1 Player Each NFL Team Should Consider Trading Before the 2022 Season
Somewhere in the multiverse the NFL's biggest names are playing for different teams.
Each general manager is tasked with being his franchise's version of Dr. Strange to view all of the possible outcomes. He must find the one path toward winning a Super Bowl.
In order to do so, all possibilities must be considered, even if they are slim.
Many fail along the way. For example, Bill O'Brien's decision to trade wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins two years ago basically changed the direction of the Houston Texans, whereas the Los Angeles Rams made the right investment in quarterback Matthew Stafford, who helped pushed the franchise toward the promised land last season.
Almost everyone should be available for the right price.
Based on the construction of their rosters, teams may view certain players as more beneficial to trade or as simply screaming to be moved. In either instance, any trade offer should be under consideration.
Some on this list may be viewed as a stretch, but the possibility must be weighed in an attempt to capture the NFL's version of the Infinity Gauntlet.
Arizona Cardinals: WR Andy Isabella
The possibility of the Arizona Cardinals trading wide receiver Andy Isabella should come as no surprise.
Last October, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Isabella was a trade target as the regular-season deadline neared. Mike Garafolo tweeted in April that Isabella had been offered to a few teams leading up to the draft.
Yet the 2019 second-round pick remains a member of the Cardinals as he enters the last year of his rookie contract.
Last season, Isabella played in eight games and caught only one pass. He's never found a role in head coach Kliff Kingsbury's offense, and his spot on the roster is tenuous at best with Marquise Brown, A.J. Green, Rondale Moore, Antoine Wesley and DeAndre Hopkins (once he returns from a six-game suspension) ahead of him on the depth chart.
Despite Isabella's lack of production with only 31 receptions in three seasons, some team could take a low-risk flier on him because of his draft pedigree and his 4.31 40-yard-dash speed. For the Cardinals, something in return is better than nothing.
Atlanta Falcons: LB Deion Jones
The Atlanta Falcons are in transition, and their second-leading tackler may no longer have a place.
Deion Jones posted 130 or more tackles for the second time in his career in 2021. The 27-year-old veteran has averaged 109 tackles per season throughout his six years with the franchise.
However, his potential movement is based on two factors.
First, the Falcons entered this offseason in a significant financial bind. They dug themselves out of the hole even after taking on the largest dead-cap hit in NFL history ($40.5 million) when general manager Terry Fontenot traded quarterback Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts. Still, a move away from Jones can create more long-term flexibility.
A trade at this point in the year would save the Falcons $14.7 million if a suitor is willing to take on the entirety of Jones' contract. Atlanta could agree to pay a portion and still be better off from a financial perspective.
Furthermore, the team signed free-agent linebacker Rashaan Evans and drafted Troy Andersen in this year's second round. Sooner or later, they're going to man Atlanta's second line of defense.
Baltimore Ravens: S Chuck Clark
To be clear, the Baltimore Ravens don't plan on moving safety Chuck Clark.
"The idea is to have as many good players as you can have and have them in the right spots and the right roles," Harbaugh told reporters in May. "I love the fact that we have very versatile players in the backend and at safety. So, to me, Chuck is a big part of this team, and I'm planning on Chuck being here."
But the team did draft Kyle Hamilton when he unexpectedly fell to this year's 14th overall pick. Hamilton is a defensive chesspiece who's capable of playing all over the field. The Ravens' defensive staff will find ways to get him snaps. He may receive multiple big nickel looks with Clark and Marcus Williams also on the field.
Eventually, Hamilton will work his way into an expansive role, and Williams is set at free safety after he signed a five-year, $70 million free-agent deal this offseason.
Clark is a good player, and the Ravens can find ways to use him. But another team in search of a starting-caliber safety can see the writing on the wall and could make a play for his services.
Buffalo Bills: OL Cody Ford
A promising start to his career fell apart relatively quickly after Cody Ford never developed as a starter along the Buffalo Bills offensive line.
As a rookie, he started 15 contests between right tackle and guard. A torn meniscus limited his action the following year. In 2021, he was essentially benched in favor of rookie right tackle Spencer Brown. Granted, Ford played guard at the time, but veteran right tackle Daryl Williams moved inside to accommodate Brown's inclusion.
Now Ford could be the odd man out.
