Every team is looking to get better and every team—no matter how bad you think they are—has something or someone of value to trade.
Over the course of this piece, we'll look at each team and what would be its best piece to offer in trade.
Some teams will have players, some will have picks.
Everyone will have something.
As you read this, please keep in mind that this list is not predicting these players or picks will absolutely be moved or even strongly considered. They're just the things each team has which seem to be the most valuable right now.
After an injury-shortened 2012, Fred Jackson was supposed to take a backseat to C.J. Spiller, instead splitting the workload almost down the middle. Spiller did more with his carries (927 yards to Jackson’s 896), but between his nine touchdowns and 4.3 yards per carry average, Jackson showed he still has what it takes.
The Bills won’t trade Spiller or wide receiver Steve Johnson nor will they pull apart their defense.
While Jackson is entering the last year of his current deal, per OverTheCap.com, there are plenty of teams who need a running back who can still play even at the age of 32.
The Miami Dolphins have been the source of some odd trade speculation lately, but the truth is that this isn’t a team with a ton of trade chips.
People are speculating they will trade offensive tackle Jonathan Martin, but really, it’s hard to see getting much value there, as indicated by ESPN’s James Walker. And while it wouldn’t be surprising that a new general manager wouldn’t be enamored by the old one’s draft picks, speculation like what Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald threw out there on January 15 seems a bit of a reach.
An interesting way to go might be moving wide receiver Mike Wallace, though. His production was flat-out disappointing last season, but so was most of the offense. In a different situation, Wallace could again flourish.
You might argue Ryan Tannehill needs him, but Brian Hartline had a better season in terms of number of receptions, yards and yards per reception, and was only one behind Wallace in touchdowns.
Hartline, along with a good receiver from a deep class of rookies, should more than make up for Wallace’s absence.
In a quarterback world, having a backup people are interested in might be worth his weight in gold.
Ryan Mallett is entering his final year under contract, but that just means he would have every reason to be fired up to start for a team—or at least compete.
There are plenty of teams who need a good quarterback, and while some will be able to grab Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles, others might decide to draft for different value and trade for Mallett rather than roll the dice on one of the other shakier options after the top three are gone.
The Patriots don’t have a lot of depth offensively or defensively so trading players away isn’t something they’ll do lightly.
But they love to acquire more draft pick and might net a nice one for Mallett.
As is the case with the New England Patriots, the New York Jets are short on players they can afford to ditch. They’ve got a ton of picks though.
Depending on who is falling to the No. 18 spot on draft day, the Jets could find themselves with the opportunity to trade back for more picks or, perhaps, trade one or multiple picks for a veteran player.
There’s very little else to trade. I wouldn’t let anyone on defense move on if I could help it, and aside from Jeremy Kerley, Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell or Geno Smith, there aren’t many players people will want.
So to me, trading draft picks might be the best bet if the Jets want to trade at all.
In his last year of a six-year deal, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is still producing, but for how much longer? And with the end of that contract coming up, will he be looking for one last, big payday?
The Baltimore Ravens will be hesitant to move a guy like Suggs, but as much as the defense would miss him, they have a lot of other issues as well.
If they want to make a move—and by no means do they have to, despite last season—Suggs is probably their most valuable—but expendable—piece.
A lot of teams would overlook his age and instead focus on the pressure he brings from the outside. The Ravens would have a ton of people looking to make that trade.
While Cincinnati Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis is another player almost out of contract, he still represents one of the better bets for the Cincinnati Bengals to trade for value.
Green-Ellis had a down year in 2013, dropping his yards from 1,094 to 756 and getting less carries—though he had one more touchdown than the previous year.
In a league where running backs have been devalued, he won’t get as much as he might have once, but Green-Ellis is a proven commodity. And since Giovani Bernard proved to be a pretty good player, they can afford to move.
Since Trent Richardson was traded to the Indianapolis Colts last season, the cupboards are a bit bare.
Aside from the fourth overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns don’t have a ton to trade. There are some options, though, the best of which is Josh Gordon.
Yes, Alex Mack, T.J. Ward, Joe Haden, Jordan Cameron—each has some worth.
But Gordon is probably the one they can get the most for.
Not all that long ago, there were rumors that the Steelers might move quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. There was even speculation, at least by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, that the Steelers themselves might have floated the idea.
In which case, is it insane to think Roethlisberger could be traded?
Certainly the Steelers could get quite a good price for him, and for a team which has so many holes, that could be critical to them rebounding quickly.
Of course, that would mean they have one more large hole at quarterback.
