1 Positive Move Every NFL Team Could Make
Everything is amplified in the NFL. That's the effect of the compact 16-game schedule, the kind that makes you blink once and then suddenly it's midseason.
Injuries and unexpected performances from rookies carry more weight. And so can the right bold move, at the right time.
A bold move can come in many forms beyond just a free-agent signing or trade, though that's the most common kind. Bold moves can also be a depth-chart shake-up, like the Miami Dolphins mercifully benching quarterback Jay Cutler to save their season. Or a bold move can mean making a more concerted effort to give a promising young player more carries, targets or snaps.
There's a move of some kind available to every team if they are willing to take a risk. Let's take a trip around the league and see what potentially difference-making moves could change the NFL landscape during the second half of 2017 as the Oct. 31 trade deadline approaches.
Arizona Cardinals: Trading for Defensive End Kony Ealy
The Arizona Cardinals secondary has been exposed by the lack of a pass rush. That will happen to the most talent-filled secondaries—even one with cornerback Patrick Peterson sealing off one side.
In 2016 the Cardinals led the league with 48 sacks. Now in 2017 through six games, they've sputtered to only 11 sacks, setting a pace for 29 on the season.
They need a sudden injection of pocket pressure, and that could come from defensive end Kony Ealy. He's pinballed around since the spring after being traded from the Carolina Panthers to the New England Patriots and then claimed off waivers at the end of August by the New York Jets.
Though the Jets have surprisingly won three games, they're still not likely to be serious playoff contenders. Which is why both parties involved here would benefit from an Ealy trade.
The Cardinals would get a little extra pass-rushing muscle from someone with 14 sacks over the past three seasons. And even more impressively, the Cardinals would also receive a defender with high-level instincts who has batted down seven passes already in 2017 while recording seven tackles.
Meanwhile, the Jets would be capitalizing on Ealy's growing value by stockpiling further ammunition for their rebuild.
Atlanta Falcons: Giving Takkarist McKinley More Snaps
The Atlanta Falcons are also suffering because of a stumbling pass rush that's recorded only 12 sacks.
Vic Beasley, the NFL's 2016 sack leader, has missed two games due to a hamstring injury, and that clearly didn't help matters up front. But an offseason goal for the Falcons was to provide support for Beasley, which means their pass rush shouldn't crumble without him.
They tried to address a lack of depth by using a first-round pick on defensive end Takkarist McKinley. He suffered a shoulder injury during his final season at UCLA and missed some of the Falcons' offseason program. But he was healthy for training camp and now, which means the 21-year-old who had 10 sacks during his final college season needs to be unleashed.
McKinley has been on the field for a modest 46.2 percent of the Falcons' defensive snaps. That percentage needs to climb as the Falcons look to re-establish themselves as an NFC powerhouse, with the defense taking a stride forward.
Baltimore Ravens: Signing Colin Kaepernick
There continues to be no football justification for Colin Kaepernick's unemployment. That was true months ago, and it's still true now. No reasonable person can watch Brandon Weeden get signed and Brock Osweiler throw meaningful passes and come to any other conclusion.
Now a team that had discussed Kaepernick at one point in the offseason is still a fine fit as Joe Flacco's career spirals.
The Baltimore Ravens quarterback has recorded three multiple interception games already and has thrown eight overall, which puts him behind only Cleveland Browns rookie DeShone Kizer. Flacco is also averaging just 5.4 yards per pass attempt and hasn't thrown a touchdown since Week 4.
Initially the Ravens had at least passing interest in Kaepernick when their starting quarterback was working through back problems in training camp. Now Flacco's issue is much worse: He's really bad, and Baltimore could use a panic button on the sideline that isn't Ryan Mallett.
Buffalo Bills: Trading for Kenny Britt
Wide receiver Kenny Britt has been a colossal bust for the lowly Cleveland Browns.
He was supposed to be an upgrade over Terrelle Pryor after finishing with 1,002 receiving yards in 2016 and averaging 18.2 yards per catch in 2015. Now he's recorded just four receptions for 121 yards and is one of many reasons why the 0-6 Browns are headed toward another lost season.
But that recent success means there's still talent and production potential in Britt somewhere. And maybe a change in scenery can bring it out.
The Browns would surely like to unload their expensive mistake already, and the upstart Buffalo Bills need more reliable wide-receiver depth. They traded for Jordan Matthews prior to the season, but he plays mostly from the slot. Second-round rookie Zay Jones has been a disappointment so far, catching only 21.7 percent of his targets.
