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The 2012 B/R NFL Trade Value Rankings

Dan PizzutaContributor IIIOctober 22, 2012

The 2012 B/R NFL Trade Value Rankings

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    The NFL trade deadline may not be as glamorous as it is in baseball, basketball or hockey, but it can still move some big name players (via SI.com).

    The most important part of this year's trade deadline is its position later in the season. The deadline was moved back over the summer from after games in Week 6 to after games in Week 8 (via ESPN.com).

    This move, along with the decision to designate one player to return from injured reserve during the season, was made to allow teams to have more options for roster moves due to injuries later than Week 6.

    The trade value rankings will (bear with me here) rank players according to the prospective value of the return to their teams, were they to be traded at this year's deadline.

    Now sometimes football trades can be confusing—as Brandon Marshall has been traded for two second-round draft picks in one trade and two third-round draft picks in another.

    Last year, the Raiders thought Carson Palmer was worth a first- and second-round pick, so the actual "value" of trades are always questionable.

    Here's how this list was created:

    • Making the cut: An original list of 101 current NFL players was trimmed down to 60. Those 60 players became the 50 ranked players, with 10 honorable mentions.
    • Injuries matter: Since this list is reflecting upon this season's trade deadline, players like Ladarius Webb and Darelle Revis will not be ranked.
    • Age matters: If players were comparable in skill level, the younger player was given an advantage.
    • Salaries* matter: If players were comparable in skill level, the cheaper player was given an advantage. Team salary caps were not consider in prospective trades.
    • Performance matters most: It doesn't matter if a player is younger and cheaper if the older and more expensive player is substantially better.
    • Positions matter: There are more quarterbacks on this list than any other position. Pass rushers dominate the defensive players. Offensive lineman, though valuable, are rarely going to be traded. No team wants to trade anything of value for a running back—just ask Jacksonville.
    • X for Y: Team X would not trade the player ranked No. 24 to Team Y for the player ranked at No. 42, but Team Y would make that trade. Team X might not necessarily trade player No. 24 to Team Y for player No. 23, but Team X would consider it longer than Team Y.
    • Trade value vs Actual value: A player's trade value is different from actual value on the field. This is not a 2012 MVP column. I wrote that last week.

    *all salaries are according to spotrac.com. 2012 is included in all salary amounts and lengths listed in this article.

Honorable Mentions

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    Cortland Finnegan and Nnamdi Asomugha

    Two elite cornerbacks who happen to be slightly older and slightly more expensive than the other cornerbacks who made the final cut.

    Finnegan already has three interceptions and is helping the St. Louis Rams defense carry an inconsistent offense. Finnegan has also altered games this season with his ability to get under opposing receivers' skin (via Mark Maske of The Washington Post).

    Asomugha is finally finding his stride in Philadelphia after being misused in his first season as an Eagle (via Spike Eskin of CBS Philly). With the offseason trade of Asante Samuel, Asomugha has been allowed to stay on the outside instead of following receivers into the slot like he was asked to do last season.

     

    Adrian Peterson

    Peterson is another casualty of age and contract length keeping him off this list. Considering Peterson is an exemption to the "an ACL tear should at least keep a player out a year" rule, a younger and cheaper Peterson would easily be an exemption to the "no team wants to trade for running backs" rule laid out in the introduction.

    But at 27 years old, the six years on his contract bring him past the magical decline year at age 30. Of course, if a current running back was going to defy age, it would be Adrian Peterson.

     

    Wes Welker and Mike Wallace

    Both receivers only have until the end of this season remaining on their contracts. Both receivers are unhappy they only have until the end of this season remaining on their contracts.

    Wallace and Welker have gone about their cases for new contracts in different ways.

    After seeming like the Patriots were avoiding using Welker early in the season to keep his value down (via Christopher Gasper of The Boston Globe), New England has come to realize it might actually need its best receiver to produce on the field.

    Wallace didn't need the Steelers to help his future value drop—Wallace has done that all by himself. He already has two games so far in 2012 with two or fewer receptions—something he did only three times last season.

    After holding out in the preseason for a new deal, Wallace has yet to play like he did in 2011. Add in a drop filled outing against Cincinnati on Sunday night, and the value of Wallace's next contract could be dropping as well.

