NFL Players Who Should Be On The Trade Block In 2022
We're getting deep into the NFL offseason, with some mandatory minicamps already complete and the rest set to kick off in the next few days. Roster development now becomes a far bigger focus than roster building, though we're still going to see a few deals done in the coming months.
The trade market will remain open until midseason, and we already know a couple of players likely to be on the move.
The Cleveland Browns will presumably try to move quarterback Baker Mayfield at some point. They discussed dealing him to the Carolina Panthers during the draft and may get more aggressive in negotiations as the regular season approaches. The San Francisco 49ers, meanwhile, are expected to move quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo—who recently had shoulder surgery—before training camp.
"Garoppolo's shoulder is slated to get the all-clear in late June or early July, at which point the Niners will again seek a trade partner," Nick Wagoner of ESPN wrote.
Who else should be on the trade block in 2022? That's what we're here to examine. We'll dive into eight players for whom a trade would make sense—based on factors like roster depth, contract status, potential returns and any recent relevant buzz—along with logical landing spots for each.
Players are listed in alphabetical order.
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
This season, the New York Giants will be looking to discover if Daniel Jones can be their quarterback of the future. While this is the most important challenge facing the Giants, they'll also be looking to determine the future of running back Saquon Barkley.
The second overall pick in the 2018 draft is entering the fifth and final year of his rookie contract. He was superb as a rookie Pro Bowler but has had his career derailed by injuries. He barely topped 1,000 rushing yards in his second season, suffered a torn ACL in 2020 and averaged a mere 3.7 yards per carry in 2021.
However, Barkley appears healthier now, and New York is happy to have him on the roster.
"He's been good. He's been able to do everything we’ve asked him to do," head coach Brian Daboll told reporters. "...The routes we're asking him to run, his quickness, his ability to get in and out of breaks, his long speed. It's all looked good."
While a healthy Barkley could help get more out of Jones, he could also bring much-needed value in a trade. His guaranteed $7.2 million salary isn't excessive, and the Giants might be able to pry a high Day 2 pick from a contender if they're willing to absorb some of it.
The alternative for New York is letting Barkley play out his contract and then deciding whether to invest heavily in an up-and-down running back with a lengthy injury history. That's a tough position for a franchise that isn't ready to compete now.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ready to win now and could use another dual-threat running back after losing Ronald Jones II in free agency. Tampa has $10.5 million in cap space available and could afford to add Barkley as another outlet option for Tom Brady.
Barkley's contract situation may be easier to take for the Bucs than for other teams. Having Barkley on a one-year deal isn't as much of an issue for a team that may enter a full-blown rebuild if Brady retires (for real, this time) next offseason.
Best Fit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jessie Bates III, S, Cincinnati Bengals
Unlike the Giants, the Cincinnati Bengals should be in buyer's mode. They're coming off a Super Bowl loss and poised to again make noise in the AFC playoff race.
However, they should seriously consider moving standout safety Jessie Bates III. The 25-year-old was given the franchise tag this offseason but has no interest in playing under the tag in 2022.
"The safety has 'no intentions' of playing the 2022 season under the franchise tag, a person close to the situation told USA TODAY Sports+," Tyler Dragon of USA TODAY Sports+ wrote. "The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter."
If Bates relents and agrees to play on the tag, he's unlikely to be back in 2023, Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
Cincinnati used a first-round pick on versatile Michigan defensive back Daxton Hill, who could play either safety or corner for the Bengals. If Bates isn't in Cincinnati's long-term plans, it could look to move him and play Hill at safety.
The Philadelphia Eagles would be a logical trade partner for Cincinnati. They're outside of the conference, could use a replacement for departed free agent Rodney McLeod and are entering a win-now season.
Following the draft, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said that Philadelphia would "continue to look at" the safety position, according to Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
The challenge for the Eagles would be in offering Bates an extension that works with their current cap situation—perhaps a backloaded deal full of guarantees. Philadelphia has just $4 million in cap space available. If the Eagles can make the financials work, Bates would be an ideal trade target.