Carolina Panthers: Give Curtis Samuel More Touches
The Carolina Panthers sit near the top of the clustered NFC at 4-2, a mark reached with an inconsistent offense and little involvement from second-round rookie Curtis Samuel.
Samuel was the 40th overall pick in the 2017 draft, a high standing he earned by being a hybrid option at Ohio State. During his final year with the Buckeyes, he ran for 771 yards on 7.9 yards per carry and added 865 yards as a receiver.
Now early in his NFL career, Samuel has been silent. A minor back issue that kept him sidelined for Week 4 is partly to blame. But Samuel has been underutilized when healthy and gotten only six touches over five games.
That's come as the Panthers' passing offense has alternated between either being mediocre or setting off fireworks. The result is a middling unit averaging 228 yards through the air per game.
Carolina needs to separate itself within both the NFC South and its conference, and that can start by carving out a much larger role for Samuel.
Chicago Bears: Trading for Mike Wallace
The NFC North is suddenly wide-open after the likely season-ending collarbone injury suffered by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. So wide-open that you can sort of begin to talk about the Chicago Bears' playoff chances with a straight face.
The 2-4 Bears have plenty of firepower in their backfield. Jordan Howard has posted two 140-plus-yard rushing games already. And although he's fallen off a bit, rookie Tarik Cohen is averaging 4.5 yards per carry while also adding 158 yards as a receiver.
The concern for the Bears offense lies elsewhere, namely at wide receiver. That is why the Ravens' Mike Wallace is the ideal trade target.
Wallace may have lost a step with age. But at 31 years old, he's still faster than most and can be the field-stretcher Mitchell Trubisky needs, especially after the Bears' wide receiver depth was decimated by injury.
Wallace can still be a turf-burner. He reminded us of that by exploding for 133 receiving yards in Week 5. He's in a contract year, too, and could be increasingly available if the 3-3 Ravens' season keeps careening.
Cincinnati Bengals: Trading for Virgil Green
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert has suffered his annual season-erasing injury. A back issue brought his 2017 season to a close after just two games. Now the 27-year-old will have missed 41 games over five years.
He's become a walking medical report, and the 24th-ranked Bengals offense has suffered without one of its key weapons. There might be a way to fix that by inquiring about the services of Virgil Green.
The Denver Broncos tight end isn't featured prominently in his current role but has shown flashes of athletic promise. That includes a 44-yard catch in Week 1 and a 24-yard grab in Week 6.
Green wouldn't be an offensive pillar to build around. But he would be a low-cost upgrade and a key role player for an offense in need. And on the other end, the Broncos could get by just fine with A.J. Derby, who has nine catches for 124 yards and a touchdown in 2017.
Cleveland Browns: Elevate Kasen Williams Up the WR Depth Chart
Moving the ball downfield simply hasn't happened with any consistency for the Cleveland Browns. That's mostly due to their struggles at quarterback, with DeShone Kizer going through rookie growing pains and Kevin Hogan still not looking like someone who should ever be on an NFL field.
But being able to threaten defenses vertically is also a priority for an offense averaging only 5.8 yards per pass attempt, which is why the Browns need to knock wide receiver Kasen Williams up a few notches on the depth chart.
Williams has been on the field for only 28.9 percent of the Browns' offensive snaps. That's far too little, considering the Browns are struggling to move the ball through the air and Williams had a sparkling preseason with 208 yards off nine receptions.
Dallas Cowboys: Trading for Jeremy Hill
Trying to follow along with Ezekiel Elliott's legal matters and possible suspension has led to many headaches.
The latest temporary bit of good news about his playing status came Tuesday when the Dallas Cowboys running back was granted another temporary restraining order, according to Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News. He'll be able to play in Week 7 and likely also Week 8.
But beyond that, his situation remains muddy, and the drop-off to either Darren McFadden or Alfred Morris in the Cowboys backfield is significant. Morris averaged only 3.5 yards per carry in 2016, and McFadden, at 30 years old, has averaged four-plus yards per attempt just once over his last five seasons.
The Cowboys could use more depth and another fallback option, which they would get by trading for the Bengals' Jeremy Hill.
He's becoming expendable in Cincinnati with rookie Joe Mixon capable of carrying a heavy workload. Hill isn't exactly a burner and also has a low per-carry average (4.1 yards) in his career. But he is effective as a short-yardage and goal-line back, scoring 29 rushing touchdowns over 52 regular-season games.