     

    Cameron Wake

    Wake already has 6.5 sacks on the season and is looking close to his 14-sack campaign in 2010 rather than 2011 when he finished with only 8.5.

    Although Wake is only in his fourth NFL season, he is already 30 years old and his current contract will take him to age 35. Wake has not yet had a big enough sample size to show if he can consistently finish seasons with double-digit sack totals.

     

    Andy Dalton

    Dalton comes this close to the list because the value of his contract is incredible, thanks to the new rookie wage scale (via Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com). For only three years and $4.2 million total, the Bengals have a quarterback who has already led a team to the playoffs.

    $4.2 million is around $11 million less than the Rams are paying Sam Bradford for this season alone.

    Dalton is already a 60-percent passer for his career and happens to throw to one of the best receivers in the league (covered later). This season, he's fifth in touchdowns and passing yards.

    The Bengals' return on investment is already in the black for Dalton, not even midway through year two.

     

    Chris Long

    Long, unlike Dalton, is in the Honorable Mention section because he was part of the old rookie contract rules. Since Long's rookie contract paid him $55 million over five years, when Long signed an extension this summer, his salary was bumped up even more.

    Long continues to improve. His sack totals have increased in every season, but teams are finding better value for young defensive ends.

    Long would be in the top 50 if he had been drafted three years later.

     

    Duane Brown

    Houston's offensive line is really good. Duane Brown has been a big reason for that. You don't really care about offensive linemen, so believe me.

     

    Vince Wilfork

    Wilfork is one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. Unfortunately, Vince Wilfork is 30 years old and is owed $10 million for the next three years. While that's cheaper than two of the defensive tackles who made the cut, Wilfork is also older. I'd rather pay the 28- and 25-year-old slightly more for the same amount of production.

    Youth is worth more. I think I learned that from Nashville

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    50. Justin Smith

    Smith is 33, but is slightly cheaper (two years/$18 million) and more consistent than Wilfork. The age, though, is why Smith ranks at 50 and isn't higher on the list.

    Smith hasn't recorded less than 55 tackles or six sacks since going to San Francisco in 2008. He was a big part in the dominating 49ers defense last season. He's also a physical machine with only one season, 2001, when he played less than 16 games.

    The 2001 season was Smith's rookie year in Cincinnati. He played 15 games that year.

     

    49. Joe Thomas

    Joe Thomas might be the best offensive lineman in the league. You might know that if he didn't play for the Cleveland Browns.

    The Browns have Thomas locked up for the next seven years at a little under $11 million per season.

    If the Browns continue the path of the past seven years, Thomas may be blocking for 10 different quarterbacks, but the Brandon Weeden guy might end up being good.

     

    48. Brandon Flowers

     

    47. Brandon Browner

    Flowers is actually younger than Browner, but Browner is on clearance compared to what Kansas City is paying Flowers.

    Flowers has at least two interceptions in each of his five seasons, including this year and is only 26 years old. His five-year contract is cheaper than what Asomugah signed in Philadelphia and will bring him to age 31—Asomugah's current age.

    Browner is Weeden-like in his age-to-experience ratio (28 years old in his second year), but is only getting paid $1.1 million total for this season and next.

    A 6'4", Browner towers over the average cornerback, and his comparable height to the wide receivers he covers led to six interceptions last season and two so far this year.

    This is a case of Browner not necessarily being a better player than Flowers, but teams would rather have Browner's production at his wage.

     

    46. Jamaal Charles

    Charles has shown so far this season his knee is fine after tearing his ACL last September. Charles is third in the NFL in rushing yards this season, despite serving his bye during Week 7.

    Charles makes this list because of his cheap contract. The Chiefs will only have to pay around $4.5 million per year for the next four years to one of the more productive backs in the league. That four years will only take Charles up until age 29, allowing Kansas City to part ways before Charles' production inevitably starts to decline—provided Scott Pioli is not still the general manager.

     

    45. Kam Chancellor

    Chancellor has been all over the field this year for the Seahawks. With 49 tackles already, he leads all defensive backs and is already more than halfway to his tackle total from last season.

