra pick or two for him makes sense.
Buffalo Bills: Fred Jackson
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Just this offseason, Buffalo signed running back Fred Jackson to a well-deserved two-year contract extension. It might seem odd to ship him off given this decision, but C.J. Spiller’s emergence makes it a real possibility.
Trading Jackson seems unlikely at this point for Buffalo, considering he’s a team leader and can still play at a very high level. But this is a team that just released its longest-tenured player and fan favorite a few weeks ago in punter Brian Moorman (don’t laugh), so it isn’t out of the question.
Head coach Chan Gailey likes what he’s seen out of backup Tashard Choice, whom he coached at Georgia Tech. More importantly, Spiller has been absolutely dynamic in a full-time role, so the Bills might make a decision to roll with the youngster and former first-round pick.
If the Bills get a good offer for the veteran back, they could pull the trigger on a deal to help them continue to bolster the team through the draft, which GM Buddy Nix loves to do.
Carolina Panthers: DeAngelo Williams
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The Carolina Panthers have roughly $50 million guaranteed to running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. That’s not including their enormous individual contracts.
That alone might be enough to validate trading the elder of the two. Williams is 29 years old, and Stewart is 25. Both are hindered by a timeshare in Carolina, and the lack of balance seems to be affecting the offense.
Williams can still play, and in fact he and Stewart have two of the best career yards-per-carry averages around (5.0 and 4.8, respectively).
The Panthers could clear a lot of money off the books by trading Williams, and that money could go toward finding Cam Newton some weapons at receiver. Yes, he’s a good player, but his talents are being wasted in a part-time role.
Cincinnati Bengals: Nate Clements
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Admittedly, Nate Clements is more of a big name than a big talent right now, but that won’t deter teams in need of help in the secondary.
While the Bengals are one of those teams that has struggled against the pass, dealing the veteran cornerback makes a lot of sense. He’s 32 years old, he’s been transitioning between corner and safety this year and the team is clearly trying to get younger in the secondary.
Led by safety George Iloka and corners Leon Hall and Dre Kirkpatrick, Cincy’s defensive backfield is ready for an overhaul. Corners are more important than ever right now, and 2012 is the final year on Clements’ contract.
Trading him would help the Bengals get something in return for a player who isn’t really helping them all that much anyway.
Chicago Bears: Devin Hester
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In today’s NFL, the elite kick returner is becoming obsolete, which is exactly Devin Hester’s biggest strength.
Hester has fallen out of the ranks in the Chicago Bears’ receiving hierarchy. Although rookie sensation Alshon Jeffery is out with a fractured hand, Hester still doesn’t figure to be a big part of the offense.
So far in 2012, the soon-to-be 30-year-old has more punt returns (11) and kick returns (10) than receptions (seven).
His unique return skills have been hampered by the league’s new kickoff rules, but that doesn’t mean the Bears can’t lure another team into offering up some value for his dynamic services. After all, Hester is a weapon when utilized properly.
Cleveland Browns: Colt McCoy
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For better or worse, the Cleveland Browns are riding with rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden taking the reins under center. That makes Colt McCoy dispensable.
Opinions vary on McCoy, but the truth is teams could do a whole lot worse at backup quarterback. On another team, he might even have a shot to compete for a starting job. He won’t get that in Cleveland after the Browns spent a first-round pick on Weeden this year.
McCoy is just 26 years old, has decent size and boasts valuable experience that has even resulted in some successful showings. Teams contending for a playoff run may want to inquire about the former Longhorn as an upgrade to their No. 2 quarterback spot.
Dallas Cowboys: Dan Connor
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The Dallas Cowboys are having an up-and-down year, but one thing that has remained consistent is their defense.
Dallas is second in the league in total defense, led by an improved secondary, an emerging linebacking corps and a strong defensive line.
Linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are locked in as key players in the Cowboys defense, which makes Dan Connor a name to monitor. Connor offers some experience and an underrated skill set at the position, and he’s still just 26 years old.