The Cowboys would need a stable of running backs if Elliott misses a chunk of the season while suspended, and Hill runs with a similarly powerful one-cut approach.
Denver Broncos: Try to Coax Tony Romo Out of the Broadcast Booth
Trevor Siemian's play has fallen off steadily since what should have been a statement Week 2 win over the Dallas Cowboys. For a while it looked like he could be a decent enough temporary solution at the most important position in football. Now even that is being brought into question.
The Broncos offense has averaged only 14 points per game since that win over the Cowboys, which includes a stunning 23-10 loss at home to the lowly New York Giants. During that time Siemian has thrown four interceptions (and two touchdowns) while getting sacked 11 times, often because the 25-year-old holds onto the ball too long.
The Broncos still have one of the league's best defenses and plenty of offensive talent around Siemian. So if he's holding them back, it may be time to find a better short-term fix. The best one available is arguably Tony Romo, but talking him out of the broadcast booth might be a Herculean feat.
Romo has received lots of praise for his work alongside Jim Nantz. He seems to genuinely enjoy bringing the perspective of a Pro Bowl quarterback who was on the field just one season ago. His smile beams through the microphone as he mixes in the odd American Beauty reference and screams with child-like joy when there's an empty backfield at the goal line.
But he still keeps dropping hints about a potential return, and the Broncos always were a nice fit for him. The defense could do the heavy lifting, and a solid offensive line would keep the 37-year-old well-protected.
If he's ever going to jump from the booth back onto the field, the Broncos are Romo's best chance. But realistically, he's been too good, too fast to walk away from broadcasting this quickly.
Detroit Lions: Get Teez Tabor on the Field
The Detroit Lions took a leap by selecting cornerback Teez Tabor 53rd overall in the 2017 draft, and they did it for a reason.
They did it because watching the burning inferno in their secondary was getting old. The Lions gave up 33 passing touchdowns in 2016, the league's second-worst total. They also allowed an NFL-worst 72.7 percent of opposing pass attempts to be completed.
That weekly roasting has continued, with the Lions giving up 244.2 passing yards per game (23rd). They've done that with Tabor sitting on the sideline and watching.
The Lions are bringing Tabor's development along slowly, and as a result, he's played just three snaps. Having some patience with a young player is fine and expected. But anchoring a Day 2 pick like Tabor to the bench is a luxury the Lions can't afford right now, especially when he could boost a struggling unit.
Maybe he's not quite ready yet, and maybe there's still some learning to do at the next level. But the Lions need to take a risk and find out, because they've now lost three of their last four games, most recently getting walloped by the New Orleans Saints 52-38.
Green Bay Packers: Start Aaron Jones at RB over Ty Montgomery
The Green Bay Packers offense is about to lean heavily on its backfield, which is what tends to happen when one of the best quarterbacks on the planet is no longer available.
Aaron Rodgers is out with a broken collarbone and likely for the rest of the regular season. That means the Packers need to find a reliable running back to support Brett Hundley. And that running back should be Aaron Jones instead of Ty Montgomery.
Montgomery returned from injury in Week 6 and resumed his scuffling as he split carries with Jones. He carried 10 times for only 28 yards. On the season the 24-year-old has averaged just 3.2 yards per carry. He's more effective when used in space as a receiver, a skill highlighted back in Week 2 with his six catches for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile, Jones is a natural running back and didn't have to make a position switch. That showed in Week 5 when he busted out for 125 yards and a touchdown in his first career start. Jones has produced when he has an opportunity to get into a rhythm. Montgomery has had that same opportunity all season and has rushed for just 180 yards.
Houston Texans: Trading for Aaron Lynch
The Houston Texans have been defined by their defense for a while now. That's how they've won their division two straight seasons while trotting out the likes of Brian Hoyer and Brock Osweiler at quarterback.
Although there's still plenty of talent on that side of the ball, the unit overall isn't nearly as frightening after two critical injury blows up front. Defensive ends J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus have been lost to season-ending injuries. Watt also missed most of the 2016 season, but when they were both healthy in 2015, the two combined for 29.5 sacks.
So the Texans defense is forging ahead without some serious muscle. That makes life difficult for a defense that roots its success in being able to create pressure consistently with a four-man rush.
There's a need to mash a panic button then and take a low-cost midseason flier on a player with potential. Aaron Lynch of the San Francisco 49ers fits that description.