    At 6'3", Chancellor creates a similar problem to receivers as Brandon Browner. They play in the same defensive backfield.

    Chancellor is also on the same clearance rack as Browner in Seattle—owed a whole $1.3 million over the next two years.

     

    44. Kyle Rudolph

    Rudolph was actually a bit higher on this list before he was held without a catch against the Arizona Cardinals.

    In only five games this season, Rudolph is only a catch away from tying last season's reception total. With 25 catches this season, Rudolph has caught five touchdowns—making a catch to touchdown ratio 5:1. That ratio would give Rudolph a 20-touchdown season in a year with 100 receptions.

    In a game evolving toward athletic pass-catching tight ends, having a 22-year-old Rudolph at three years for $3 million total will become a steal for the Vikings.

    43. Joe Flacco

    Our first quarterback shows up on the list. At the moment, Flacco is cheap at the quarterback position—owed only $8 million for the 2012 season.

    Flacco could free fall faster than Lindsay Lohan off this list if the Ravens decide to give him a massive contract extension at the end of the season without a noticeable improvement in his play.

    With Ladarious Webb and Ray Lewis out on defense, Flacco needs to lead the offense, enabling it to carry a weakened defense like the Baltimore defense has done for the offense for so long.

    Flacco's game against Houston did not help his case for the Tony Romo- or Philip Rivers-like $14-15 million per year contract Flacco thinks he deserves.

    (Spolier alert: Romo and Rivers aren't on this list).

     

    42. Lance Briggs

    Wasn't Lance Briggs supposed to be burned out two years ago?

    Briggs is coming off another 100-plus tackle season, his seventh in eight years, and already has two defensive touchdowns this season.

    Briggs is leading a Chicago defense ranked first in Football Outsiders' Team Defense DVOA.

    At 31, Briggs is slightly behind his 100-tackle pace for the season, but if the interceptions come instead, I don't think the Bears will care.

     

    41. Haloti Ngata

    Ngata is a little more expensive than the previously mentioned Vince Wilfork and Justin Smith, but he is both younger and more effective.

    Despite being a little beaten up this season (via Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun), his overall production is still present. With three sacks so far, he is on pace to surpass his career high of 5.5 he set in 2010 and the five he totaled last season.

    With Lewis and Webb out, Ngata's job now is to try to not make Joe Flacco be the most important player on the Ravens as we discussed before.

     

    40. Larry Fitzgerald

    Fitzgerald may be the best receiver in the NFL and who knows what Fitzgerald could do with a competent starting quarterback (cut to Fitzgerald frantically texting Kurt Warner to unretire), but Fitzgerald's contract is as big as Arizona's offensive line is bad.

    At 29 years old (where did the time go, Larry?), Fitzgerald's seven years remaining on his contract will bring him to being a 36-year-old receiver getting paid about $14 million at the end of the deal.

    With a comparison to Randy Moss, who is only 34 years old right now, you can't expect Fitzgerald to keep putting up 1,000-yard seasons into his 30s, even if he's done it in six of the last eight seasons.

     

    39. B.J. Raji

    Raji is only 26 years old and is playing at the end of his rookie contract. With two years and around $11.5 remaining, maybe Raji can give the Packers a discount double check on his next contract.

    With Raji's production so far this season, including being inactive against the Rams, he might not have a choice. Raji has yet to make a play behind the line of scrimmage, as a sack or stuff.

    Still, Raji is one of the best defensive tackles in the league, but better value can be found as you will see later.

     

    38. Earl Thomas

     

    37. Major Wright

    Thomas, 23, and Wright, 24, are the two best young safeties in the league right now.

    Thomas, in his third year, had five interceptions in his rookie season followed by 96 tackles last year. Thomas doesn't have to do as much now in the Seattle secondary, but his play-making ability makes his presence felt among the other defensive backs for the Seahawks (and he needs his play to make his presence felt as the only starting Seahawk in the secondary under six-foot tall).

    Wright, also in his third year, has already matched his career high for interceptions this season with three. Wright has had trouble staying on the field, setting a career high of 12 games played last year, but has stayed healthy so far.

