Likely early season trade-bait?
It's that stage of the NFL preseason where the big-name free agents have been snapped up and rosters begin to take shape.
It's also that stage of the preseason where practice and preseason injuries begin to mount, and some rosters that were previously deep suddenly appear as reliable as a second-hand car salesman who moonlights as an insurance broker.
How to cover those new gaps? While most NFL GMs are happy with the hand they've dealt themselves through the draft and free agency, some will opt for that least-used team building device: trades.
We've already seen a little of that thus far: New England's Bill Belichick aggressively traded for Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco in a frantic 24-hour period. It's cooled off somewhat since, but with another two months or so of potential trading time, let's examine some potential trade action.
Matt Light's on borrowed time with Nate Solder in town
Matt Light's on borrowed time. He's got young phenom OT Nate Solder already breathing down his neck; Solder was a force in his first full game for the Patriots against, oh, the Buccaneers. Light's a vet who has been dependable, if not overwhelming, the last few years. He's currently on a fairly hefty paycheck after his two-year extension signed in late July, and considering the Pats subsequently signed LG Logan Mankins and have three impressive blocking TEs on the roster—Rob Gronkowski, Lee Smith and Will Yeatman—the Pats might think they can go without Matt Light.
Even if the unthinkable happens and Solder goes down, the Pats know they have a swing-tackle who is of starting quality at LT in Sebastian Vollmer. To round it off, they have impressive draftee G/T Marcus Cannon on the NF/PUP list, who may be activated later in the season. If Belichick wants to pull the trigger and trade Light, he can.
So why the Buccaneers? First, they just had their O-line demolished by, oh, the Patriots. The first half had the Buccaneers QB sacked, hit or pressured on 24 of 28 snaps. That's just not good enough to cope in the NFL. DE Andre Carter in particular had a field-day playing tag with the QB through the turnstile that was the left tackle.
Those who saw the game might realize turnstile is somewhat accurate, as there was one snap in particular where Carter was hustling the poor OT towards his own end zone like Hugh Hefner would a conga-line of bunnies.
Matt Light would be an upgrade in Tampa Bay, and Belichick is the GM most likely to willingly part with a starting left tackle in exchange for draft picks with confidence.
About to be Cassel'd out of New England?
This happens to be much the same rationale as the previous trade; Patriots QB Brian Hoyer is the unfortunate soul to be caught between the rock (Tom Brady) and a hard place (impressive third-round draft pick rookie QB Ryan Mallett).
Hoyer had some action in last season in a mop-up role and acquitted himself pretty well. This preseason, he's built upon that foundation and has been genuinely impressive. He's playing himself into a starting gig somewhere, in much the way Matt Cassel did before him. While Hoyer could hold off the challenge from Mallett (he certainly did when he beat out previous third-round draft pick Kevin O'Connell for the right to be Cassel's backup as the #3 QB), Mallett might have shown enough in his preseason games to suggest Belichick take what he can get for Hoyer while he can.
This would have the added benefit of guaranteeing Mallett snaps in his own mop-up action this season, thus continuing the QB factory that has become the Patriots number-two spot on the depth chart.
As for the Redskins; well, yeah. Their QB woes are already well-known—their likely starter John Beck was turned away by Redskins security the first day after the lockout, and nobody could blame the poor guard for doing it. They'd pick up a gifted young QB who can game-manage efficiently without turnovers, and all they'd likely give up was a third-round draft pick or so, as that seems to be the going rate for a quarterback of Hoyer's talent and experience.
Would Dorsey benefit from a change of scenery and scheme?
Kansas City Chiefs DT/DE Glenn Dorsey has been somewhat underwhelming in the Chiefs defensive line. It isn't so much for lack of talent or effort, as playing a two-gap 3-4 isn't exactly great for the stat line, but when you draft a guy that early you want a destructive force like Richard Seymour.
Why the Green Bay Packers? First, the Pack have had injury issues with Mike Neal and CJ Wilson, both having been roughed up early in the season. They also lost pass-rushing specialist Cullen Jenkins in free agency, so adding Dorsey as a potential one-gap shooter could have benefits. At worst, they put Dorsey on the nose and free up BJ Raji to gap-shoot at RE, allowing Raji to unleash his inner pass-rush beast.
Kansas City GM Scott Pioli's no stranger to trades, so he could definitely make things happen in a way to suit both parties.
