NFL Trade Rumors: Analyzing Buzz on Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and More

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2016

Alshon Jeffery headlines this year's NFL rumor mill.
Alshon Jeffery headlines this year's NFL rumor mill.Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It wouldn't be NFL trade rumors season without some of the league's best players on the worst teams popping up on the mill.

The mill has started to churn in earnest too; the winds of league change are gusting despite the fact trades have been few and far between in recent years.

Major trades aren't common for a few reasons. First, new blood at general manager throughout the league has more teams trusting the process. Second, the NFL season is so short—what are the chances a new player can come in and make a major splash without taking weeks to learn a new, deep playbook?

None of this means a major trade can't happen.

This year, it seems the talk mostly pertains to wide receivers and defensive backs. That's not a shock, given the importance of those positions in the NFL. Here's the latest.

    

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears wideout Alshon Jeffery is one of the most predictable trade chips in years. 

Playing under the franchise tag, he entered the season with Jay Cutler under center, watched him get hurt early on and proceeded to go mostly ignored by backup Brian Hoyer.

Jeffery has only 32 catches for 520 yards and has yet to score. While it's hard to complain about his ranking third on the team in targets, it's harder to get excited when those targets sail way over his head or skip in the dirt before reaching him.

Zach Zaidman of CBS 2 explained the difference:

The rest of the league seems to have taken notice, especially the Philadelphia Eagles.

NFL writer Benjamin Allbright reported the Eagles wanted Jeffery, though NFL Network's Ian Rapoport went on Up to the Minute Live and said there weren't any talks about a deal, according to NFL.com's Chris Wesseling.

The rumblings gained so much traction that Eagles head coach Doug Pederson decided to step into the scrum, via ESPN.com's Tim McManus:

So which is it? Has an impending blockbuster been spoiled? Or has the rumor mill made a logical connection?

The problem with a Jeffery rumor at this stage comes on the financial side of the equation. He's one of the best in the game and only 26 years old. But since he's a franchise player, teams can't sign him to an extension until the offseason.

That's a huge leap of faith. Teams have to be afraid of Jeffery shaking on a new deal and hope he actually signs rather than inciting a bidding war on the open market. Viewed through this lens, he's nothing more than a rental and will hit the market for all to woo next offseason.

Keep in mind the Bears don't have an incentive to trade Jeffery. The best the team would get is a mid-round pick—the same compensation Chicago would get if he leaves in free agency. It's better to keep him around and help develop younger players.

If the Eagles do strike a deal, it speaks to the team's confidence right now and the ability to convince him to stay in town.

    

Torrey Smith, WR, San Francisco 49ers

An affordable price range has Torrey Smith looking like a trade candidate.
An affordable price range has Torrey Smith looking like a trade candidate.Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Something a little more realistic is the Torrey Smith-to-Eagles train.

This bad boy has left the station and isn't slowing after an initial report stated the Eagles have interest in the San Francisco 49ers wideout, according to Zac Jackson of Pro Football Talk.

Rapoport hopped in on this one in the affirmative:

Logistically speaking, Smith is more in line with the price tag the Eagles might pursue.

Smith, 27, hasn't done much with the 49ers over his two seasons thanks to an iffy offense around him. He's still been a deep threat with 15 yards or more on average, but he has scored all of six total touchdowns over 23 games.

He scored seven or more in three of his first four seasons in the league, capped off with his 11 in (of course) his contract year in 2014.

Alas, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com spoke with a source who said the 49ers won't move Smith. That's not too surprising, really—the 49ers are in need of as much talent as they can get, so swapping out a proven wideout for draft picks seems like a backward step.

Regardless, Philadelphia remains a hot topic despite the trio of Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham. Given their 4-2 record and the tight race in the NFC East, the Eagles won't leave the rumor mill until the deadline passes.

     

Joe Haden, CB, Cleveland Browns

Joe Haden is one of the biggest Cleveland names to pop up so far.
Joe Haden is one of the biggest Cleveland names to pop up so far.Ron Schwane/Associated Press

It wouldn't be much of a trade deadline without the Cleveland Browns.

This time it's all about cornerback Joe Haden.

Cleveland is off to an 0-7 start this year under the guidance of new head coach Hue Jackson, though injuries at quarterback and elsewhere haven't helped. Exciting players such as Terrelle Pryor have hinted at a brighter future, but unloading older veterans wouldn't come as much of a shock.

More than anything, Haden still has name power, which is why Rapoport noted he's come up in talks:

Health remains the main topic of discussion around Haden.

The former Florida star hasn't played in a full 16-game season since his rookie campaign back in 2010. Recent years have been especially harsh, with Haden suiting up in all of five games last year and only four so far this season.

Pair the injury woes with Haden's contract, and it's hard to see a team making a move. According to Spotrac, he has a base salary north of $10 million through 2019. He's 27 years old and already having problems staying on the field. When he's on it, he's struggled in each of the past two seasons.

As the report notes, it comes down to health first. If Haden gets on the field, good. The next step is to shake off the rust and play at a level that justifies his contract.

    

Stats courtesy of NFL.com. All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football Focus

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