    With athletic tight ends becoming a bigger part of offenses, safeties have become relied upon to stop them, since most tight ends can now blow by linebackers while running routes.

    Wright and Thomas are both very affordable. Wright is only owed $1.4 million until the end of next season. Thomas will make $9 million total over the next three years.

    Compared to the older safeties in the league such as Ed Reed and Charles Woodson making around $9-10 million per year, little can beat getting the production of Thomas and Wright for that money.

     

    36. Ray Rice

    Rice marks the second and final running back on this list.

    Rice's usage rate has dropped from last season to this season, but he is still one of the most productive backs in the league.

    Rice trails only C.J. Spiller in DVOA for running backs, per Football Outsiders, but Rice has carried the ball 34 more times than Spiller in the same amount of games.

    Even though Rice has only reach 100 yards rushing in two games this season, he is still on pace to surpass 1,000 for the fourth consecutive year.

    Rice's contract also expires just as the running back turns the cursed 30 years old. At an average of $7 million per year, Baltimore already has a bargain, as Houston is paying Arian Foster (one year older than Rice) around $8.5 million per year for below average value, per DVOA.

     

    35. Joe Staley

    Joe Thomas, as mentioned earlier, may be the best offensive lineman in football, but Joe Staley delivers the best value.

    While the Browns pay Thomas around $11 million a year for the next seven years, San Francisco has Staley locked down for six years for a grand total of $24 million over the length of the contract.

    Staley is a year older than Thomas, but offensive linemen do not deteriorate in skill as fast as skill position players would. The one year age difference is not enough to make up for the $7 million per year discount the 49ers receive with Staley.

    Being a part of the best run blocking line, per Football Outsiders, doesn't hurt either.

    (Spoiler alert No. 2: You no longer have to pretend to be interested in offensive linemen)

     

    34. Richard Sherman

    Sherman completes the four-fecta of Seattle defensive backs on this list, and deservedly so.

    According to Football Outsiders' Team Defense DVOA, Seattle ranks first in defending the opposing team's No. 1 wide receiver and sixth defending the No. 2 receiver. Those stats would be the result of Sherman and Browner.

    Sherman is on his way to surpassing the numbers he put up during an impressive rookie season last year. The corner straight outta Compton (well, actually... Compton, then Stanford, then Seattle) already has three interceptions and 11 defended passes.

    Seattle again struck gold with production from a cheap contract. Sherman is owed $1.8 million over the next three seasons.

     

    33. Demaryius Thomas

    In six games this season with Peyton Manning as his quarterback, Thomas has matched last season's amount of receptions and is only 10 yards away from surpassing last year's total receiving yards.

    Relive this one more time, but I think Thomas is happy with his new quarterback.

    Thomas is only 24 years old and is now becoming a star in his third season. At only around $3.5 million per year for the next three years, the Broncos are going to get more than their money's worth of production out of Thomas.

     

    32. Aaron Hernandez

    Hernandez has dealt with injuries this season, but that won't take away from his place as one of the best tight ends in the NFL.

    In the three games he has played this season, not including the game when he hurt himself against the Cardinals, Hernandez has been targeted at least seven times and has no fewer than five receptions.

    Hernandez's seven-year contract is relatively cheap at just under $6 million per year. It won't even take him up to the season when he turns 30 years old. 

     

    31. Ndamukong Suh

     

    30. Geno Atkins

    Welcome to the younger and cheaper (in Atkins' case only) alternatives at defensive tackle to B.J Raji and Haloti Ngata.

    Suh, 25, and Atkins, 24, are the future of defensive linemen up the middle.

    Suh's production has fallen off as of late, but his spectacular rookie season brings hope that type of play can come back. Suh can't seem to stay out of trouble off the field, but his potential is massive if he can stay focused (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk).

    He stills shows up on this list because he could need a change of scenery to turn things around—and there would not be a shortage of suitors.

    Meanwhile in Cincinnati...

    Atkins is becoming everything Suh was supposed to be. Through seven games this season, Atkins already has seven sacks—a half sack shy of the career high he set last year.

    Atkins is already becoming an alarming presence up the middle—and with only $1.4 million owed to him over the next two years—Cincinnati can get the better defensive line work for about 5 percent of what Detroit is paying Suh.

