NFL Trade Speculation: 10 Teams One Trade Away from a Playoff Run

Matt Stein@MatthewJSteinCorrespondent IIJune 6, 2011

NFL Trade Speculation: 10 Teams One Trade Away from a Playoff Run

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    GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 28: Fans hold a sign during a game between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions on December 28, 2008 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Lions 31-21. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    For many NFL fans, the Detroit Lions would be considered the worst franchise of the past decade.  Their last winning season came in 2000 and they have only won 48 games while losing 128. 

    Well, as Bob Dylan once said, "The Times They Are-A Changin".

    The Detroit Lions are one of many teams who appear to be on the cusp of the playoffs.  While the majority of teams met their needs during the NFL Draft, a few teams are still missing that key player.  Some teams may go after that player via free agency, but other teams will look to fill that final void through a trade.

    Here are 10 teams, Detroit included, who are only one trade away from a playoff run.

New York Giants

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    LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 02:  Head coach Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants encourages his players in the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on January 2, 2011 in Landover, Maryland. The Giants won the game 17-14.  (Photo by Win
    Win McNamee/Getty Images

    Position they should trade for: Outside Linebacker

    Finishing a season 10-6 will generally get you into the playoffs, but unfortunately for the New York Giants, it wasn't good enough.

    There weren't many teams that picked up as much talent as the Giants during the NFL Draft.  Both Prince Amukamara and Marvin Austin should make an immediate impact on defense.  Eli Manning is still the leader on offense and Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith make a nice receiving duo for him.  Even though the future is uncertain with Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw is a great running back and rookie Da'Rel Scott could be a steal.

    Where the Giants still lack is at outside linebacker.  They don't have any real difference makers in their linebacker group and it was definitely the teams biggest weakness last year.

    Best option: Keith Rivers, Cincinnati Bengals

    Rivers has yet to live up to his high draft pick, but he has been a steady player for the Bengals.  Cincinnati is clearly in rebuilding mode and the Giants might be able to get him for cheap.

San Diego Chargers

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    DENVER - JANUARY 02:  Head coach Norv Turner of the San Diego Chargers leads his team against the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High on January 2, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Chargers defeated the Broncos 33-28.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Position they should trade for: Middle Linebacker

    If the San Diego Chargers had any type of special teams last year, they probably would have made the playoffs.  Unfortunately, every aspect of their special teams' unit was horrid and cost them numerous games.

    Philip Rivers has established himself as an elite quarterback in recent seasons.  Even if Vincent Jackson leaves, Rivers proved last year that he can make things happen without Jackson.  Plus, Antonio Gates should be healthy and be a consistent target. 

    On defense, San Diego is not stellar, but has a solid overall defense.  Eric Weddle and Shaun Phillips both had quality seasons last year to build off of.

    What the Chargers miss most on defense is a leader roaming the middle of the field.  They need a veteran player who can play the pass or the run.

    Best option: Nick Barnett, Green Bay Packers

    Even though Barnett is returning from a season-ending injury, he should still have some good years left.  After the Packers locked up Desmond Bishop to a long contract, Barnett appears to be the odd man out in Green Bay.  A mid-to-late round draft pick could possibly be all that the Packers are looking for.

Cleveland Browns

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    NEW YORK - APRIL 28:  Peyton Hillis #40 of the Cleveland Browns participates in a photo shoot for the cover of EA Sports Madden NFL 12 on April 28, 2011 in Time Square, New York City  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for EA Sports)
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Position they should trade for: Wide Receiver

    The Cleveland Browns shocked some teams last year.  They beat New England and New Orleans, both of whom were playoff teams.  They are hoping to build on those big victories heading into this season.

    Finding a franchise quarterback hasn't been easy for Cleveland, but they might have finally found one in Colt McCoy.  McCoy had the usual struggles during his rookie season, but should continue to grow and develop.  There probably wasn't a bigger surprise player than Peyton Hills last year.  He will, once again, be the focal point of the Browns offense. 

    Last year, Joe Haden established himself as a shutdown corner.  They are hoping that Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard will be able to contribute for them immediately.

    Everyone was surprised when the Browns passed on drafting Julio Jones and instead traded their pick to the Atlanta Falcons.  Cleveland lacks that true top receiver and Jones certainly fit that bill.  In order for McCoy to continue to become a better quarterback, he needs an elite target.

    Best option: Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers

    Adding a player like Jackson would go a long way for McCoy, as he is one of the top young receivers in the game.  They could trade some of the draft picks that they picked up in the Atlanta trade and with Jackson, the Browns could be the surprise team in the AFC North.