Teams looking for help at the second level would be wise to consider him as a trade target, since he could realistically be a starter on several other clubs.
Denver Broncos: Willis McGahee
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This may not be a popular player here for Denver Broncos fans, but Willis McGahee makes the most sense as a trading chip.
Considering his production, McGahee is signed relatively cheaply through 2014, so it still makes sense for Denver to hang on to its leading rusher. On the other hand, this makes a needy team more comfortable offering up something for his proven services.
The veteran will be 31 years old on October 21. Additionally, the Broncos have young players like Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball fully capable of being effective behind Peyton Manning.
With Manning playing at such a high level recently, any extra future pieces to help build around him are valuable for the long-term success of the team.
Detroit Lions: Ndamukong Suh
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On the surface, it might sound crazy to name Ndamukong Suh as a player for Detroit to put on the trade block. Considering his undeniable talent and impact on the field, it would seem like he’s a player the Lions could build around on defense.
That’s exactly what the Lions thought when they drafted him second overall in 2010. That is, before his growing list of issues and distractions.
Suh has already accumulated so many off-field issues (well, and on-field) that he’s not worth the risk to the Lions anymore. He is one mistake away from a lengthy suspension, and his behavior continues to be a concern.
Though he only has 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks this year, Detroit would likely have no trouble finding a trade partner. In doing so, the Lions would rid themselves of many future headaches while also getting great value in return.
Green Bay Packers: James Jones
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James Jones currently leads the NFL in touchdown receptions with seven, notching two in each of the last three games. He also has 23 catches for 270 yards, thanks in part to Greg Jennings missing so much time.
The 28-year-old San Jose, Calif., native has been the focus of trade talks for a while out in Green Bay, and not much has changed in that regard. He’s still a plenty capable receiver in a deep group who has capitalized on his increased snaps this year.
That, in turn, has given Green Bay a chance to showcase his talents. Other teams have surely taken notice.
Meanwhile, Randall Cobb has proven to be every bit of the playmaker he’s been made out to be, and Jennings should be back soon. That means Jones could be a sell-high candidate for the Pack, as he’s already tied his career high for touchdown receptions in less than half a season.
Houston Texans: Ben Tate
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On another team, Ben Tate might already be a starting running back. He might just get that chance if the Texans choose to deal him.
There’s no question Houston’s offense runs through Arian Foster (and to a lesser extent Matt Schaub). While having a player like Tate as insurance is a tremendous asset, the return investment the team might get in a trade could be even more valuable.
Tate just turned 24 years old in August. He has good size and vision and boasts plenty of upside. There’s no doubt other teams would be interested in his services to make him the No. 1 back for their organizations.
Indianapolis Colts: Kavell Conner
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With the emergence of undrafted free-agent linebacker Jerrell Freeman, the Indianapolis Colts now have a trio of quality inside linebackers at their disposal—and each is 26 years old or younger.
The other two players are Pat Angerer, who erupted onto the scene last season, and Kavell Conner, a second-year player out of Clemson.
Indy just acquired linebacker Moise Fokou from Philadelphia this offseason, and with Mario Harvey also waiting in line at inside 'backer, the Colts have a solid handful of players.
Conner is an underrated talent who has fared pretty well in 2012. But Indy may prefer the combo of Angerer and Freeman for the long haul, making Conner an intriguing trade candidate.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew
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Was Maurice Jones-Drew’s unsuccessful offseason holdout a sign of the running back’s future with Jacksonville? Jones-Drew wants more money and security on his contract, but the Jags were hesitant to do so this offseason, mainly because he’s already signed through 2013.
The human bowling ball is the face of the franchise and is still just 27 years old, but it’s no secret this team needs a lot of work. New head coach Mike Mularkey is trying to resuscitate the lifeless offense, and the jury is still out on quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Shipping Jones-Drew now could give the organization some valuable pieces to help rebuild the team. He’s already nearing 2,000 carries for his young career, which is a red flag for offering him a big contract. Dealing Jones-Drew may not be a popular move, but it could be a smart one.