Dion Dawkins, Rodger Saffold, Mitch Morse, Ryan Bates and Brown are the team's projected starters (from left to right). Ike Boettger remains on the roster after starting 17 games over the last two seasons, though he's still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. Buffalo signed Greg Van Roten, David Quessenberry and Greg Mancz as free agents. Tommy Doyle and Luke Tenuta, meanwhile, are recent draft picks.
Besides, Ford is entering the final year of his rookie contract. An asset in return would be preferable to the lineman possibly walking as a free agent after this season.
Carolina Panthers: WR Robbie Anderson
A specific trade scenario that includes Carolina Panthers wide receiver Robbie Anderson could come to fruition.
The Panthers have been searching for a quarterback upgrade this offseason. They've failed at every turn. However, the strong possibility of a trade for Baker Mayfield remains on the table.
One option includes Anderson as part of said deal.
Last month, CBS Sports' Josina Anderson threw Anderson's name into the mix.
The Browns don't want eat the entirety or even the majority of Mayfield's $18.9 million salary-cap hit. By dealing Anderson, the Panthers would create extra space to offset Mayfield's deal, and the Browns would get a player of value at a position of need.
Carolina still has D.J. Moore, Terrace Marshall Jr. and Rashard Higgins to serve as its top three wide receivers—not to mention a healthy Christian McCaffrey for 2022—and a starting quarterback holds significantly more value than a No. 2 target.
Chicago Bears: Edge Robert Quinn
The Chicago Bears may not be rebuilding, but they're certainly starting anew under general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus.
"We're constructing a very good football team," Poles told reporters prior to the draft. ‘‘Regardless [of] how you use whatever term that is, we just continue to add talent. And young talent, older talent, whatever it takes to make the best team possible."
That response suggested the franchise was piecing things together without a consistent plan. It showed when the organization failed to place the necessary pieces around last year's No. 11 overall pick, quarterback Justin Fields, during draft weekend.
Maybe Poles and Co. should embrace a rebuild. A brand-new regime gets some leeway to implement its vision, but a player like Robert Quinn isn't a long-term solution.
No one can deny his ability to rush the passer and his near-superhuman ability to bend the edge and serve as one of the game's best sack artists. Even so, the 11-year veteran is 32 years old with a $17.1 million salary-cap hit this season. A trade would clear $12.9 million off the books.
The Bears can take the money they save this year and roll it into next offseason's biggest nest egg to really kick-start their building plan.
Cincinnati Bengals: S Jessie Bates III
The Cincinnati Bengals sit in a precarious position with one of their best players.
Earlier this offseason, they placed the franchise tag on Jessie Bates III. The 25-year-old safety plans to hold out in an effort to obtain a long-term deal.
In May, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported that Bates "does not intend to play on the tag, and when I asked a source involved what will happen if no deal is reached by July 15, the source said things will get 'interesting.'"
As Bates awaits a long-term extension, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Minkah Fitzpatrick signed a four-year, $73.6 million deal to make him the game's highest-paid safety in total value, average annual salary ($18.4 million) and guaranteed money at signing ($36 million).
Those numbers likely take the Bengals out of the market, especially when they are already prepared for the possibility of life after Bates.
During April's draft, the organization used the 31st overall pick on Michigan safety Dax Hill. Second-round pick Cam Taylor-Britt presents some corner/safety flexibility. The Bengals also chose Toledo safety Tycen Anderson in the fifth round.
If Bates won't play under the franchise tag, a trade may be necessary.
Cleveland Browns: QB Baker Mayfield
At this point, a Baker Mayfield trade is more about when, not if, it happens.
The Cleveland Browns made a decision to pursue Deshaun Watson. As soon as that occurred, the organization moved on from Mayfield as its starting quarterback, whether it wanted to admit it or not.
The No. 1 overall pick in 2018 certainly did. Nonetheless, Mayfield shouldn't have immediately written a thank you letter upon news of the Browns' chase for another signal-caller. A trade demand was the next logical step, much like Matt Ryan quietly requested from the Atlanta Falcons after their pursuit of Watson.
A reconciliation doesn't seem likely, even if the Browns are without Watson for an extended period of time. The league is expected to issue a lengthly suspension to Watson under its personal-conduct policy after there were 24 lawsuits filed against him, some of which are still pending, accusing him of sexual assault or misconduct during massage sessions.
"No. I think for that to happen there would have to be some reaching out," Mayfield told Sooner Scoop's Carey Murdock. "But we're ready to move on, I think, on both sides."