Best Fit: Philadelphia Eagles
Clelin Ferrell, Edge, Las Vegas Raiders
Like the Bengals, the Las Vegas Raiders are aiming for the playoffs in 2022. They gave Cincinnati everything it could handle in 2021 in the wild-card round and will look to get even deeper into the postseason this year.
Teams with playoff aspirations don't usually trade away pass-rushing depth, but the Raiders should see what they can get for disappointing 2019 first-round pick Clelin Ferrell. Las Vegas declined the Clemson product's fifth-year option this offseason and may lose him for nothing next offseason anyway.
With Chandler Jones joining Maxx Crosby as Las Vegas' starting edge-rusher, Ferrell has little value to the Raiders now. In 16 games last season, he logged just 1.5 sacks and 10 quarterback pressures.
As things stand, Ferrell will have an opportunity to revitalize his career in Patrick Graham's 3-4 scheme, but a change of scenery may be even better for the 25-year-old. The Cleveland Browns are a team that could provide it.
The Browns need pass-rushing depth behind Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, even after acquiring Chase Winovich and drafting Alex Wright. Cleveland has also shown a willingness to bring in former first-round disappointments. Last offseason, it added Takkarist McKinley. This offseason it added Taven Bryan.
Ferrell could serve as a nice reclamation project in Cleveland, while the Raiders could get some future draft capital out of the deal. His $10 million cap hit is noteworthy, but the Browns have more cap space than any team in the NFL right now.
Best Fit: Cleveland Browns
Deion Jones, LB, Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons are another rebuilding team that could look to move bloated contracts this season. Linebacker Deion Jones would be a logical trade chip, though there is a caveat. Now that June 1 has passed, the Falcons trade Jones after and save $1.07 million against the cap in 2022 while erasing his $12 million 2023 base salary.
The Athletic's Jeff Schultz called a Jones trade "warranted and likely imminent."
"If Jones had a leadership presence for younger players, the team could justify keeping him in 2022. But he has been anything but that," Schultz wrote.
As Schultz noted, Atlanta drafted three linebackers—Arnold Ebiketie, Troy Andersen and DeAngelo Malone—in April, which means Jones could be viewed as expendable. The challenge will be convincing a team to take on a chunk of Jones' guaranteed money.
The Dallas Cowboys, who have $20 million in cap space, could be a team willing to do just that.
Rob Phillips of the Cowboys' official website called linebacker a "position to watch" during the late offseason, and Jones would be a prime target. He had his lone Pro Bowl campaign under current Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who was the Falcons head coach in 2017.
However, any trade would likely wait until after the season kicks off and involve minimal compensation. The 27-year-old underwent shoulder surgery and is expected to miss the remainder of offseason workouts.
Best Fit: Dallas Cowboys
DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks didn't have wide receiver DK Metcalf in organized team activities (OTAs), as the Mississippi product continues to leverage for a new contract. However, head coach Pete Carroll is optimistic that there will be a resolution.
"These are crucial weeks to get something done, and we'll see what happens and hope that we can work something out," Carroll said, per ESPN's Brady Henderson. "[We] really intend to get that done."
This has been a big offseason for trading receivers seeking new contracts. The Green Bay Packers moved Davante Adams, while the Kansas City Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill. Both trades brought at least first- and second-round draft picks in return.
If Seattle can get something similar for the 24-year-old Metcalf, it should. Given his age and proven production—Metcalf has 2,270 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns over the last two seasons—it's not unrealistic.
While Metcalf could be a tremendous building block for the Seahawks, Seattle entered a rebuilding phase when it dealt Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. The Seahawks need to find their next franchise quarterback, and extra picks could prove invaluable if they go chasing the likes of Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud in the 2023 draft.
The Baltimore Ravens should jump at the chance to add Metcalf if he becomes available. They lack proven talent at the receiver position—especially after dealing Marquise Brown during the draft—and Metcalf is well versed in the scramble drill after spending three seasons as a big-bodied deep threat for Wilson.
Metcalf could play a similar role with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens while helping Baltimore get right back in the playoff mix.