Tennessee Titans

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    NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 21:  Quarterback Vince Young #11 of the Tennessee Titans talks with a member of the training staff after leaving a game against the Washington Redskins at LP Field on November 21, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Redskins won 19-
    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Position they should trade for: Quarterback

    The Vince Young era appears to be over in Tennessee after five up-and-down seasons.  It is time to move on and Kerry Collins is no longer a viable option to start.

    With Chris Johnson, the Titans boast one of the best ground games in the NFL.  Johnson is a threat to score every time he touches the ball and is also dangerous as a receiver.  Kenny Britt had a breakout season and should give the Titans a valuable deep threat next season. 

    With Jason Babin, Stephen Tulloch and Michael Griffin, Tennessee has a solid base on defense.  Akeem Ayers should contribute right away and if some of the other young players step up, the Titans defense could be a top unit in the league.

    Even though Tennessee drafted Jake Locker with the eighth overall pick, it would be best if he had a year to sit and learn the offense.  Tennessee shouldn't look for a costly quarterback such as Kyle Orton or Kevin Kolb through trade, but a quarterback who can come in and be a serviceable starter for a year while Locker learns the offense.

    Best option: Donovan McNabb, Washington Redskins

    McNabb still has some years left in him and he would do best on a team where he doesn't need to be the focal point.  As long as he can figure out how to hand the ball to Johnson, the Titans should make a run at the division crown in a weak AFC South.

St. Louis Rams

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    GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 05:  Quarterback Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams warms up before the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Rams defeated the Cardinals 19-6.
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Position they should trade for: Wide Receiver

    The Rams struck gold with rookie Sam Bradford, as he looks like the real deal.  Bradford will only get better, which should result in St. Louis improving too.

    There might not be a more underrated running back than Steven Jackson.  Jackson has rushed for over 1,000 yards in six straight seasons.  He is also extremely valuable in the passing game.  Other than Jackson, rookies Lance Kendricks, Austin Pettis and Greg Salas might be the best receivers the Rams have.

    James Laurinaitis anchors a young defense at the middle linebacker position.  Robert Quinn could become a dominant pass rusher and should team with Chris Long to form one of the best young defensive end duos.

    Even without any good options at receiver, Bradford nearly led the Rams to the playoffs.  The NFC West will once again be anyone's division to win, but if St. Louis can find a veteran receiver who can help Bradford mature, the Rams will be preseason favorites in the West to make the playoffs.

    Best option: Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers

    Smith had a down season for Carolina, but is still a top receiver.  He can run the deep route, or make plays over the middle and would be able to show Pettis and Salas how to best utilize their talents.

Dallas Cowboys

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  Tyron Smith, #9 overall pick by the Dallas Cowboys, holds up a jersey on stage during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Position they should trade for: Safety

    Dallas drafted their biggest need when the picked offensive lineman Tyson Smith of USC in the first-round.  Smith should help keep Romo off his back, as no lineman in the draft had as much potential as Smith does.

    The offense in Dallas begins and ends with Tony Romo.  When he went down with a season-ending injury, all hope was lost.  When healthy, Romo is a top-10 quarterback and Dallas is a Super Bowl contender.  Miles Austin is his top target, but Dez Bryant should have a huge year after an impressive rookie campaign. 

    On the defensive side of the ball, there isn't any player better at getting after the quarterback than DeMarcus Ware.  His 80.5 sacks in only six seasons is just ridiculous.  Other than Ware, Dallas lacks any true play makers, especially in the secondary.

    Terrance Newman and Mike Jenkins can both play, but the Cowboys haven't had a decent safety since Roy Williams.  That will need to change in order for Dallas to contend in a very deep NFC East.

    Best option: Dashon Goldston, San Francisco 49ers

    Goldston hasn't quite lived up to expectations in San Francisco, but he is an extremely talented player.  The 49ers are very young at the safety position and might be willing to let Goldston go to help develop some of those players.

San Francisco 49ers

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    SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 07:  Jim Harbaugh speaks at a press conference where he was introduced as the new San Francisco 49ers head coach at the Palace Hotel on January 7, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Position they should trade for: Quarterback

    New coach Jim Harbaugh is known as a quarterback guru.  His work with Andrew Luck has made Luck a surefire top pick in next year's draft.

    San Francisco has loads of talent on their offense.  Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis are all very good players.  What has hurt the 49ers in recent years is their shaky quarterback play.  Veteran Brian Westbrook also proved to be a valuable piece of the offense. 

    The 49ers defense is lead by the best in the business, Patrick Willis.  Willis dominates games and is the best middle linebacker in football.  They are hoping that Aldon Smith, the seventh pick in this year's draft, can bring pressure off the edge.