At this point, the biggest holdups revolve around Mayfield's $18.9 million fully guaranteed fifth-year option, how many suitors are legitimately interested in him and how much of his salary they'd be willing to pay.
Because of the timing of the Watson acquisition, most teams already had their quarterbacks in place, with the bulk of their yearly budgets already spent.
The Browns aren't negotiating from a position of strength in a buyer's market. Maybe a team will increase its bid slightly before training camp begins. Otherwise, the Browns must place their hopes in an injury creating some leverage.
Dallas Cowboys: RB Ezekiel Elliott
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Calm down. The Dallas Cowboys should *consider* trading Ezekiel Elliott.
Yes, Elliott is still one of the league's best running backs when healthy. He's surely a favorite among Dallas Cowboys faithful. Even so, think about where the team stands in relation to his play and compensation.
Elliott is a four-time 1,000-yard rusher, three-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time NFL rushing leader. At points, he's served as the heartbeat of the Cowboys offense.
He's also the league's highest-paid player (in total value) at a devalued position.
While Elliott posted big numbers, the Cowboys won only a single playoff game and didn't get past the divisional round. Meanwhile, his salary-cap charge this season is $18.2 million. Then he's under contract for the next four campaigns and the number never dips below $14.3 million.
By trading him now, the Cowboys can save $12.4 million toward this year's salary cap, which can be rolled over to 2023. Unsurprisingly, the Cowboys are in the red going into next offseason.
The offense is now built around quarterback Dak Prescott, and backup running back Tony Pollard is more than capable of taking on an expanded role.
Dallas might not be as good in the running game without Elliott, but their previous approach hasn't gotten them the success they've desired. An Elliott trade would create far more flexibility for the franchise to operate.
Denver Broncos: Edge Malik Reed
A team can almost never have too many pass-rushers, but the numbers game eventually comes into play.
The Denver Broncos are deep at outside linebacker.
Bradley Chubb should be back and operating at full tilt after suffering an ankle injury last season that cost him 10 games. Denver signed Randy Gregory to a five-year, $70 million free-agent contract this offseason. The team then selected Nik Bonitto with its top pick (64th overall) in this year's draft. Jonathon Cooper started five games as a rookie last season. Baron Browning, meanwhile, will convert from off-ball linebacker to full-time edge defender.
"It's crazy when it comes to Baron," Chubb told reporters. "The natural skills he has for the position, it's amazing. You'll see him go out there, and he just throws his shoulder down. To him it feels like he's doing just that, but on film, it looks like the craziest thing ever."
The Broncos are five-deep at the position before even mentioning Malik Reed, who led the team's OLB group last season with five sacks.
A potential hang-up exists with Reed's contract status since he's not signed beyond 2022. Considering the depth the team has and the likelihood of Reed leaving after this year, he could be flipped to another squad for a future draft asset.
Detroit Lions: OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai
The Detroit Lions still aren't a fully realized team under the direction of general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell. The current regime entered arguably the worst situation last season from a roster standpoint, and it's still building a lineup capable of executing its vision.
The offensive line is the nexus point. The strength of the front five will determine how successful the Lions can be this fall. So why trade one of the starters?
Halapoulivaati Vaitai is the weakest link among the starting five, and his level of play isn't commensurate with his pay. Vaitai signed a five-year, $45 million contract prior to the 2020 season when the Lions were trying to build up their trenches.
Today, Taylor Decker is rock-solid at left tackle. Left guard Jonah Jackson went to his first Pro Bowl last season. Frank Ragnow is one of the league's better centers. And Penei Sewell is one of the game's most promising young tackles heading into his second campaign.
A Vaitai trade would save Detroit $7 million, and his spot can be capably filled by Evan Brown, who started 12 games last season for an injured Ragnow, Logan Stenberg or Tommy Kraemer.
Green Bay Packers: QB Jordan Love
The Green Bay Packers find themselves in a mess of their own making. Well, mess might not be the right term since the organization still has Aaron Rodgers after his back-to-back MVP campaigns. But the messy aspect deals with Jordan Love, whom general manager Brian Gutekunst drafted to be Rodgers' eventual replacement.
But Love's long-term status with the team remains in question after Rodgers signed the most lucrative deal (for average annual salary at $50 million) in league history.