Once upon a time, the answer to “who is the guy to trade” would have been Ben Tate, but he’s an unrestricted free agent.
Tight end Owen Daniels is coming off an injury-plagued season and has been inconsistent over the course of his career, but he has shown he has the steady hands and athleticism teams look for in a tight end.
While he’s in the last year of his contract, a team would have the option to extend him or potentially let him play the season and prove he’s worth the new contract.
While Reggie Wayne was a huge reason why then-rookie quarterback Andrew Luck succeeded in 2012, this past season showed that Luck—and the Colts—could live without him.
Wayne doesn't have decades left to play, but he has enough to be a big help to a different quarterback and team.
The Colts have some of the pieces they need to truly contend—trading Wayne would help them get more pieces or the picks to get them.
On the surface, trading middle linebacker Paul Posluszny is a little nuts but bear with me.
At 29 years of age, Posluszny still has some years left, though he is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. The Jacksonville Jaguars, on the other hand, are much closer to the start of a rebuild than the end.
Posluszny is a great addition to the defense, but by the time this team is a contender, he may be well past his prime. His contract, while the richest the team is paying on, is still cap-friendly, per OverTheCap.com, and not impossibly high.
Coming off a season where he had a career high in tackles, sacks and tied for his career high in passes defended and fumble recoveries, Posluszny’s value will never be higher.
He could potentially get the Jaguars multiple picks and more leeway in the upcoming draft.
Chris Johnson is not a happy camper. As pointed out by Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, the Tennessee Titans running back is the highest-paid player on the team, is coming off multiple underwhelming seasons and feels as though he is not being used correctly.
On top of that, he told Wyatt he would not take a pay cut.
However, teams are always looking for quality running backs, and Johnson has shown that he can put together a big season. There is likely a team out there who feels that if they use him differently, behind a better offensive line, we might see the return of a running back who boasted he would break 2,000 yards.
This could kill two birds with one stone. The Titans could get rid of an underperforming and unhappy player, while getting either more picks or other players to help build the team.
Last year Eric Decker seemed like the best trade bait for the Denver Broncos to dangle, but as he hits free agency, that no longer seems an option.
Brandon Krisztal of The Denver Post tweeted recently that defensive tackle Terrance Knighton wants a new deal. Knighton made just $1.75 million in 2013 and will see just $2.75 next season, per Spotrac.com.
Instrumental in the Broncos' run to the Super Bowl last season, Knighton undoubtedly deserves tons of praise and more money.
The Broncos do have more issues, so paying Knighton may not be in the cards. They can play him this year and either franchise him, find a way to pay him or let him walk in 2015. But if they trade him now—and there are definitely many teams looking for a good defensive tackle—they can at least get fair value.
At this point we all know Dwayne Bowe is who he is—a very solid receiver who isn’t going to take that next step to elite status.
The Chiefs have issues at wide receiver so selling off their best option may not be a wise move. However, if they were to trade him, plenty of teams would be able to upgrade by adding Bowe, so they’d get a nice price.
Bowe may not be perfect for every team’s situation, but many teams could add him as a solid No. 1 receiver or a ridiculous No. 2.
As with any rebuild project, the Oakland Raiders have pieces but are so far from having enough to make a difference that those pieces are going to waste.
Wide receiver Denarius Moore took a bit of a step backward in 2013 due to injury and some inconsistent quarterback play, but Moore has become a complete receiver—able to run vertical routes as well as shorter routes.
Additionally, Moore has a relatively cheap contract and should be able to be extended relatively cheaply by whichever team trades for him.
He wouldn’t net a ton, but when you’re a team with a cupboard that's fairly bare, you get what you can.
Not long ago, the best player to trade on the San Diego Chargers team would have been tight end Antonio Gates, but as Gates ages, that is less and less of an option.
There’s really not a ton of value on the roster as it stands—if Malcom Floyd were healthy, the emergence of Keenan Allen might make him expendable, but he’s not. Even their first-round pick—No. 25 in this upcoming draft—isn’t all that valuable by itself until we know who falls to that spot in the draft.
That means the most valuable—and expendable—item on this roster is Danny Woodhead.
Woodhead performed admirably for the Chargers last year and was a great complement to a finally healthy Ryan Mathews. But as Mathews is finally healthy, he’s also not as critical. That's especially true since a “scatback” like Woodhead can easily be found in the upcoming draft.
At one point, the Kansas City Chiefs traded the single-best tight end in the game. Some thought they were mad for getting rid of Tony Gonzalez, but the truth was that, while he was a great tight end, he couldn’t carry the team.