Kansas City Chiefs: Dwayne Bowe
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Dwayne Bowe is arguably Kansas City’s best player, yet according to Yahoo! Sports’ Jason Cole via Twitter, the talented wideout “wants out of KC very badly.”
Make no mistake—the Chiefs lack offensive weapons, so shipping off Bowe sounds like a disaster.
However, if that’s the route the organization wants to travel, the move would certainly bring some big rewards in return.
Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper lists the Miami Dolphins as a top candidate to pursue the No. 1 receiver (something they desperately need), but as of now no trade talks are official nor imminent. Outside of Miami, plenty of teams would surely be interested in Bowe’s services.
Miami Dolphins: Reggie Bush
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According to Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins’ top priority during the bye week is to fix the running game, which “has suddenly grounded to a halt.” Part of the solution could include finding a plan to shop Reggie Bush.
Bush is set to become a free agent after this season, and while he’s looked good at times in Miami, he continues to battle nagging injuries and has been effectively corralled the past two weeks.
Miami could opt to get rookie Lamar Miller more involved, and it still has Daniel Thomas at its disposal. Bush has shown he can still produce, but Miami probably isn’t going to make a serious run this year, which means Bush can be flipped for picks in next year’s draft.
If the Fins can get anywhere close to the value they got for Vontae Davis (2013 second-rounder from Indy), they should pull the trigger.
Minnesota Vikings: John Carlson
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Tight end John Carlson isn’t a flashy name, but he has enough value at tight end to render him valuable across the league.
Rhett Ellison, who is 6’5” and 251 pounds, seems to have passed Carlson as the No. 2 tight end on Minnesota’s depth chart. Much like starter Kyle Rudolph, Ellison offers youth, size, strength and athleticism at the position, and his blocking skills are good enough to benefit the offense.
In contrast, Carlson is more of a receiving option, but due to Rudolph’s exciting emergence and Ellison’s versatility, his snaps have been limited.
After New England’s success with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, many teams are hoping to feature two quality tight ends. Carlson could be an option for some of those interested teams.
New England Patriots: Wes Welker
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Wes Welker’s 2012 season has been a roller coaster thus far. First, he temporarily held out for leverage in contract negotiations, and then he caved. That landed him in Bill Belichick’s doghouse and sparked rumors of the Pats not only phasing him out of the offense but also possibly trading him.
Despite all that, he continues to put up gaudy numbers on the field for Tom Brady.
The truth is, Welker’s recent string of production has done nothing except increase his trade value. In addition, the Pats have happily welcomed back tight end Aaron Hernandez with open arms as he returns from injury.
The 5’9” Welker is 31 years old and is playing under a one-year deal. He’s not in New England’s long-term plans, but because he continues to produce, he offers the Pats great trade value.
New York Giants: Osi Umenyiora
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Osi Umenyiora is a 30-year-old defensive end playing on a one-year contract, and it doesn’t appear that the New York Giants have him in their long-term plans. Instead, Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck figure to eat up the most money at defensive end while the G-Men build around them.
Umenyiora, then, becomes one of the better pass-rushers a team could acquire right now, and a needy organization would likely be happy to offer him the deal he’s looking for.
He’s tallied 13 tackles and two sacks in limited snaps so far in 2012. Meanwhile, Tuck has 20 tackles, and Pierre-Paul has 22 tackles along with 3.5 sacks.
Umenyiora does help New York right now as a rotational end, but a trade would bring quality gains and could help the team build through the draft for the next few years.
New York Jets: Tim Tebow
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Come on, who else did you expect?
Tim Tebow is one of the most polarizing figures in the NFL. The Jets gave up a fourth- and sixth-round draft pick to acquire him from Denver, and since then he’s been vastly underutilized in New York’s offense.