"I was super happy for Aaron," Love told reporters. "Obviously, the dude deserves it, what he's done the last two years. Personally for me, it just means I'm about to be a backup again for this year. That's all I can control right now. I was happy for Aaron, but at the same time, it's like, 'Ahh.'"
Sure, Rodgers will turn 39 later this year, and he could retire next offseason. But the Packers must operate as if he'll play for the majority of his deal, which takes him well into his 40s.
A major decision is forthcoming regarding Love's contract status. Green Bay must decide whether to pick up the 23-year-old quarterback's fifth-year rookie option next offseason. The better solution might be to move him now since he may never become the starter and look for another Rodgers replacement down the road.
Houston Texans: OL Max Scharping
The Houston Texans have a roster still in transition.
Aside from tackles Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard and the recent draftees—including 2022 third overall pick Derek Stingley Jr., first-round guard Kenyon Green and second-round selections Jalen Pitre and John Metchie III—the team doesn't feature much of a foundation.
The majority of the roster is made up of unproven young players, castoffs from other squads and lower-tier free-agent signings who are primarily under contract for two years or fewer.
Desirable trade targets aren't exactly plentiful in Houston. But teams are always searching for experienced offensive line depth, and Max Scharping fits the bill.
Scharping started 33 games over his first three seasons, though a transition appears to be occurring along the Texans' offensive interior. Beyond Green's selection in the draft, Houston signed veterans A.J. Cann and Justin Britt to man right guard and center, respectively.
The roster also features interior depth with starting experience in Justin McCray, Jimmy Morrissey and Scott Quessenberry.
Indianapolis Colts: Edge Ben Banogu
Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard believes in building the most athletic team possible.
"I want to make sure we're getting the best guy with traits," Ballard said on an episode of the Colts' in-house series With the First Pick. "Let's bet on the traits. Bet on high-end, high-end traits."
Ben Banogu has entered the chat. Ballard chose the edge defender in the second round in 2019 after Banogu posted an elite relative athletic score during the predraft process, per Pro Football Network's Kent Lee Platte. Unfortunately, his raw athleticism hasn't translated to the field.
In three seasons, he has managed 2.5 sacks. To be fair, the edge-rusher has dealt with ankle and hamstring injuries. But the Colts reached the point where they needed more from the position.
As a result, Ballard traded for Yannick Ngakoue this offseason to serve as the "Leo" in coordinator Gus Bradley's defensive scheme. The team also re-signed Tyquan Lewis and brought in Ifeadi Odenigbo to create more competition. Both Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo should improve in their second years as well.
Maybe the Colts will try to see if Banogu's potential finally materializes this season. Or they can move him on a low-level deal since their group of defensive ends is far more stable today than it was entering the offseason.
Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Laviska Shenault Jr.
People around the Jacksonville Jaguars organization are taking notice of wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. this offseason.
"He looks a lot faster," second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence said last month, per the Florida Times-Union's John Reid. "He's just going to be that guy when you get the ball in his hands. He's going to make the play. I think he's made a big improvement since last season, and he's really been attacking it. I think it's showing on the practice field."
Trade rumors have swirled around the 2020 second-round pick for months.
A new coaching staff led by Doug Pederson in Jacksonville gives Shenault an opportunity to carve out a role. On the other hand, the new staff doesn't have any ties to the team's previous draft picks.
Shenault might be fighting an uphill battle after the Jaguars signed Christian Kirk and Zay Jones in free agency. Marvin Jones Jr. remains part of the rotation. Jamal Agnew could also see an increase in wide receiver reps once he's recovered from last year's hip injury.
Shenault has a chance to find his niche under Pederson's supervision, though Jacksonville shouldn't turn away another team with a good offer considering the state of the depth chart at the position.
Kansas City Chiefs: OT Lucas Niang
The Kansas City Chiefs spent last offseason making sure Patrick Mahomes would never be forced to run for his life the way he did during Super Bowl LV.
They signed left guard Joe Thuney to a five-year, $80 million free-agent contract, flipped multiple draft picks to the Baltimore Ravens for left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and hit absolute home runs with the selections of center Creed Humphrey and right guard Trey Smith in last year's class.
Such a rapid and effective turnaround should be applauded. However, right tackle still isn't settled.
The Chiefs took Lucas Niang in the third round of the 2020 draft. After opting out of his rookie campaign because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Niang started nine games last year. In January, he suffered a torn patellar tendon. Andrew Wylie filled in admirably.
