The Best Trade Bargaining Chips in the NFL Draft
As the 2014 NFL draft continues to draw closer (albeit at a glacial pace), it's imperative to recognize that picks aren't the only currency used to wheel and deal over the three-day event, as players normally find themselves on the move as well. With that in mind, it's time to explore the best trade bargaining chips in the NFL draft.
Every year, players are traded during the draft, and there have been some blockbusters, such as Marshall Faulk to the St. Louis Rams in 1999 and Randy Moss to the New England Patriots in 2007. There is precedent set for big-name players being dealt.
However, given the trade market thus far this offseason, it's probably safe to assume that no one who could one day appear on a Hall of Fame ballot (like Faulk or Moss) will be on the move. After all, star players like receiver DeSean Jackson and running back Chris Johnson were released because their respective former clubs (Philadelphia and Tennessee) couldn't find a trade partner.
But that doesn't mean that impact players can't or won't be traded. We're in the thick of the NFL's lying season, and it's always optimal to assume that whenever a coach or general manager opens his mouth during this window, he's being duplicitous. So don't necessarily believe the power broker of your favorite team when he says that a player won't be on the move.
The players on this list were chosen for a number of reasons. Some teams have a surplus of players at a particular position, leading to a potential trade. Others take contracts into effect, whether it be a deal coming to an end or a player being unhappy with his current pact. In a few situations, a new regime might not be as apt to keep around players picked by the old administration.
And it's always vital to take stock of available quarterbacks, as they remain the highest form of currency as the league's most important position.
Here are the best trade bargaining chips in the NFL draft.
New England Patriots QB Ryan Mallett
Ever since the New England Patriots drafted quarterback Ryan Mallett in the third round of the 2011 draft, it seems as if his name has been consistently affixed to trade rumors.
Mallett has a strong arm and all the physical talent in the world, but fell to the third round due to character concerns. Fortunately for him, the Patriots were the perfect team to end up with, as playing for coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady can do wonders to rehab one's image.
Earlier this month, the Patriots hosted Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for visits, and Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net recently reported that the team is expected to "take a quarterback at some point in the draft as they expect to lose Mallett at the end of next season."
Brady is set to turn 37 this August, so it's logical for the Patriots to begin looking for his long-term successor. Meanwhile, the 25-year old Mallett is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
ESPN.com's Mike Reiss wrote that Mallett hasn't generated the type of trade interest that the Patriots would have hoped, and that their best bet is for Mallett to dazzle in this year's preseason and create more value for himself.
But if the Patriots do indeed exhaust a high pick on a signal-caller, Mallett could become expendable and traded to a team in need of a quarterback. It's not a definite that Mallett will be moved, but he's someone to keep an eye on.
Washington Redskins QB Kirk Cousins
Since entering the league as a fourth-round choice in the 2012 draft, Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins has been the subject of much trade chatter.
Cousins sizzled in relief of starter Robert Griffin III in 2012 but fizzled in three starts (four touchdowns, seven interceptions and an 0-3 record) to close out last season, leaving his potential trade value up for discussion.
In an interview last month with Mike Jones of the Washington Post, new Redskins coach Jay Gruden indicated he'd like to keep Cousins on the roster, saying:
We’re excited to have Kirk. You need two great quarterbacks on your team. you never know. The way Robert (Griffin III) plays and the style he plays with you never know what can happen. Injuries are a part of the game. you need two excellent quarterbacks and we’re fortunate to have two of the better quarterbacks.
But it's also worth noting that the club signed quarterback Colt McCoy, a move that could make Cousins expendable.
However, this is the NFL's lying season. All it takes is one coach or general manager that believes in Cousins to make a potential deal happen.
At this point, a deal seems unlikely, but crazier things have happened. Don't be shocked if Cousins is moved at some point during next month's draft.
Miami Dolphins DE Dion Jordan
The third overall pick in last year's draft could find himself playing elsewhere in 2014.
Last April, the Miami Dolphins traded up to select Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan, only for him to ultimately disappoint and fail to make an impact, accruing only two sacks on the campaign.