The Cowboys have the opposite issue—tight end Jason Witten isn’t the only weapon in what should be a pretty loaded offense—but they might face the same criticism by getting rid of one of the best tight ends in the game.
However, with so many issues on the defensive side of the ball and Dez Bryant having taken the reins as the lead receiver on offense, it makes some sense to move Witten.
While he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning, Witten still plays at a very high level, and with so many teams looking for a reliable tight end, he could get them some great value.
While quarterback Tony Romo relies on Witten a lot, he might actually benefit more by seeing him leave than having him stay.
It’s not perfect timing because another team might balk at trading for a guy with three years left on his contract who is complaining that he deserves a new one, but Jackson has the overall talent for a team desperate for an upgrade at receiver to overlook his contract demands.
Of the pieces the Philadelphia Eagles have to trade right now, Jackson is the one who would net them the value.
The New York Giants are in a rough spot right now if they are looking to trade.
Running back David Wilson has been underwhelming and, as reported by Dan Graziano of ESPN New York, he may not play in 2014. They won’t let Victor Cruz go (nor should they) or Eli Manning, and Hakeem Nicks is gone to free agency.
So are other trade possibilities like Justin Tuck, Corey Webster, Andre Brown or Jon Beason.
But could moving Jason Pierre-Paul make sense?
Of the remaining players, he holds the most value even coming off two injury-plagued seasons where he didn’t even sniff the 16.5-sack season he had in 2011.
Pierre-Paul is also in the last year of his cap-friendly rookie contract, so a team may take a chance on him rebounding this year.
Without a doubt, backup quarterback Kirk Cousins is the top trade chip for the Washington Redskins.
While his actual potential as a starter is open to debate, you can be sure that some of the quarterback-starved teams in the NFL will roll the dice.
The Seattle Seahawks signed Matt Flynn based on one game, after all.
The fact that Flynn has spectacularly flamed out will make some hesitate, but Redskins owner Dan Snyder will absolutely still get plenty of interest.
The Redskins lack a first-round pick after trading it (and lots more) away to move up and get Robert Griffin III. They can sign or draft a replacement backup, but they need more picks.
Cousins won’t get them a first, but he can certainly get them more picks overall, which they desperately need.
With Matt Forte coming off a great season in head coach Marc Trestman’s offense, running back Michael Bush is pretty much superfluous.
But while his role in the Bears offense is minuscule, that doesn’t mean he can’t be a more productive member of someone else’s offense.
Bush has two more years left on his contract—one which is definitely a bit high for his production—which means a team can trade for him and install him in its offense without having to re-sign him before getting a chance to see what he can do.
There are plenty of offenses which need a strong, short-yardage back, and Bush can be that and much more.
Since the Bears are in some real trouble defensively, more picks or some more warm bodies for Bush is an even trade.
The Detroit Lions don’t have many pieces to trade at this point—nobody is giving up much for Mikel Leshoure or Nate Burleson (although I think highly of Burleson as a No. 2), and they can’t afford to give up anyone on defense.
The truth is that, at this point, their best chance to trade is for their No. 10 overall pick for the upcoming draft.
While there will absolutely be talent that fits the Lions' needs at No. 10, they might be able to address more issues by gaining more picks or a veteran player than hanging on and picking a rookie.
If one of the top three quarterbacks happens to drop, they could see even more return.
While I am a huge fan of wide receiver Randall Cobb, he could represent the best potential trade piece the Green Bay Packers have.
The Packers aren’t in a position to trade off any of their more effective defenders, but they are thick at wide receiver—even if James Jones leaves via free agency.
Jarrett Boykin emerged as a very good player last year, and Jordy Nelson is a tremendous talent.
So is Cobb, but he’s one who might be replaced, if not easily, at least effectively.
Meanwhile, you can easily see a ton of teams wanting to trade for him if he were available.
It’s easy to say “Adrian Peterson” when talking about the player who would be most valuable in a trade, but it’s also a trade that will never happen. Nobody makes trades like they did for Herschel Walker or Ricky Williams anymore, so you won’t get fair value.
Besides, you build around great players—you don’t trade them. Trading them rarely works out in your favor anyway.
That aside, it leaves very little to play with in a trade. The Minnesota Vikings have a lot of players with too much wear and tear on the defensive side of the ball, but they might be able to part with someone on the offensive side.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph is coming off an injury, but his 2012 season was very impressive, and his athleticism and ability to catch the ball would be attractive to teams looking for a dynamic tight end who is a big weapon in the red zone.
What does that leave the Atlanta Falcons to trade?