A rebuilding team isn't using him much, as Lynch has played only 24.2 percent of the 49ers' defensive snaps. But he's been effective in the past, with 12.5 sacks over his first 30 NFL games.
Indianapolis Colts: Slot Kamar Aiken Ahead of Donte Moncrief
It feels like Donte Moncrief is walking around with two giant sticks of butter in his hands at all times.
The Indianapolis Colts wide receiver had an awful drop against the Tennessee Titans Monday night, letting what should have been an easy touchdown catch bounce off his fingertips.
He's purely a red-zone threat, which is where Moncrief can use his size (6'2" and 216 lbs) and leaping ability to win jump balls. Moncrief hauled in seven touchdown passes during the 2016 season in only nine games. That was great, but that was while recording only 34.1 yards per game.
The Colts need all the deep-ball firepower they can muster because of their 23rd-ranked rushing offense. That's why it would be wise to move Kamar Aiken, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason, ahead of Moncrief and distribute more targets his way. Aiken had a solid season in the not-so distant past, with 944 receiving yards for the Ravens in 2015 before finding his way to the doghouse there and moving on.
The Colts (2-4) are still treading water somehow in the annually messy AFC South and need to jolt an offense averaging only 19.8 points per game.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Trading for Jimmy Garoppolo
I am contractually obligated to include Jimmy Garoppolo in any discussion of potential trades or bold moves. The window for the New England Patriots to trade him has probably passed by now, but we've seen plenty of craziness out of Foxborough in mid-October before.
Trading linebacker Jamie Collins was stunning in 2016, and the same feeling would come with a Garoppolo trade, even if he's in the final year of his contract. The Patriots face a difficult decision between trusting Tom Brady to keep playing at a high level into his 40s or paying a career backup a lot of money to stick around.
Needing to choose between two reliable quarterback options is a great problem to have, which is why the Patriots have held on to Garoppolo for so long. However, they could bite if the Jacksonville Jaguars present one final opportunity to unload Garoppolo and get a treasure chest of draft picks in return.
The Jaguars have a stacked roster in nearly every way except one sort of important position: quarterback.
They have a swarming defensive front that leads the league in sacks. They have Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, the league's best young cornerback tandem who lead a secondary that's allowing only 5.7 yards per pass attempt. They also have Leonard Fournette, the rookie running back who has run for 596 yards.
Bringing them all down is quarterback Blake Bortles. He has no business starting for any NFL team, especially not one as talented as the Jaguars. Bortles has thrown 56 interceptions over 52 career games, and even though the Jaguars are trying to minimize his role, he could still sink their playoff hopes.
Kansas City Chiefs: See If Cameron Erving Has Anything to Offer
The Kansas City Chiefs were never going to go undefeated. That doesn't feel like a sizzling hot take, and simple math says if a team is going to win 12 or 13 games, said team also has to lose a few along the way.
So we'll soon surely look back at the Chiefs' Week 6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers as only a minor setback. The Steelers did, however, further expose a flaw in a generally solid roster.
The Chiefs need to do a better job of protecting their quarterback. That's a glaring weakness whenever they have to claw from behind and get away from behind a run-oriented offense. Quarterback Alex Smith has been sacked 20 times already, the league's third-highest total.
Chiefs guard Bryan Witzmann is the weakest link on the offensive line. He allowed four pressures to Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward in Week 6, according to Pro Football Focus. If he strings together many more performances like that, a championship-contending team may be forced to look inward for another option.
If so, the Chiefs will find swingman Cameron Erving waiting on the bench. Erving was a flop with the Cleveland Browns, but he has a first-round pedigree and could fare better now with more offensive line support around him.
Los Angeles Chargers: Trading for Defensive Tackle Derrick Shelby
The Los Angeles Chargers' run defense in 2017 can be knocked over by a gentle breeze.
The Chargers are allowing a league-worst 152.5 rushing yards per game. They greatly miss linebacker Denzel Perryman, who is on injured reserve with a torn ankle ligament.
While they wait for his return, the Chargers could use some added bulk up front against the run, and at 6'2" and 280 pounds, Derrick Shelby can be a quality run defender at a reasonable trade price. The Atlanta Falcons defensive end has experience setting the edge—and doing it well. He tore his Achilles tendon in 2016, but in 2015 he finished with 37 tackles and 3.5 sacks for the Miami Dolphins.