Earlier this month, Bob Grotz of the Delco Times reported that the Philadelphia Eagles reached out to the Dolphins to gauge trade interest in Jordan. Jordan played under Eagles coach Chip Kelly when Kelly held the same post at Oregon.
On Monday, Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey joined WQAM in Miami, and lavished praise on Jordan (via Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post):
He’s a very talented player and this is a big offseason for him. Last year with his shoulder he didn’t have an opportunity to have a full offseason. That’s so important. Developing and getting your body — not just the physical reps but the mental reps — getting in the weight room and all those things is such an important part to get these guys ready to make that jump. We’re excited about Dion going forward and having a great offseason and looking for big things from him.
Again, this is the NFL's lying season, and there is nothing to be gained by a general manager publicly ripping a player. Of course Hickey is going to trumpet the on-field virtues of one of his prized assets.
But Hickey didn't draft Jordan; deposed general manager Jeff Ireland did, and it's probably safe to assume that Hickey isn't as high on Jordan as Ireland was.
If the Eagles reached out, it's likely that other teams would also show interest. And if that happens, Jordan could be playing elsewhere after only one season in South Beach.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Mike Glennon
The best rookie quarterback from 2013 could be on the trading block.
Buccaneers signal-caller Mike Glennon had a solid neophyte campaign, tossing 19 touchdown passes against only nine interceptions and winning four out of 13 starts under deposed coach Greg Schiano.
But with a new regime in town—coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht—Glennon is unlikely to be the Week 1 starter.
Last month, the Buccaneers signed quarterback Josh McCown, and Smith anointed him as "his guy" immediately thereafter. That would leave Glennon to hold a clipboard and provide an insurance policy in the event of injury.
While Glennon plans to compete with McCown, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Stroud also notes that the Buccaneers could select a quarterback in next month's draft. If that happens, it stands to reason that Glennon could become superfluous.
Glennon is young (24), possesses a big arm and acquitted himself nicely as a rookie. If Smith and Licht considered moving him, there would definitely be a market for his services.
Minnesota Vikings QB Christian Ponder
It appears as if Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, the 12th overall selection of the 2011 draft, is an unmitigated bust.
And with the team hiring a new head coach in Mike Zimmer and holding the eighth overall pick in next month's draft after a season in which they finished last in the NFC North, it stands to reason that general manager Rick Spielman will be spending an early pick on a signal-caller.
If that happens, look for Ponder to be dealt.
Earlier this offseason, the Vikings re-signed quarterback Matt Cassel, so the club already has an experienced veteran on the roster. And as Ben Goessling of ESPN.com notes, there's the fact that the Vikings must consider whether or not to exercise's Ponder's fifth-year option by May 3.
Earlier this offseason, Goessling also passed along a quote from Spielman, saying that Ponder "will be (in Minnesota)" this season, but again, this is the NFL's lying season, and it would do Spielman no good to tell the media that he plans on trading his erstwhile franchise quarterback.
If the Vikings do tab a quarterback with the eighth overall pick, Ponder becomes dispensable. And while it's unlikely that the team would receive anything but a late-round pick in return for his services, that might be enough to get the job done to fully turn the page on Ponder's lackluster three seasons in the Twin Cities.
Philadelphia Eagles G Evan Mathis
Philadelphia Eagles guard Evan Mathis is coming off a banner season, finishing 2013 as Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) top-ranked player at the position.
Earlier this month, Mathis further voiced his frustration with the club by posting a signing bonus check he received on Instagram. Check that out for a chuckle.
While Mathis was an All-Pro last season and had an excellent campaign, Eagles coach Chip Kelly has shown a ruthless streak, having released star receiver DeSean Jackson last month.
While it's generally not customary for clubs to trade players coming off outstanding seasons, Kelly is a different cat, and it should shock no one if Mathis plays elsewhere in 2014 and beyond.
Nick Kostos is a featured NFL columnist for Bleacher Report and an executive producer at SiriusXM's Mad Dog Sports Radio. You can follow Nick on Twitter here.