The NFL isn't a league in which trades are heavily utilized to shape rosters, but there are a few moves that should be made by playoff contenders before the trade deadline on Oct. 29 at 4 p.m. ET.
Even though trade-deadline deals aren't the norm, there has predictably been plenty of speculation and rumors circulating around the league.
Just as predictably, these rumors have largely been squashed by front-office men who don't want their respective locker rooms fractured by potentially controversial moves. But when it comes time to get down to brass tacks, deals can be struck, given the right compensation.
With that in mind, here are a few moves that must be proposed by contending teams that would help them get over the top in their pursuit of making the playoffs—or better—this season.
Josh Gordon to the San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers are hoping to get Michael Crabtree back in late November, as noted by Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, and the team reportedly "feels good" about its projected three-wide set of Mario Manningham, Crabtree and Anquan Boldin this year, as Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reported:
Harbaugh says Michael Crabtree is on schedule to be "game ready" by mid to late November.— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) October 7, 2013
Meanwhile, the 49ers feel good about finishing the season with Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Mario Manningham as their top three WRs.— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) October 12, 2013
But imagine how much more dynamic San Francisco's offense would be with Josh Gordon lining up on one side, Crabtree and Boldin working the slot and opposite side of the field and tight end Vernon Davis doing what he does.
That's a beautiful thought for 49ers fans—not so much for the rest of the league.
Colin Kaepernick possesses one of the league's strongest arms, and the 49ers would be deadly with Gordon's speed on the field.
Cleveland's CEO Joe Banner has denied that the Browns have any interest in trading Gordon, as noted by USA Today's Jim Corbett, but Peter King of SI.com's MMQB continues to beat the drum about a potential trade to the 49ers.
The latest news on this front comes to us by way of ESPN's Adam Schefter, who reports three teams have contacted Cleveland about deals but that the Browns are "balking":
At least 3 teams have contacted Browns about deal for WR Josh Gordon; two have standing offers of a high pick and a player. Browns balking.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 21, 2013
The 49ers should offer the Browns a second-round pick and possibly a late-round pick in order to secure one of the league's brightest rising superstars at the receiver position.
Hakeem Nicks to the Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts have a chance to go far this season, but the team suffered a devastating blow to its receiving corps in Week 7.
All-Pro receiver Reggie Wayne tore his ACL while attempting to catch a pass behind him on Sunday, and he's out for the remainder of the season, as noted by Marc Sessler of NFL.com:
Reggie Wayne out for the year http://t.co/y3qmNxDkIC— Marc Sessler (@MarcSesslerNFL) October 21, 2013
Darrius Heyward-Bey and T.Y. Hilton are the two top receivers for Indy with Wayne out, but that doesn't bode well for the Colts going forward. Both players are capable of making big plays, but it was Wayne who was Andrew Luck's security blanket under pressure, as illustrated by ESPN Stats & Info:
Check out why Andrew Luck will miss Reggie Wayne the most when he's under pressure: pic.twitter.com/fZghqkkH2m— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 21, 2013
Luck needs another skilled possession receiver, and Nicks would be a capable replacement for the injured veteran.
Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com recently reported a few teams showing interest in Nicks, who is in the final year of his rookie contract, and Schefter said on NFL Insiders that the Giants would listen to offers (via Rotoworld.com).
It's time for the Colts to make the Giants an offer they can't refuse on a one-year rental for Nicks. Perhaps a third-round pick would be enough for New York, which could be in full-on rebuilding mode after a failed season.
Maurice Jones-Drew to the Dallas Cowboys
Dallas has been looking for a reliable running game for years now, always coming up short in this regard.
The team has reportedly soured of late on DeMarco Murray as a franchise running back, as noted by Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, who also notes the team is considering a trade:
From #NFLGameDay: Cowboys no longer sold on DeMarco Murray as franchise RB. Have had discussions about adding. Watch them at trade deadline— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 20, 2013
Murray can't stay healthy, but the team needs balance on offense.
Which potential trade has the best chance of happening?
Rookie Joseph Randle doesn't look like he's ready for full-time duties, and neither does Lance Dunbar or Phillip Tanner.
Jones-Drew is in the final year of his contract, meaning the Cowboys won't be obligated to keep him if he doesn't spark a running revival. But given his track record before getting injured last year, there's a good chance the former league-leading rusher would give Dallas the balance it needs.
The best part about this for Dallas is that Jones-Drew could probably be gotten for a late-round pick, given his age and Jacksonville's desperate need to rebuild its roster.
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