"The other thing that Andrew brings—really— is an energy, a toughness," offensive line coach Andy Heck told reporters in January. "He's a tough kid that loves football. He's absolutely essential to what we're doing here. Those kinds of unheralded guys that do the dirty work like that? That's what it's all about."
With Wylie on the roster, Geron Christian's free-agent signing and Darian Kinnard's selection in this year's fifth round, Kansas City can move Niang elsewhere.
Las Vegas Raiders: Edge Clelin Ferrell
Remember how former Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock vehemently defended Clelin Ferrell's selection with the fourth overall pick in the 2019 draft despite it being panned as a massive reach?
"At the end of the day, people act like the thought wouldn't occur to me to trade down and still get Cle," Mayock told Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer (h/t Herbie Teope of NFL.com). "He was our guy, OK? And whether we got him at 4, 8, 10, it didn't matter. He was gonna be our guy."
Ferrell was saddled with outsized expectations as a top-five selection, and he's never come close to achieving any of them. In three seasons, the defensive lineman has managed a meager eight sacks. He's not a difference-maker and doesn't even have a specific role in the coaching staff's new defense.
General manager Dave Ziegler, head coach Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham have no ties to the 25-year-old edge. At this point, he's nothing more than sunk cost and possible depth. Instead of trying to shoehorn him into their system, the Raiders could try to trade him to another squad that still sees some potential in him.
That might be best for both parties.
Los Angeles Chargers: DL Jerry Tillery
The Los Angeles Chargers clearly weren't happy with the majority of last year's defensive front. Joey Bosa is a franchise player. Beyond him, the group needed an overhaul.
In order to solidify a soft front incapable of being able to do what was necessary to implement head coach Brandon Staley's defensive scheme, the Chargers traded second- and sixth-round picks to the Chicago Bears for Khalil Mack, signed free agents Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson and Morgan Fox and drafted Otito Ogbonnia.
The moves are an indictment of 2019 first-round pick Jerry Tillery, whose game is often predicated on creating pressure but not consistently holding the point of attack.
"He's going to fit into that competition of guys that's going to have to earn a role," Staley told reporters of Tillery in May. "I think that during this springtime and during training camp, all those guys are going to have to really duke it out to establish themselves."
The Chargers already declined Tillery's fifth-year rookie option. Another team may value the 28th overall pick more highly based on how his skill set fits into a different scheme.
Los Angeles Rams: RB Darrell Henderson Jr.
Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers accomplished what was previously unthinkable when he returned to play during the 2021 campaign only five months after tearing his Achilles before training camp.
Akers' explosivity wasn't quite there, but he carried the ball 67 times during the postseason. No other player on the Rams had even half of that number.
During Akers' absence, Sony Michel, not Darrell Henderson Jr., became L.A.'s leading rusher at 845 yards. Though Henderson did miss five regular-season contests with an MCL sprain.
Clearly, Akers is the Rams' feature back moving forward, while Henderson is a free agent after this season.
Los Angeles already has two recent draft picks behind Akers and Henderson in Jake Funk and Kyren Williams, who is dealing with a broken foot but should be back for training camp this month. The latter is arguably the best third-down/receiving back from this year's draft class.
"I think the biggest thing, as a running back in general in pass pro, is having a mindset," Williams said during his introductory press conference. "You can't have a mindset of being shy or timid. You've gotta be able to deliver the blow first to the linebacker. That's something I've always been taught."
Miami Dolphins: RB Myles Gaskin
Myles Gaskin led the Miami Dolphins in rushing yardage in each of the last two seasons. The effort wasn't good enough.
The team ranked in the bottom three in rushing last season and in the bottom half of the league during the previous year. Mike McDaniel's hire as head coach should dramatically change the team's offensive scheme and personnel.
Gaskin might have gone from the Dolphins' top back to its fourth-best option after Miami signed Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel as free agents.
Edmonds was one of six running backs with 100-plus carries to average at least 5.0 yards per tote. Mostert spent the last five seasons playing in the same offense that McDaniel brought with him from the San Francisco 49ers. Michel, meanwhile, led the reigning Super Bowl champion Rams in rushing yards during the 2021 regular season.
“Iron sharpens iron. I know these guys' skill sets," Michel told reporters during organized team activities. "They are all great runners. ... I think it benefits this team that we all compete our best and eventually we’ll be our best. The opportunities will come. You've just got to take advantage of them."