The best bet for the Falcons could be to trade away their No. 6 overall pick.
A lot of the value of that pick will depend on who is there to select, and certainly the Falcons could grab a very nice offensive tackle or another skill player, but if one of the “big three” quarterbacks or a guy like Jadeveon Clowney is sitting there, they could also trade back and get a bunch of picks.
Another option might be running back Steven Jackson, but at his age and coming off a season where he was banged up and relatively ineffective, his value is pretty low.
Several years ago, the Carolina Panthers invested a ton of money in their backfield. Both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are locked into very long—and very expensive—contracts.
But so far there’s been almost no reason to have both of them around.
As the younger guy, Stewart would normally be the guy you’d want to keep around, especially since his contract runs to 2018, while Williams’ only goes until 2016.
But Stewart hasn’t topped 1,000 yards or 10 touchdowns since 2009 and has missed 19 games over the past four years. So he’s expendable.
Of course, the injuries lesson his trade value, but a 26-year old running back is always someone teams will take a chance on for the right price.
After an injury-shortened 2013 season, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams has been plagued with off-field issues.
As Kevin Patra of NFL.com reported earlier this week, Williams is facing misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief and trespassing, due to an incident in December. Patra also reminds us of a report by Scott Reynolds of PewterReport.com which said that internally, the Buccaneers were concerned with Williams’ attitude as he had missed some rehab and team meetings.
All this might lessen how much the team can get for Williams, but his upside would definitely attract a great many teams looking for wide-receiver help.
Darren Sproles only has a few more years under contract with the New Orleans Saints, and over the past few years, they’ve used him less than they had in 2011, his first year with the club.
He’s seen his targets drop the last two years, which of course means he has seen a decrease in yards as well.
Injury has had little to do with it, but the truth is that with the emergence of tight end Jimmy Graham, they’ve just used Sproles less.
He’s still a very effective running back, especially split out wide, and multiple teams would be interested in his versatile skill set.
Sproles is a guy the Saints can probably afford to move, who will also get them something worthwhile in return.
While you might think that redoing Larry Fitzgerald’s deal secures his presence in the desert long term, it could also mean the opposite.
As Kent Somers of AZCentral.com points out in his article on the subject, Fitzgerald still gets paid the same amount, just in a different way.
This could still make him an expensive extra on a roster with far more holes in it than it can bear.
But a restructuring could make him more tradeable. Plus, if the Cardinals miss the postseason again, Fitzgerald may move on anyway, as Somers also points out.
And there are a ton of teams that would fall all over themselves if he were available and the Cardinals could certainly use any extra picks or players to plug up the holes they have, even if it means parting ways with their most prolific receiver after 10 years.
With the depth the San Francisco 49ers have at running back, it’s easy to think that if they wanted to move a player it would be a running back.
And if you’re going to trade a running back, Frank Gore would be your man.
While he’s certainly approaching the end of his career, Gore just finished his third-straight 1,000-yard season—the seventh of his career. And he certainly doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
Of course, he’s turning 31 this year, and as much as the age of 30 is no longer the death knell of every running back, things tend to start going downhill for a runner past 30.
The Niners have some young running backs who have a lot of potential to fill his shoes, and it might be time to see if they can.
Meanwhile, some team would benefit from having a running back of Gore's caliber in its backfield.
Never was a player more superfluous on a team than Sidney Rice is for the Seattle Seahawks. The team should re-sign Golden Tate and will have a healthy Percy Harvin next year.
Meanwhile, Rice has only played a full slate of games once since he arrived in 2011 and just twice over the course of his seven-year career.
Rice has the ability to make some amazing, eye-popping catches and is a reliable receiver—when healthy.
As pointed out numerous times in this piece, the NFL is starved for receivers. The Seahawks will want to keep a lot of this team intact to return to the Super Bowl, but Rice isn’t a guy whom they would miss.
He could bring in value from other teams, though.
We already know (or think we know—after all, it’s draft season which means it’s smokescreen season) the St. Louis Rams are interested in moving the No. 2 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, as reported by Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk back in December.
It may just be connecting the dots, but it’s supported by reports like the one ESPN’s Nick Wagoner put together last month about the team being committed to Sam Bradford.
There may be other ways to go with that pick—they have to like Jadeveon Clowney, right?—but the Rams have another pick (the No. 2 comes courtesy of a trade with the Washington Redskins) and so this first pick may have more value as a commodity to trade than a pick to make.
Given that there are really just three worthwhile quarterbacks in this class and far more teams in need of one, the bidding could get hot and heavy by the time the draft comes around in May.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.