     

    29. DeMarcus Ware

     

    28. Aldon Smith

    DeMarcus Ware has had at least 11 sacks in the past six seasons. Aldon Smith is a sixth of the way there, totaling 14 sacks in his rookie season.

    Ware only had eight sacks in his rookie season and improved that totaled the next three years. Smith is going to be scary if he continues to improve his sack totals from year to year.

    Ware and Smith are both on pace for double-digit sack seasons.

    Smith gets the edge because he's seven years younger and $9 million a year cheaper.

    Just don't tell DeMarcus Ware, he's scary.

     

    27. Jimmy Graham

    Graham is another tight end battling injuries this year, but when healthy, he's unstoppable. Graham once held the NFL record for receiving yards in a season by a tight end—for about 10 minutes.

    At 6'7", Graham is nearly uncoverable in the red zone and his 11 touchdowns last year are proof.

    Graham has still yet to sign a contract extension like some of his tight end counterparts, so the Saints can't ask for much more only paying $1.4 million for the next two years.

    Also, expect Graham's production to go up once New Orleans gets its real coach back.

     

    26. Calvin Johnson

    Calvin Johnson is breaking the Madden Curse, is that not enough? Well, except for only having one touchdown this season.

    Johnson has gained 100 yards receiving in three of Detroit's six games this season.

    He doesn't always get single covered, but when he does, he makes the cornerback feel embarrassed.

    The only reason Johnson isn't higher up on the list is his massive contract. Eight years and $150 million is a lot for a wide receiver who is already 27 years old—even if that receiver's nickname is Megatron.

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    25. Ben Roethlisberger

    I know it's early, but Ben wants an offensive line for Christmas. The offensive line has only allowed 10 sacks this season, but that total is deflated from Roethlisberger's ability to leave the pocket and extend plays.

    Big Ben ranks fourth in QB DVOA and has kept the Steelers afloat as injuries have ravished almost every position for Pittsburgh.

    His four-year deal for $62 million is relatively cheap these days for a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback.

    Oh, and he's won two Super Bowls.

     

    24. Victor Cruz

    Let's start with this: Victor Cruz is hysterically underpaid. This season, Cruz is being paid $490,000 to be one of the best receivers in the NFL.

    Cruz could make more than that giving salsa lessons to Giants fans in the offseason.

    When his contract expires after this season, Cruz only becomes a restricted free agent so he won't even be able to test the market for full value.

    Fully expect the Giants to give Cruz what he's worth in his next contract.

     

    23. NaVorro Bowman

     

    22. Patrick Willis

    Bowman is fourth in the NFL in tackles. Teammate Patrick Willis isn't far behind at ninth. Put them on the field with Justin and Aldon Smith, and how does anyone do anything against the 49ers defense?

    Willis is only 27, even though it feels like he's been around forever. Bowman is only 24 and made 111 tackles last season.

    Willis is locked down for five years and under $10 million per year. Bowman is making $1.4 million in the next two seasons.

    How does San Francisco only rank third in defensive DVOA?

    (Spoiler alert No. 3: there will be more Football Outsiders stats)

     

    21. Joe Haden

    Haden has only played in three games this season because of a suspension (via Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer), but already has two interceptions.

    Haden seems to be back on track after having no interceptions in 15 games last season.

    The $8.5 million Haden is owed over the next four years are a bargain for an elite corner, especially when he will only be 27 at the end.

    Cortland Finnegan just received a five year/$50 million contract at his age 28.

    If Haden can keep his play at an elevated level, he could be in line to make more than that in his next contract. Time will tell if that contract will come in Cleveland.

     

    20. Julio Jones

     

    19. A.J. Green

    They're big. They're young. They're dominant. The future of wide receivers in the NFL is here.

    Two picks apart in the 2011 NFL Draft, both receivers have shown why they were taken so high.

    Jones is off to a good start, despite not reaching 100 receiving yards in a game since Week 1. Matt Ryan trusts Jones as a receiver and has targeted him at least seven times in every game this year.

    Green is already giving Calvin Johnson competition for the best receiver title. As Megatron's new nemesis, can we vote to make Green's nickname Optimus Prime? I vote yes.