Ron Brace offers a little positional flexibility
Yes, Belichick again. Is it any surprise that he'd feature on a list of potential trades? And it shouldn't be a surprise he'd be trading to another branch of the Parcells coaching tree, Sean Payton.
Brace just happens to be a good player in a fairly loaded D-line assortment. He's competing with Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, Vince Wilfork and Gerard Warren for spots, and that's just naming the ex-first round draft picks.
There's a good chance he'll be the odd man out this year, and while Payton could potentially wait until the first wave of cuts, he'd have to compete with the rest of the league for a player he might prefer to trade for.
What would Brace bring? Positional flexibility, for one; he played in a 4-3 beside BJ Raji in a block-eating nose tackle role that allowed Raji to become a college sack king. In New England, he's played some 3-4 NT, 3-4 DE and some 4-3 DT. Greg Williams seems to be able to want to shift between 4-3 and 3-4 fronts, so Brace would help.
The other thing to take into consideration is just how weak the Saints have seemed up the middle. Brace is 330lbs; that takes a fair bit of moving.
Throw in the fact that Payton and Belichick go fishing together, and a trade could be consummated fairly quickly.
Choice in action against his new team?
Tashard Choice happens to be an added bonus in a fairly useful Cowboys backfield. Will a healthy Tony Romo and content Dez Bryant lead to an emphasis on the passing game again? Probably. In which case Choice might be ancillary to purposes, and thus trade-bait.
This is the time to bring up the Cardinals. They just lost Ryan Williams to a torn patella tendon and will be looking for help at RB. Some might suggest the Cardinals are overreactive this offseason (cough, Larry Fitzgerald's $50m guaranteed, Kevin Kolb trade), so a big move for Choice wouldn't be completely out of the picture. It would certainly fit the impression that they've gone all-in after a lackluster 2010.
Two-time Pro Bowler with zero-time job security
I swear this is the last of the potential Belichick trades, and this one seems one of the more likely.
Meriweather's been frustrating to the Patriots; he'll have a great game followed by one where penalties and blown coverages get him benched and/or fined. Belichick has a particular bugbear about mental errors, and Meriweather's full of them.
All the physical talent in the world doesn't keep you in New England if you have regular brain explosions (see: Moss, Randy), so Meriweather is trade-bait for the right price.
Who could use a two-time Pro Bowl S with hit-or-miss tendencies? The St. Louis Rams come to mind. Paired beside dependable Quintin Mikell, Meriweather could oust James Butler and be the flash to Mikell's grind. If Mikell can clean up behind Asante Samuel's route-jumping, he could certainly curb the excesses of Meriweather's predilection to jump routes or flash into the box on play-action.
It doesn't hurt that Belichick would have some familiarity with the Rams coaching staff, considering Josh McDaniels is now the Rams OC and Steve Spagnuolo was with Belichick on the Giants.
Combat-ready placeholder for 49ers?
Jon Kitna surprised a lot of people with his more than capable showing for the Cowboys last season. He certainly impressed more than Alex Smith has done thus far in the preseason (or last season, or any season of Smith's career).
Smith's not the answer, and the 49ers realize this with their acquisition of Colin Kaepernick in the draft. Kaepernick's not intended for this season, as evidenced by the extension they gave Alex Smith in this offseason, but they must be ruing that decision with every passing day.
Kitna could stay in Dallas, of course, but as a stop-gap starter with the intent of grooming a young QB to take over in a year or three, it seems a natural fit. Even the 49ers WR corps seems familiar: you've got the young but temperamental Dez Bryant clone in Michael Crabtree, the patchy-but-gifted Roy Williams-esque vet in Braylon Edwards, and a Jason Witten-like TE in Vernon Davis.
Seems a natural fit, right?
He's not Manning, but he's not bad.
Jimmy Clausen offers something that Curtis Painter doesn't: starting experience. If you said 'talent', you're a bit more cruel than I am. Clausen's also young, talented enough to play pretty well in patches last season, and has been ousted as the incumbent through the sheer economics of drafting No. 1 overall.
The other factors are the questions surrounding Manning: he's ageing, had neck surgery and has a pretty hazy recovery time frame. Colts fans are already writing off any games that Manning isn't a starter for, but that's more an indication of a lack of faith in their current backups than anything else.
Clausen as temporary game manager offers the Colts a greater chance than with Painter or Orlovsky, and if Manning is questionable, Clausen might be able to scrape through a .500 record while Peyton recovers. That's all a Colts fan could ask, in the circumstances.