History tells us everyone might not get an opportunity since the players a regime invests in often have inherent advantages over the incumbents.
Minnesota Vikings: S Harrison Smith
Harrison Smith will eventually leave the Minnesota Vikings and be considered an all-time great in the franchise's history. That moment may come sooner rather than later.
Smith made the Pro Bowl in six of the last seven seasons, including last year. But he's also 33 years old and signed a hefty four-year, $64 million contract extension last offseason under the franchise's previous regime.
A trade now will allow the Vikings to save $3.5 million this season—which can be rolled into next year's salary-cap availability—while avoiding massive charges from 2023 to '25.
Besides, new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah already drafted Smith's replacement. The Vikings chose Lewis Cine with the 32nd overall pick. The two can certainly play together, but Cine is an absolute hammer. He proved to be the eraser on Georgia's national championship defense.
Head coach Kevin O'Connell expects Cine to be a leader, even as a rookie.
"I told him today: 'Hey, lead this group out here. There's a reason why you were our first-round draft pick,'" O'Connell told reporters in May. "He's got that makeup, and it comes naturally to him to lead by example. But I challenged him, 'Take the rest of that DB group under your wing.'"
The Vikings also have Camryn Bynum ready to compete for a starting spot.
New England Patriots: WR N'Keal Harry
The New England Patriots struggle to draft wide receivers, particularly early in the process. It's OK to admit that head coach Bill Belichick isn't perfect. But the organization corrects its mistakes.
In 2019, the Patriots chose N'Keal Harry with the 32nd overall pick. Harry struggled from Day 1 to create separation and never developed to the point where he's a serious thought in the passing game plans.
Nearly a year has passed since Harry's agent publicly requested a trade for his client. Nothing materialized. Harry held out of team workouts this offseason. His representation told NFL Network's Mike Garofolo he's had "positive dialogue with the Patriots about exploring trade possibilities."
ESPN's Mike Reiss called Harry a "long shot" to even make this year's roster. He should be after the acquisitions of veteran DeVante Parker and second-round pick Tyquan Thornton to go along with Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers. Matt Slater is a mainstay on special teams, of course.
With Harry being on the trade block for so long, interest must be minimal, if not nonexistent. New England should end this relationship and get anything it can from the mutual divorce.
New Orleans Saints: CB Bradley Roby
The flexibility within the New Orleans Saints secondary is extraordinary.
Tyrann Mathieu signed a three-year, $28.3 million free-agent contract as as elite defensive playmaker. Fellow safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson is another defensive back who's capable of covering the slot and playing multiple roles.
P.J. Williams, who re-signed this offseason on a one-year contract, can play over the slot or outside of the numbers. Marshon Lattimore is one of the game's best cover corners. Last year's third-round pick, Paulson Adebo, emerged as a starting-caliber option opposite Lattimore.
Added depth comes in 2022 second-round pick Alontae Taylor.
The Saints now have six legitimate defensive backs capable of covering nearly any situation. With this kind of depth and New Orleans already being...*gasp*...deep in the red when looking toward the 2023 salary cap, the possibility of jettisoning the 30-year-old Bradley Roby and his contract should be on the table.
Conversely, Roby isn't too old or expensive to be unmanageable for another franchise. A trade would save the Saints $1.1 million now and keep them from paying his an extra $3.5 million in each of the next two seasons.
New York Giants: RB Saquon Barkley
New Giants head coach Brian Daboll brings the type of offense that's capable of reigniting running back Saquon Barkley's career. At the same time, new general manager Joe Schoen must consider the possible limitations of keeping the 2018 second overall pick on the roster.
The two of them must then decide how much they value the running back position. During Daboll's four-year tenure as the Buffalo Bills' offensive coordinator, the unit never featured a runner with more than 870 yards in a single season.
A healthy Barkley can still be an offensive weapon, and his usage in the passing game should increase under Daboll's supervision.
However, the position clearly isn't a necessity for the scheme to be effective. Matt Breida is an experienced back behind Barkley with explosive capabilities.
The real issue is with Barkley's $7.2 million salary-cap charge this season. He'll be the sixth-highest paid back before he even signs his first non-rookie deal.
If the Giants don't value the position highly, they can get ahead of the curve and deal Barkley to a team that does and feels he can still be the unique talent many originally thought he was when New York drafted him.