    Both of these receivers get the new rookie scale value as Green is owed $16 million and Jones $13.2 million over the next three years.

    A bit cheaper than Johnson and Fitzgerald.

     

    18. Rob Gronkowski

    Usually when "girlfriend" is the first Google suggestion after typing in a player's name, it doesn't bode well for his play on the field.

    Rob Gronkowski is the exception to that rule.

    Gronkowski doesn't know what not catching double-digit touchdowns in a season feels like—he's achieved that mark in each of his first two years.

    He may be the best tight end of all time, and the Patriots already have him locked up for the next eight years for under $7 million per year—a mark below the averages of Vernon Davis and Antonio Gates.

    All New England needs to do to assure Gronkowski his place in football history is make him keep his shirt on.

     

    17. Jared Allen

    There's no stopping Jared Allen from getting to the quarterback. He's never had less than 7.5 sacks in a season and is coming off a career high 22 last year.

    Allen may never reach a height like 22 sacks again, but he will still be roping up quarterbacks (metaphorically) at an elevated rate for at least the next couple of years.

    Those years include the two years and $33 million remaining on his contract. 

     

    16. Cam Newton

    My, how things have changed for Cam Newton. Last season, Newton was blowing away rookie records, winning people fantasy leagues and throwing his name into best quarterback conversations.

    Now, a year later, the Panthers sit 1-5 and Newton is airing out frustrations in post-game press conferences (via NBC Sports).

    Rookie year Cam is hiding somewhere and eventually he'll pop his head out again. Newton is still better than a handful of quarterbacks around the league, so his value won't be diminished.

    If Newton had Sam Bradford's contract, this may be a different story, but no team could pass up three years and $18 million for Newton's potential, even if he ranks behind Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Tannehill in DVOA.

     

    15. Clay Matthews

    Matthews already has nine sacks on the season, and if he played the Bears every game, he could have 56. After only six sacks last season, Matthews has already blown away that total.

    Seeing Matthews is intimidating whether it be on the field or waiting at an airport gate.

    Add in the fact he's only 26 and is scheduled to be paid $4.5 million in the next two years, the Packers are sitting on gold.

    That gold is eventually going to have to get paid like it's actually gold, but for now, Matthews has outstanding value.

     

    14. Peyton Manning

    Ignore everything I've said about age and money. Forget about the five years and $96 million for a 36-year-old quarterback.

    Why?

    Because it's Peyton Manning.

     

    13. Percy Harvin

    The Vikings are dangerously close to having opposing teams paying them for having Percy Harvin. Harvin is scheduled to average $2.3 million for this season and the next.

    $2.3 million for over 500 receiving yards, just under 500 kick-return yards and over 70 rushing yards. Oh, and we're only in Week 7.

    Harvin may be one of the most underrated players in the league, but there's no argument he's one of the most underpaid.

    In his fourth year, he's still only 24 years old.

     

    12. Matthew Stafford

    It seems like Stafford is suffering more from the Madden Curse than Calvin Johnson. A year after throwing for more than 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns, Stafford has only thrown four touchdowns through five games.

    Maybe defenses have caught on to the whole Detroit doesn't have a running game thing, but that shouldn't diminish Stafford's value.

    At Stafford's current deal (either three years/$48 million or four years/$65 million with the option picked up), Stafford is barely more expensive than Tony Romo and Philip Rivers, but is eight and six years younger, respectively.

    Don't kid yourself, you'd rather have Stafford than both of those quarterbacks.

    So would Dallas and San Diego.

     

    11. Von Miller

    Miller had 11.5 sacks last season and six sacks through six games this year. In a passing league, there's a premium on defense for getting to the quarterback and doing it young and cheap is a bonus.

    Von Miller is young and cheap.

    Paying Miller under $6 million a year for the next three seasons allows Denver to do things like give Peyton Manning $96 million over five years.

    Try to argue Dallas doesn't trade DeMarcus Ware for Miller if Denver offers that tomorrow. I don't think you can.

     

    10. Patrick Peterson

    Patrick Peterson has become an elite player. He came into the league as an incredible kick returner and an average cornerback.