Meanwhile, starter Mark Sanchez continues to disappoint. That means the Jets need to make a decision on Tebow, and soon.
Quite simply, Tebow offers an energy and winning mentality that not many other players do in the league. New York has Sanchez locked up through 2016, so if it’s not serious about riding with Tebowmania, perhaps it would be best to cut ties and get some value while it still can.
New Orleans Saints: Chris Ivory
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Running back Chris Ivory is buried on the New Orleans Saints’ depth chart behind teammates Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram. Given the production he’s had when given an opportunity, that might surprise some folks.
Ivory, who is just 24 years old, offers great size (6’0”, 222 pounds) in the backfield and has an impressive skill set. Behind his career totals of 216 carries for 1,090 yards and six touchdowns, he has a career average of five yards per carry. Despite all that, he has yet to even touch the ball once in 2012.
The Saints are crazy if they don’t get something in return for Ivory. They’re not using him as it is, and with the three backs in front of him on the depth chart, it doesn’t appear they will be anytime soon either.
Oakland Raiders: Terrelle Pryor
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The most important fact to note regarding Terrelle Pryor is that the Oakland Raiders’ new regime is not the one that brought him to town via last year’s supplemental draft. While the same can be said about Carson Palmer, Oakland has far too much invested in the veteran to simply trade him away now.
In contrast, Pryor is a young, mobile signal-caller who needs a chance to develop, and play. Though nothing is certain, he probably won’t get that chance in the Bay Area.
He boasts enough raw talent that another team could be intrigued, and if the Raiders can fetch a pick or two to make up for all those they shipped away in recent seasons, GM Reggie McKenzie and Co. would be able to continue the rebuilding process.
Matt Leinart is another option, but Pryor offers more value—especially if Oakland doesn’t have him in its long-term plans anymore.
Philadelphia Eagles: Dion Lewis
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Eagles running back Dion Lewis has been inactive in five of the team’s six games this year. He’s apparently behind Bryce Brown and Chris Polk, both of whom back up starter LeSean McCoy in Philly.
Rotoworld.com now indicates that there is “trade chatter surrounding Lewis,” who is an undersized yet quick and feisty back. Having just turned 22 years old in September, the youngster could be a hot commodity on the trading block.
Philadelphia has a lot of young depth at the position, so it makes a lot of sense to trade one of its several backs who has yet to be utilized.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Wallace
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After an ugly holdout during the offseason, wide receiver Mike Wallace might finally get the big contract he’s been seeking. It just might come from another team.
Wallace is a great talent with coveted vertical speed and playmaking abilities. However, the way he handled his contract situation in the offseason not only didn’t sit well with Pittsburgh management, but it also indirectly led to teammate Antonio Brown being rewarded with a $42.5 million deal.
The Steelers may not want to keep Wallace in their long-term plans, and if that’s the case, he offers the most value as a trade candidate. Nearly every team in the league could use his talents at wideout, and Pittsburgh might be content rolling with the likes of Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.
San Diego Chargers: Ryan Mathews
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Once believed to be the new face of the franchise at tailback, Ryan Mathews has had some struggles since entering the league in 2010 with the San Diego Chargers.
One of those struggles is fumbling. He’s fumbled the pigskin 11 times in 30 career games, losing six of those for turnovers. This bad habit even cost him some playing time and a starting role a couple weeks ago, as head coach Norv Turner rolled with Jackie Battle.
The other concern is durability. Fumbling or not, Mathews doesn’t do the team any good if he can’t stay healthy, and that hasn’t been so easy so far during his short tenure in the NFL.
The upside is that he is 25 years old with potential. But do the Chargers view him as the long-term solution at running back?
San Francisco 49ers: Michael Crabtree
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The San Francisco 49ers drafted wide receiver Michael Crabtree with the 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft. Since then, the enigmatic wideout hasn’t done much to stand out as the elite playmaker the team had hoped for when it selected him.