Best Fit: Baltimore Ravens
Daron Payne, DT, Washington Commanders
The Washington Commanders are in more of a reloading phase than a rebuild. They won the NFC East two years ago but fell short of the playoffs in 2021. They acquired quarterback Carson Wentz from the Indianapolis Colts and are presumably eying a return to the postseason.
Still, the Commanders could look to move on from defensive lineman Daron Payne, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
Payne's $8.5 million salary is guaranteed, so Washington would likely be looking for a solid return rather than cap space—though if it gets a team to take on most of the salary, all the better.
Ben Standig of The Athletic reported before the draft that the Commanders "quietly" let other teams know Payne was available. Now, they should be a little louder about Payne being on the block.
Washington has a deep defensive line, headlined by Montez Sweat, Chase Young and Jonathan Allen. It can afford to move Payne for the right price. The Los Angeles Chargers might just be willing to meet it.
Los Angeles ranked 30th in run defense last season and has taken some steps to revamp its defensive front. It brought in Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Jackson and rookie fifth-round pick Otito Ogbonnia. However, 2019 first-round pick Jerry Tillery, who skipped early OTAs, isn't guaranteed a role in L.A. this season.
"He's going to fit into that competition of guys that are going to have to earn a role," head coach Brandon Staley said of Tillery, per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.
After adding J.C. Jackson and Khalil Mack this offseason, the Chargers are ready to win now. Acquiring Payne—who played 76 percent of the defensive snaps and finished with 61 tackles, six tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks—would further aid the Chargers' quest for a top-tier defense.
Best Fit: Los Angeles Chargers
Marcus Peters, CB, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens didn't have cornerback Marcus Peters in 2021, as he suffered a torn ACL during the preseason. While the three-time Pro Bowler is expected to play in 2022, he isn't quite back to 100 percent just yet.
"I'm in the right place, going in the right direction with my leg," Peters said last month, per The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec.
Instead of banking on a return to form from Peters, the Ravens should see what they can get for the 29-year-old on the trade market. He'll turn 30 next offseason and will be a free agent. Moving him now would save Baltimore $10 million off the cap while only incurring a dead-cap hit of $5.5 million.
The Ravens may need the additional cap space if they're hoping to extend quarterback Lamar Jackson—who is entering the final year of his rookie deal—this offseason.
The trick would be finding a contender willing to take a bit of a gamble on Peters. The Colts, who have $10.6 million in cap space, could be the perfect trade partner.
Peters wouldn't be out of the AFC, but he'd at least be with a team Baltimore doesn't play this season. The Colts, meanwhile, acquired quarterback Matt Ryan this offseason and are looking to make win-now moves.
Indy already added cornerback Stephon Gilmore in free agency. Peters could further bolster a group that ranked 19th in passing yards allowed and 20th in yards per attempt surrendered last season.
Best Fit: Indianapolis Colts
Robert Quinn, Edge, Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears are in rebuild mode following a six-win campaign and the firing of head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. Pass-rusher Robert Quinn, who finished with 18.5 sacks and 34 quarterback pressures, was one of Chicago's few bright spots last season.
The problem is that Quinn is 32 years old and has three years left on a five-year, $70 million deal. He's not a budget player for Chicago, and he may be gone by the time the Bears are ready to contend.
Quinn is reportedly interested in leaving Chicago, too.
"I continue to hear that Quinn wants out of Chicago—and who could blame him?—and there are a host of interested teams," CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora wrote. "Bears brass has told everyone he ain't going anywhere, but they will keep asking, and that's not lost on the veteran defensive end."
While Quinn's contract is hefty, it's not untradeable—it would cost a dead-cap charge of only $12.7 million and would save Chicago more than $4 million off the 2022 cap.
A return to the Cowboys could make a lot of sense for Quinn. Dallas is the defending NFC East champion, and it employed him during the 2019 season. The Cowboys also have $20 million in cap space and could use another pass-rusher after losing Randy Gregory in free agency.
The Cowboys did use a second-round pick on pass-rusher Sam Williams, but Quinn is a proven commodity who could make an immediate impact. Dallas could provide Quinn with a familiar home and a chance to chase the playoffs late in his career.