    Now he's a shutdown corner on top of still being an incredible kick returner and a main reason Arizona has a top five defense, according to Football Outsiders.

    On his current three-year contract, Peterson is only set to make $15 million. That sets Peterson up for a huge payday on a second contract when he's only 25 years old.

    There's no team that doesn't trade its top cornerback for Peterson right now. That might even include a healthy Darrelle Revis.

     

    9. Matt Ryan

     

    8. Tom Brady

    Is it possible Tom Brady may have lost it? Even with Matt Ryan guiding Atlanta to a 6-0 record, the Falcons still think about this trade much longer than the Patriots do.

    Again, age and salary are thrown out the window if the older and more expensive player is better.

    Ryan is a great quarterback, but don't tell me the Falcons don't feel better heading into this year's playoffs with Tom Brady at quarterback.

    There's also no way the Patriots take a Brady-for-Ryan deal.

    Even with Brady's struggles late in games this season, Ryan can't match the postseason success.

    Congratulations for Ryan making it into the top 10, but it's going to take playoff wins to get ahead of the upcoming quarterbacks.

     

    7. Jason Pierre-Paul

     

    6. J.J. Watt

    These are the two best defensive players in the NFL—and to follow the trend of this column, they're both young and they're both inexpensive.

    Watt already has 9.5 sacks and 10 defended passes on the season. You should know this by now, but we're only seven games in. That's a pretty successful 16-game season for a majority of defensive players.

    Pierre-Paul has 4.5 sacks through seven games after having 16.5 sacks last season.

    Both players have the ability to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage, but Pierre-Paul doesn't come close to how well Watt has perfected the swat.

    It's a shame these two won't play each other more to form a defensive Brady-Manning rivalry.

    For the record, I believe both teams say "thanks, but no thanks" to this trade, but Watt gets the edge because he's been unstoppable this season.

     

    5. Drew Brees

    Take a minute to imagine what could have been if the Miami Dolphins had cleared Drew Brees' shoulder in 2006 and signed him. How much would the Dolphins have traded for Brees in the offseason?

    Fast forward to 2011 and Brees sets the NFL record for passing yards in a season held by former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino. Funny how some things come full circle.

    Even at 33 years old, Brees is worth every bit of the five year/$100 million contract he signed this offseason.

    To insert Brees into the Brady/Ryan argument: Atlanta makes the trade in a heartbeat and New England probably doesn't say yes, but thinks about it much longer than New Orleans

    This season, Brees will try to break Peyton Manning's NFL record for commercials in a single season.

     

    4. Robert Griffin III

     

    3. Andrew Luck

    Both of these quarterbacks are living up to the preseason hype. Griffin has been incredible making plays and Luck has been every bit of the technical prospect most expected.

    Luck still gets the edge over Griffin because of the style of play. Most teams in the NFL would rather have Luck's pocket-passer style, regardless of how exciting Griffin can be.

    There's no reason to doubt both Luck and Griffin will be stars in the league and they get this far on the list, once again, thanks to the rookie wage scale.

    If I told you that you could have a 23-year-old Andrew Luck for four years and $22 million or a 22-year-old Robert Griffin III for four years and $21 million, would that be something you'd be interested in?

    There's only two teams in the league who don't consider an offer for Luck or Griffin because they have the following men at quarterback...

     

    2. Eli Manning

    There's no better fourth-quarter quarterback in football. Ask Tom Brady.

    Even after an off day Week 7 against the Redskins, Manning still found a way to get a touchdown drive for a win in the final minute.

    Eli is playing like a serious MVP candidate in the regular season, instead of just the playoffs.

    Still, there's only one trade the Giants would consider for more than half a second...

     

    1. Aaron Rodgers

    Rodgers is the best quarterback in football, and he's got the Packers offense back on track.

    Six touchdowns against the Texans and three more against the Rams have woken the Green Bay offense from its early season slumber.

    The Packers laugh and hang up immediately on any call asking about the availability of Rodgers.

    Even Matt Millen would say no to all the first-round wide receivers in the world.

    After all the cheap contracts talked about here, there may be no better value than three years and $31 million worth of Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.

     

     

    For more NFL fun, follow Dan on Twitter @DanPizzuta

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