New York Jets: RB Tevin Coleman
The New York Jets signed Tevin Coleman last offseason, and the move made all the sense in the world. Things change.
Coleman spent years working in an outside zone scheme, which head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur brought with them from the 49ers. In fact, Coleman spent the the previous two seasons playing for the NFC West squad.
However, Coleman, who turned 29 in April, eventually gave way to Michael Carter as the team's starting back. The fourth-round rookie led the team with 147 carries for 639 yards last season.
The Jets continued to shake up their backfield when general manager Joe Douglas choose Breece Hall with the 36th overall pick, making him the highest-drafted running back this year.
"The Jets like Carter a lot. They believe he’s a quality back," The Athletic's Connor Hughes wrote. "They’ve always viewed him as an ideal complement, though, in Mike LaFleur's 'running back by committee.' Hall, whom the Jets consider a home-run threat, is now the Batman to Carter's Robin. The Jets will use both, but Hall is the lead back."
Based on the previous explanation, little room seems to exist for the veteran Coleman.
Philadelphia Eagles: G Isaac Seumalo
Isaac Seumalo started every game in which he played over the last three seasons, albeit that includes only 12 contests over the last two years. Seumalo won't be handed anything this season, even though he's considered the early favorite to start at left guard after Brandon Brooks' retirement.
Seumalo will make a switch from the left to the right side after losing his job to Landon Dickerson thanks to a Lisfranc injury, and he'll face plenty of competition.
"Switching from one guard to the next, there's different technicalities and weight position, all this specific O-line stuff," the 28-year-old lineman told reporters.
"... Every year, you're competing. They're always going to bring in somebody to compete for your job. I think when I’m healthy, I can play at a really high level. ... I don't plan on taking any breaks. My goal is to be ready."
Jack Driscoll, Sua Opeta and second-round rookie Cam Jurgens will all be given an opportunity to win the job. The fact that any of the three could usurp the spot shows how much depth the Eagles have along their offensive line.
Furthermore, Seumalo is the most expensive option with a $7.7 million salary-cap charge this season. A trade would save the Eagles $5.7 million.
Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Devin Bush
The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the league's most patient franchises. So the decision to trade up 10 picks and select linebacker Devin Bush with the 10th overall pick of the 2019 draft came as a surprise.
Three years later, Bush has been a disappointment, and Pittsburgh chose not to pick up his fifth-year rookie option. The Athletic's Mark Kaboly stated this season is likely Bush's last in a Steelers uniform.
The investment made sense at the time. The team struggled after Ryan Shazier suffered a career-ending spinal injury, and Bush looked like a perfect fit as a new hybrid defender with the speed and athleticism to run side-to-sideline and cover in space.
After a strong rookie campaign, he suffered a torn ACL during his second season. He didn't look like the same explosive or confident athlete the following year.
The organization, meanwhile, signed Myles Jack in March. Robert Spillane gained starting experience over the last two seasons. Buddy Johnson can possibly take on a bigger role as well.
Pittsburgh needs consistency from its linebackers since they will be asked to carry the team at points. The group is capable of doing so with T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick leading the way. The defense doesn't necessarily need Bush to achieve its goals.
San Francisco 49ers: QB Jimmy Garoppolo
Jimmy Garoppolo might be a 10, but he's not a high-level starter.
The San Francisco 49ers did something about it when they traded up to the third overall pick in the 2021 draft to acquire his eventual replacement, Trey Lance.
"Trey's got more horsepower inside of him than I think he even knows of, just from the whole talent, but also what he's made of, how intelligent he is," head coach Kyle Shanahan told 49ers Webzone last month (h/t Martin O'Donnell of MSN.com). "I think he’s going to be able to overcome adversity. I do believe he’s going to be able to handle this pressure. It’s going to be hard, but that’s what the position is."
The inevitable transition from one starter to the next placed Garoppolo on the trade block months ago. But offseason shoulder surgery coupled with a $27 million cap charge created obstacles in getting any deal done.
According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, Garoppolo is on track to start throwing at some point in the coming weeks. As for his contract, the 49ers are allowing him to renegotiate his deal with potential suitors, per Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer.
While the timing is difficult since few teams are searching for a starting quarterback, Garoppolo is a proven entity with 47 career starts and experience leading a team into the playoffs and to a Super Bowl. How a squad can rework his deal will determine how attractive he becomes as an option.