Crabtree is 25 years old with a 6’1”, 214-pound frame. He’s been fairly productive for the Niners, and his presence on offense certainly doesn’t hurt the team.
The problem is, he doesn’t offer a lot of pure speed for his size, nor does he possess a game-breaker’s skill set.
It doesn’t seem like Crabtree is the future of San Fran’s receiving corps. Trading him wouldn’t necessarily help the offense, but because the team features two terrific tight ends and a strong running game, the drop-off wouldn’t be much.
Seattle Seahawks: Marcus Trufant
At 31 years old, cornerback Marcus Trufant’s best days in the NFL are behind him. He hasn’t looked the same in coverage this season, and he’s been bypassed by younger, more talented players like Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner.
But that doesn't mean he can't help another team.
The Seahawks surprisingly have one of the league’s top defenses this year, but much of that success can be attributed to the young energy buzzing throughout the roster.
Trufant has relinquished his outside duties and slid down into the slot, and he’s had varying success thus far in that role. As he's set to become a free agent after this season, Seattle could get a little something in return before letting him go for nothing on the open market.
St. Louis Rams: Steven Jackson
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Yes, it’s sad to admit, but longtime Ram Steven Jackson is the St. Louis Rams’ best bargaining chip right now. Daryl Richardson has filled in admirably in limited time this year, and Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is now reporting that the rookie could split time with the veteran the rest of the way.
Jackson will forever be a Ram, and a darn good one at that. It’s easy to respect him after the way he’s played the game at no less than 100 percent for so long, especially for a franchise that has had its struggles.
But all good things come to an end, and the team has already allowed him to void his contract after this year and become a free agent for 2013 (per CBSSports.com). With Richardson succeeding and Isaiah Pead waiting in the wings as well, the Rams could work with Jackson on finding a suitable trading partner, perhaps even a contender.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: LeGarrette Blount
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Tampa Bay’s running game has made the transition to Doug Martin. The rookie out of Boise State has carried the ball 84 times for 323 yards and a touchdown this year, in addition to making 10 catches for 108 yards.
Meanwhile, LeGarrette Blount, who went undrafted in 2010 out of Oregon, has played second fiddle. The Bucs like his ability to cross the plane at the goal line, but Martin is clearly the No. 1 back. With D.J. Ware ready and Michael Smith lurking, Blount could be expendable.
New head coach Greg Schiano loves to pound the rock, and Blount has been coming on as of late. But he offers decent value on the trade block at a position the Bucs already seem settled on.
Tennessee Titans: Chris Johnson
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Much like in fantasy football, the Tennessee Titans could opt to sell high on running back Chris Johnson.
CJ2K has not looked like himself since cracking the 2,000-yard mark in 2009. Since then, his yards-per-carry average has decreased each season from 5.6 to 4.3 to 4.0. So far in 2012, he’s averaging just 3.3 yards per carry.
While he’s shown flashes this season, this is obviously not the same runner Titans fans are accustomed to seeing. He has a big contract on the books, which might make a trade difficult. But another team could be enamored with the potential Johnson brings to an offense.
Tennessee has a young core of Jake Locker, Jared Cook, Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright. Javon Ringer could handle the backfield until the team finds its next featured running back.
Washington Redskins: Kirk Cousins
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Make no mistake about it: This is Robert Griffin III’s team.
The Washington Redskins sneakily drafted both Griffin and quarterback Kirk Cousins in this year’s draft. Many believe this was a move to gain leverage in trade talks down the road as Cousins develops. That time, believe it or not, may have already come.
Cousins shined in the preseason and filled in admirably when RG3 went down in Week 5. Franchise quarterbacks are extremely hard to come by, and it wouldn’t be surprising in the slightest to see a team make an early move for the rookie signal-caller.
After all, the earlier a team gets its hands on Cousins, the better.