Shelby is in the second year of a contract that pays him a modest $4.5 million annually.
Los Angeles Rams: Trading for Demario Davis
It seems pushover run defenses are the new trendy thing in Los Angeles, right alongside gyms filled with sand.
The difference between the Chargers and Rams? The latter is on the rise, and a poor run defense is its glaring area of weakness. The Rams ranks 29th against the run while allowing 139.5 yards per game.
They have a legitimate shot to win the NFC West, and their playoff chances will get even better if the Rams can insert an instant run-defending upgrade along the front seven. Someone like Demario Davis would be a fine fit. He's a 28-year-old on a rebuilding New York Jets team, and he likely isn't part of their long-term future while playing through a contract year.
Davis is having a solid season with 53 tackles through six games.
Miami Dolphins: Replacing Jay Cutler with Matt Moore
In theory, the Jay Cutler experiment was a fine path to pursue by the Miami Dolphins after Ryan Tannehill's season ended early in training camp.
The former Chicago Bears quarterback was reunited with Adam Gase, the offensive coordinator during one of the best seasons in Cutler's career. When they were both together in 2015, Cutler averaged 7.6 yards per attempt and threw 21 touchdown passes with just 11 interceptions.
But in practice, the Cutler-Gase reunion in Miami hasn't been anything like those glory days. Cutler has sprayed balls everywhere around the field and shown little ability to connect deep. His per-attempt passing average has cratered to 5.2 yards, and the Dolphins are averaging a league-low 12.2 points per game.
Yet somehow the Dolphins still have a winning record (3-2) heading into Week 7. Their season can be salvaged, with the slow start forgotten. But a 34-year-old Cutler isn't the guy for the job.
Dolphins fans have been chanting for Matt Moore to start—and for good reason. Moore will never be mistaken for a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback, but that's fine. The Dolphins merely need competence, and Moore has been able to offer that. He made three starts in 2016 and finished with a passer rating of 105.6 while throwing eight touchdown passes and only three interceptions.
The Dolphins need to admit they made a bad decision by coaxing Cutler out of retirement—and do it before the season flames out.
Minnesota Vikings: Starting Teddy Bridgewater
There's more mystery than optimism regarding the state of Sam Bradford's knee. The Minnesota Vikings quarterback has played just once since shining in Week 1. And when he did play, Bradford was clearly hurting and had no business being on the field.
In relief of him, Case Keenum has alternated between being surprisingly good and depressingly mediocre. That's standard for him, and his history tells us it's only a matter of time before the wheels fall off.
Remember he's the same quarterback who was benched by the Rams in 2016 after averaging only 220.1 passing yards in 10 games.
Teddy Bridgewater's time will come, and it needs to come soon. He just resumed practicing after suffering a severe knee injury during training camp in 2016. He sounded confident in his health when speaking to Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, saying, "I definitely believe I'll play this year."
During his rookie season in 2014, Bridgewater recorded a 70-plus completion percentage in four straight games (and he has a 64.9 career mark). If he can return with that sort of accuracy while supported by a suffocating defense, the 4-2 Vikings could rise to the top of the messy NFC.
New England Patriots: Trading for Brian Robison
The New England Patriots are in strange territory. They're forcing Brady to win games for them while overcoming a defense that can charitably be called a liability most weeks.
The Patriots defense is slowly improving and has allowed less than 20 points in each of their last two games. But overall in 2017, the Patriots have given up 26.5 points per game, up dramatically from their league-best 15.6 points in 2016.
The reason for that flaming dumpster fire is largely tied to time, and opposing quarterbacks having too much of it.
The Patriots secondary is getting torn apart because it's been exposed by a poor pass rush. It's a problem they could fix in typical Bill Belichick fashion by bringing in an aging veteran.
The Vikings' Brian Robison is 34 years old and has only one sack in 2017 as a rotational pass-rusher. But he would still have something left to offer for a desperate Patriots team searching for solutions, and the Vikings wouldn't miss him much since they have Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter collapsing the pocket.
New Orleans Saints: Trading for Prince Amukamara
It's remarkable the New Orleans Saints are able to field such a consistently bad pass defense, even while throwing multiple draft picks at the problem.
The most recent pick was 2017 first-round selection Marshon Lattimore, and he's looked like an instant star. The 21-year-old has surrendered an average of only 0.63 yards per cover snap, per PFF.