Seattle Seahawks: WR DK Metcalf
No significant reason exists for the Seattle Seahawks to entertain a trade involving wide receiver DK Metcalf. But things can change, especially if contract-extension negotiations become contentious.
"My understanding is there is still a lot that needs to get done to get a deal done," Pull Up Pod's Jordan Schultz said during an interview on Pro Football Focus' Ari Meirov NFL Show. "... But Seattle values DK a tremendous amount. I don't think there’s any question about it."
The other side of the equation should be considered as well. Metcalf and his representation may look at Seattle's uncertain quarterback situation and what appears to be a setup for a run-first offense and then decide staying in Seattle isn't in his best interest.
The NFL has already seen some of its biggest names at wide receiver swap squads. Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, A.J. Brown, Marquise Brown and Deebo Samuel wanted massive deals. All but one is now with a new team (and Samuel could still be traded).
Who's to say Metcalf won't take a page out of their playbook and use it as leverage? He's clearly the biggest star on the Seahawks roster and holds significant bargaining power as a result.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Tyler Johnson
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the NFL's deepest team at wide receiver.
Mike Evans will look to extend a league record by posting his ninth straight 1,000-yard campaign to start his career. The front office designated Chris Godwin as the team's franchise player earlier this offseason before Godwin signed a three-year, $60 million contract.
Tampa Bay also brought it Russell Gage as a free agent. Breshad Perriman, Scotty Miller and Jaelon Darden are still on the roster. General manager Jason Licht even signed college football's leading receivers in yardage, Jerreth Sterns and Deven Thompkins, as undrafted free agents. The latter already caught the eye of Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles.
"He's quick, he's fast, he's explosive off the ball, and he's made some good catches," Bowles said, per Greg Auman of The Athletic. "So we want to see how he continues to learn and how he does in training camp and preseason. I’ll be looking at him."
Where does that leave Tyler Johnson, whom the Bucs drafted in the fifth round two years ago? Well, he hasn't developed into a significant contributor.
Licht can take advantage of his team's depth and flip Johnson to a wide receiver-needy squad for an asset. That will also give others more opportunities as they compete for a spot as part of the regular-season lineup.
Tennessee Titans: TE Geoff Swaim
Geoff Swaim proved himself as a solid contributor for the Tennessee Titans. But the offense is slowly changing, including the tight end spot.
Austin Hooper and fourth-round rookie Chigoziem Okonkwo should be the unit's top two players at the position.
Hooper's tenure with the Cleveland Browns didn't go as well as expected, so the franchise released the two-time Pro Bowl selection. While Hooper struggles to create mismatches and separation, he's a true "Y" tight end with reliable hands.
Okonkwo has a different and complementary skill set as a detached option. The 6'3", 238-pound "F" tight end brings 4.52-second 40-yard-dash speed to stretch the seam.
"Chig's done a great job for us," quarterback Ryan Tannehill told reporters at minicamp. "He's made some big strides this spring. I’m proud of the way he’s come in, learned what to do, and we'll continue to push him on that. But just physically, to see his size, his strength, his speed, how he's able to play through contact, he definitely gives us another weapon."
Last season, the Titans ranked 17th in 12 personnel usage, per Sharp Football Stats. Swaim's inclusion on the roster isn't necessary, and the Titans could find some value for the experienced tight end on the trade market.
Washington Commanders: QB Taylor Heinicke
Quarterback Taylor Heinicke started 15 of 17 regular-season games for the Washington Commanders last season. Clearly, the team had seen enough.
Heinicke has a wonderful story as an underdog who rose to the occasion and got the most of his ability. The undrafted free agent also had a stint with the XFL's St. Louis BattleHawks.
The 29-year-old showed he can play, even if he's not Kurt Warner.
However, the Commanders traded for Carson Wentz in March. Heinicke's skill set didn't do enough to open up Washington's offense. Head coach Ron Rivera believes Wentz's can.
"It allows us to throw the ball vertical more so than we had in the past," Rivera told reporters. "It opens up some stuff underneath in the passing game; it opens up some of the running game knowing that you're not going to be able to put eight guys in the box and forcing [the defense] to choose five, six, seven guys in the box."
Washington also drafted North Carolina's Sam Howell in this year's fifth round and signed Southeastern Louisiana's Cole Kelley as an undrafted free agent. Two rookies with promise behind Wentz should be all Washington needs at quarterback. Others teams, meanwhile, could use a quality backup or bridge in Heinicke.