Ted Turner hasn't ruled out a trade of Flynn, for the right price
Ted Thompson loves Matt Flynn, but he's effectively said he could learn to go without for the right price. Flynn was highly impressive in injury replacement duty last year in Aaron Rodgers' stead, so there's bound to be a market for his services if he were to hit the trade block.
And then you get the Miami Dolphins. Their own fans booed their incumbent starter, Chad Henne, and after not targeting any possible replacements in the draft or free agency, they're a little short of options. They can stick with Henne, or they can go after a guy who could make that Offense tick.
Brandon Marshall, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess and Co. could all benefit from a talented QB who can operate well in a vertical passing scheme.
Back where he's best - a traditional Cover-2
Asante Samuel hates being called a Cover-2 CB. He hated it when he was in New England, ripping fans for suggesting he was a "Cover-2 cornerback" while lauding Ty Law for being a real CB, and hating it when people suggest his success in Philadelphia was due to scheme.
However, to a certain extent it's true. Asante Samuel is definitely at his best when he's only asked to sit in a short zone and read the ball out of the QB's hands. He's a route-jumper at heart, and he's even better when he has a great pass-rush in front of him.
Great pass rush? Like that guy Julius Peppers, right? A Cover-2 like the Bears run, right? Yes, yes and yes. While the Bears probably need to upgrade their O-line more than anything, they have to be cognizant of the fact that within their division, they have the Packers, an ever-improving Lions squad, and a McNabb'd Vikings.
They'll need good CBs for their Cover-2, or else they'll be torched. Why not get one of the best CBs that'll fit their scheme? The Eagles likely won't mind unloading his big contract and attitude, and the Bears would get a guy who just plain fits.
Chan Gailey wanted Tebow more than was healthy, pre-draft
This one makes way too much sense. Tebow's been demoted to #3 QB in Denver; Chan Gailey wanted Tebow pre-draft so much that there was utter disbelief and disgust that Josh McDaniels' Broncos traded up to get him in the first round.
Denver likely wishes it could unload the Tebow distraction. Know any other #3 QBs that attract so much attention? The easy answer would be Mike Vick in 2009, but for all the wrong reasons.
Gailey would love Tebow, for a whole different raft of reasons. The Bills used an inordinate amount of gimmick/unusual sets last season, and Tebow would add whole new dimensions to an offense that already has a ridiculous amount of options with CJ Spiller, new recruit Brady Smith, Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick. What the Bills do lack is a TE, and seeing if Gailey could get some strange uses out of Tebow would be worth the price of admission alone.
The asking price isn't likely too high, given the seeming disdain the Broncos have for the Tebow sideshow. In this circumstance it would be a win-win, and thus seems most likely to occur from my list.
Surely not?! Well. Maybe...
Suggesting a Mario Williams trade is tantamount to blasphemy. Yet there seem to be solid reasons to consider it. Ponder this: Williams looked a little lost as a 3-4 OLB in Wade Phillips's one-gap 3-4. He's 290lbs, which is almost (but not quote) 3-4 DE size, but if you stacked at DE you'd lose some of his unparalleled speed by stacking him in front of bulky O-linemen. But when you put him standing up at 3-4 OLB, he loses a touch of his explosiveness, too.
In short, he doesn't look like he quite fits in the Houston scheme. He might adjust, but he might not, and having a fantastic 4-3 player toil away in a 3-4 just gets them frustrated and unproductive (Albert Haynesworth, anyone?).
What he loses in ability in the 3-4, he might gain in trade value to a 4-3 team. He's an utter wrecking ball at 4-3 DE, and everyone knows it. And because they know it, they're likely to pay for it. Bring in the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings lost Ray Edwards to the Falcons in free agency, so they've got relatively untested DEs opposite Jared Allen. At the same time that it seems their pass rush is weakened, their division rivals have all strengthened their passing game—Jay Cutler at the Bears, Aaron Rodgers at the Packers and Matt Stafford at the Lions can all pass effectively.
If the Vikings are to have any hope, they have to find a way to shut down the passing game, else they'll effectively forfeit six games a year automatically. Enter Mario Williams.
What would the Vikings need to give up to get him? A lot, obviously. But is it worth it? Most likely. The Vikings have to keep some semblance of dignity to go with their new stadium plans and potentially iffy franchise survival. To cement the Vikings in Minnesota, they might need to rope in a scary pass rush, and Mario Williams is their man to target.