But the Saints are still getting roasted elsewhere in their defensive backfield while giving up 286.4 yards per game (28th). They've bounced back nicely after an 0-2 start with three straight wins, but the leak in their secondary needs to be fixed fast.
The Saints could do that by inquiring about a quality cornerback who's on a one-year contract with a rebuilding Chicago Bears team. Prince Amukamara is the name that should be mentioned on that phone call. He has a history of being less than spectacular, but still providing quality above average play, which would fit in nicely with a secondary that already has one shutdown cornerback.
The Bears, meanwhile, would benefit from a draft pick that a player on a one-year deal could fetch. They have adequate cornerback depth in Marcus Cooper, Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan.
New York Giants: Moving Justin Pugh to Left Tackle
The New York Giants have gone beyond desperate times. They're just trying not to embarrass themselves.
They were successful in that effort with a surprise road win over the Denver Broncos in Week 6 under the prime-time lights Sunday night. But they did it with quarterback Eli Manning getting sacked three times.
Manning has endured the pain of two five-sack games already and has gone down 16 times overall. Much of that is because of left tackle Ereck Flowers' stumbling around and whiffing. Flowers allowed 4.5 sacks over the Giants' first five games, according to NFL.com's Gil Brandt.
As their quest to avoid further embarrassment continues, the Giants need to consider a bit of creativity along the offensive line. They'll likely need to shift Justin Pugh over to left tackle.
Pugh is primarily used as a guard but has experience at tackle, though not on the left side. Injury-induced shuffling has seen him start at right tackle three times in 2017 and 34 times throughout his career. But the most pressing need is on the blind side, and since no better options are available, the Giants will reach a point where they'll have to experiment with their best offensive lineman. In 2016 Pugh had the ninth-best pass-blocking efficiency among guards, per PFF.
New York Jets: Trading Matt Forte and Giving More Carries to Elijah McGuire
The New York Jets' season is already an incredible success. The bar for that was low, as three games was probably about the most optimistic projection for their win total. Now they've reached that mark already in six games.
There's enough talent on the defensive side of the ball to make an argument that this semi-frequent winning could continue. But doing the same on the offensive side requires a lot of squinting.
That is why the Jets should continue to jettison any veteran who has even a shred of trade appeal and keep collecting future draft picks. Next on deck for that treatment is running back Matt Forte.
Forte is an aging and declining back who will turn 32 years old in December. He's averaging 3.6 yards per carry, which is slightly lower than the 3.7 he posted in 2016.
However, he still has some trade value due to his pass-catching skill, and if there's any interest at all, the rebuilding Jets should pounce on it. Forte has totaled 117 receiving yards in 2017 over only four games and could be a nice passing-down addition for a contending team.
If the Jets did move Forte, there would be the added bonus of Elijah McGuire getting more carries, which could speed up his development. The sixth-round rookie has flashed by showing impressive burst, highlighted by a 69-yard touchdown run in Week 4.
Oakland Raiders: Trading for Safety Eric Reid
There are a lot of problems with the Oakland Raiders, but let's just focus on one right now: They're not creating turnovers.
Through seven games, the Raiders have created only five turnovers, and none on interceptions. Oakland is the only team with a round and lonely number in the picks column as midseason approaches.
Without many turnovers, the Raiders offense isn't able to benefit from easy field position. Eric Reid could help with that problem.
Reid is playing out the final year of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers. He has recorded eight career interceptions and 30 passes defensed over 60 regular-season games. When healthy he's a heavy hitter and has two seasons with 70-plus tackles.
The winless 49ers would surely listen to offers for players who may not be part of their future. That likely includes Reid, who could be replaced by Jaquiski Tartt.
Philadelphia Eagles: Trading for Running Back Shane Vereen
The Philadelphia Eagles aren't lacking much. They're one of only two teams in the league still with just one loss, a mark the Eagles have reached after giving quarterback Carson Wentz the weapons he needs. And defensively they've given up only 20.3 points per game (tied for ninth).
But one area of potential concern is the passing-down running back and how much production in that role could suffer after the season-ending injury to Darren Sproles.
Wendell Smallwood has missed the past two games because of a knee issue. He should return soon, but Smallwood still isn't an established talent in only his second year. The Eagles are a team with championship aspirations, so inserting someone more reliable is the desired option.
Giants running back Shane Vereen is the pass-snatching running back to target. The Giants should soon be in the mood to dismantle, and Vereen is in a contract year. He's still been productive enough, recording 134 receiving yards on 19 catches.