    Neither Alex Smith or Troy Smith have proved to be the answer, so San Francisco is hoping they drafted their future franchise quarterback in Nevada's Colin Kaepernick.  However, Kaepernick isn't ready to start and unless Harbaugh wants to struggle through his first season, he would do good to find a veteran quarterback for right now.

    Best option: Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals

    Once again, San Francisco shouldn't be looking to trade for a young quarterback, as Kaepernick should be their future starter.  Palmer still has some gas in the tank and given his demand for a trade, the 49ers should be able to get him for a decent price.

Oakland Raiders

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Nnamdi Asomugha #21 of the Oakland Raiders sits on the bench during the closing minutes of their loss to the Miami Dolphins at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on November 28, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Ge
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Position they should trade for: Wide Receiver

    While everyone in Oakland is waiting to see what happens with Nnamdi Asomugha, the Raiders still have some voids to fill on offense.

    To say Darren McFadden was anything less than spectacular last year would be an understatement.  McFadden finally lived up to the hype surrounding him out of college and had a solid year.  The trade for Jason Campbell appears to have given Oakland some stability at the quarterback position. 

    They drafted some cornerbacks in the draft in case Asomugha leaves, but if Nnamdi does leave, Oakland will feel it.  The front seven for the Raiders is anchored by Richard Seymour and Rolando McClain and both players should continue to play at a high level this year.

    Louis Murphy, Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey are all young receivers who have yet to produce.  Zach Miller has been the best receiver for the Raiders, but that needs to change for Oakland to have a shot at the playoffs.

    Best option: Chad Ochocinco, Cincinnati Bengals

    Ever since Chad Johnson changed his name to Chad Ochocinco, his production has dropped.  There have been rumors that Ochocinco will change his name back, so he might start putting up better numbers now.  Either way, Ochocinco would take some pressure off Oakland's young receivers so they could learn the game and develop.

Houston Texans

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    HOUSTON - JANUARY 02: Head coach Gary Kubiak of the Houston Texans checks the scroreboard in the fourth quarter during action against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Reliant Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Position they should trade for: Cornerback

    The Texans boast one of the most high-powered offenses in the NFL, but their defense has been shaky, especially their secondary.  No team gave up more yards through the air than Houston last season.

    Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster combine to form the most productive offensive trio in the NFL.  Some say Johnson is the best receiver in the league, while Schaub has been extremely efficient in recent seasons.  Foster led the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns last year and Houston is hoping that he wasn't just a one-year wonder. 

    The Texans will be transitioning to a 3-4 defense under Wade Phillips this year.  They addressed this change by drafting pass rushers J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed in the first two rounds of the draft.

    However, the success of the Texans season will once again rest on the play of the secondary.  Brandon Harris could develop into a very good cornerback, but Houston needs an answer now to make a playoff run.

    Best option: Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee Titans

    Finnegan's reputation isn't the best and even though Jeff Fisher allowed Finnegan's antics, the Titans' new coach, Mike Munchak, might get sick of him quick.  Houston shouldn't really care about personalities, they just need a player that can actually play defense.  Finnegan could be that player for the Texans and could finally push them into the playoffs.

Detroit Lions

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    DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 03:  Ndamukong Suh #90 of the Detroit Lions poses during a press conference where he accepted Pepsi's 2010 NFL Rookie of the Year Award at the Super Bowl XLV media center on February 3, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. The Green Bay Packers wi
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Position they should trade for: Cornerback

    For any other team, a 6-10 season would be a disappointment, but for the Detroit Lions, it was a stepping stone to greater things.  The Detroit Lions will no longer be the NFL's doormat.

    If Matthew Stafford can stay healthy, he could be one of the better young quarterbacks in the league.  He has an incredible talent to throw to in Calvin Johnson.  Johnson, better known as "Megatron", is a rare physical specimen with ridiculous size and speed.  Jahvid Best and rookie Mikel LeShoure should form a nice one-two punch in the backfield. 

    The defense is led by the incredible DT Ndamukong Suh.  If Suh's rookie season was just the beginning, offensive lineman should be very afraid.  Nick Fairley should be a nice compliment to Suh.  The rest of Detroit's front seven is a very talented, but underrated unit.

    Their biggest weakness on defense is in the secondary and this is where they were hurt so often last year.  The Lions defensive line should be very disruptive, but they need to add a play maker in the secondary.

    Best option: Marcus Trufant, Seattle Seahawks

    Trufant is an older cornerback who hasn't produced as well the past few seasons, but he could be a veteran leader for Detroit's secondary.  There is no doubting his ability to play and if Detroit wants a chance in a pass-happy NFC North, they need Trufant.  Without Trufant, the Lions could still surprise some teams and maybe finish above .500, but with Trufant, the Lions could be a Super Bowl dark horse.