Vereen could give the Eagles the pass-catching presence out of the backfield they've been lacking since Sproles went down. He's logged three career seasons with 400-plus receiving yards.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Trading Martavis Bryant
There were whispers that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant asked for a trade. Those were soon shot down by Bryant himself, according to Lance Lysowski of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
But the Steelers may want to heavily consider going in that direction.
Bryant simply hasn't looked like his old dominant self since returning from suspension. He hasn't shown the same downfield burst that made him so explosive in the past. As a result he's recorded only 231 receiving yards over six games and is losing snaps to rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Bryant and Smith-Schuster are almost dead even in overall snaps. But Smith-Schuster has caught 65.2 percent of his targets, while Bryant's catch percentage is at 50.0. Smith-Schuster has been more reliable, and he's also capable in the red zone after 25 touchdowns over three seasons at USC.
The Steelers have two similar receivers, as prior missing a season and then falling off so far in 2017, Bryant caught 14 touchdown passes over two seasons. They'd be wise to do something about that redundancy by exploring trade options.
San Francisco 49ers: Get Trent Taylor More Involved in the Offense
A young and rebuilding team has little need to give up future draft picks at midseason. But as the season progresses, the 49ers need to find a way to get wide receiver Trent Taylor more targets.
The Louisiana Tech standout erupted for 3,085 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns over his final two college seasons. A shifty slot receiver with smooth hands, the 2017 fifth-round pick vacuumed up 327 receptions for the Bulldogs.
He's the sort of intriguing young weapon the 49ers need to explore and target more often than the 2.3 balls per game thrown in Taylor's direction. His per-game snap count has gradually gone up, topping out at 61.1 percent in Week 6. Both his snaps and targets should continue to rise during what's already a lost season in San Francisco.
Seattle Seahawks: Trading for Guard Andre Smith
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is on pace to get sacked 40-plus times for the fifth straight season. Now an already woeful offensive line has taken another hit, with guard Luke Joeckel expected to be out for four to five weeks due to a knee injury.
The Seahawks' internal replacements of Ethan Pocic and Mark Glowinski are underwhelming at best. Andre Smith of the Cincinnati Bengals isn't a magical instant solution for what ails Seattle's pass protection either. But he would still be a marginal improvement, and that'd would be an accomplishment for the Seahawks.
Smith is a nine-year veteran who has plenty of experience after logging 79 starts. At minimum he would improve the Seahawks' depth and be a safety net behind Pocic and Glowinski.
Tennessee Titans: Trading for J.J. Wilcox
The Tennessee Titans have a secondary that springs a few leaks every week and then gushes at times too. They've given up 13 passing touchdowns already, and it's clear the 30th-ranked secondary in 2016 isn't about to take a significant leap.
That's why another injection of depth would help, with safety J.J. Wilcox as a fine trade target.
Wilcox is expendable in Pittsburgh and has only played 35.1 percent of the Steelers' defensive snaps. He had a solid three-year run with the Dallas Cowboys, highlighted by five interceptions and 14 passes defensed. The 26-year-old would slide in and be an upgrade at safety alongside Johnathan Cyprien.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Making Justin Evans a Full-Time Starting Safety
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a secondary that's getting lit up. Thankfully, they drafted a solution for that problem. Now they just have to use that solution more.
The Bucs used the 50th overall pick in the 2017 draft on safety Justin Evans, who hauled in four interceptions during his final year with Texas A&M. He played only eight snaps over Tampa's first two games, but then started for the first time in Week 4 because of injuries elsewhere. Evans responded with nine tackles, two passes defensed and an interception in Week 5 against future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady.
Evans needs to be shifted into a full-time starting role going forward. The Bucs have to try something— anything—to keep their pass defense that's giving up 301.6 yards per game (31st) and 8.2 yards per attempt (30th) from floundering further.
Washington Redskins: Trading for Defensive End Michael Johnson
Losing rookie defensive end Jonathan Allen stung for a Washington Redskins defense that was counting on the first-round pick to create sustained pocket pressure. Allen suffered a Lisfranc fracture in Week 6 and was placed on injured reserve.
The Redskins could struggle to generate consistent pressure now without blitzing and need to find a short-term solution. If they turn to the trade market, the Bengals might have a veteran defensive end who fits in well.
Michael Johnson should come cheaply, and he can play a meaningful supporting role. The 30-year-old has recorded 42 sacks over nine NFL seasons, including three in 2017 in four games.