Bold Predictions for NFL's Top 5 Trade Targets Right Now
The clock is ticking for NFL teams to polish up their rosters ahead of training camp.
With every team reporting by July 26, front offices have only two weeks left to sign free agents and execute trades that will allow their new acquisitions to get a complete training camp under their belts.
Because of this time crunch, several blockbuster deals involving some of the league’s brightest stars could go down over the next fortnight.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the top players who teams should be targeting and make some bold predictions on where they will land.
Jimmy Garoppolo to Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers receive: QB Jimmy Garoppolo
San Francisco 49ers receive: 2023 third-round pick
The San Francisco 49ers have been ready to move on from veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo since the end of the 2021 season but have yet to find a taker. His decision to undergo surgery on his throwing shoulder put off potential suitors early in the offseason.
Garoppolo's agent, Don Yee, told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero that the signal-caller is "progressing well" in his rehab from that surgery. However, NFL insider Dan Sileo thinks the 30-year-old will “probably” miss the first month of the regular season, according to SI.com’s Grant Cohn.
Because of Garoppolo's availability concerns, franchises in need of a starting quarterback for the 2022 season—such as the Seattle Seahawks and potentially the Cleveland Browns, pending the results of Deshaun Watson's disciplinary hearing—may be leery about dealing for him. Instead, a club that has one of the NFL's best starting signal-callers could emerge as the top suitor.
Sileo said the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would “love” to bring Garoppolo in as the heir apparent to Tom Brady, who briefly retired this offseason. Having a replacement like Garoppolo—whom the New England Patriots drafted as a potential heir to Brady in 2014—on the roster would make for a much smoother transition than the one that Bucs nearly had to undertake this offseason.
With the Baker Mayfield trade helping set the market, the Buccaneers—who have $12.5 million in cap space but could get some relief if San Francisco takes on some of Garoppolo's $24.2 million base salary—would likely only need to give up a Day 2 draft pick for him.
Deebo Samuel to Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers receive: WR Deebo Samuel
San Francisco 49ers receive: 2023 first-round pick, 2023 third-round pick
Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t the only player whom the San Francisco 49ers may deal this offseason. Deebo Samuel’s trade request has been lingering over them for months.
While the star receiver ultimately reported to mandatory minicamp, he has yet to rescind the ask and still may be angling to land with another team this offseason.
During an appearance on the Colin Cowherd Podcast (h/t Fox Sports), NFL analyst Mike Silver theorized that the switch from Jimmy Garoppolo to Trey Lance under center may be contributing to Samuel's trade request.
"Maybe Deebo is upset because he wants to get paid now, and he feels an urgency because he knows Jimmy can get that ball in a way that sets him up for lots and lots and damage," Silver said.
Samuel is coming off his best campaign yet. He caught 77 passes for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns with Garoppolo as his primary quarterback, and he also added 365 yards and eight scores on 59 rushing attempts.
If Samuel is truly concerned about the Niners' quality of play under center, dealing him to the Los Angeles Chargers would make plenty of sense. The Bolts not only have one of the NFL’s top young quarterbacks in Justin Herbert, but they also possess the draft capital to get a deal done.
Adding Samuel into the mix would elevate L.A.’s receiving corps—a unit that already has a perennial Pro Bowler in Keenan Allen and another dangerous playmaker in Mike Williams—to one of the best in the league.
It will take a strong offer to convince the 49ers to part with Samuel, but it would be worth the cost as the Chargers look to make a Super Bowl run in 2022.
Robert Quinn to Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Rams receive: Edge Robert Quinn
Chicago Bears receive: 2023 second-round pick, 2023 third-round pick
The Chicago Bears are in the midst of rebuilding after a disappointing season and may not be done cleaning house.
Robert Quinn is coming off a resurgent 2021 campaign. He racked up 18.5 sacks—the second-most in the league—and proved he could still be one of the league’s top pass-rushers.
While Quinn is an undeniable asset on the edge, the 32-year-old could be of even more value to Chicago as a trade chip. He still has three seasons remaining on his five-year, $70 million contract, but he doesn’t seem interested in spending the twilight of his career with a rebuilding organization.
The 11-year veteran skipped out on Chicago’s mandatory minicamp last month, which new head coach Matt Eberflus said was not excused. CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported in May that Quinn "wants out" after the Bears traded Khalil Mack and did not retain Akiem Hicks as a free agent.
Even if Quinn starts the 2022 season on Chicago’s roster, La Canfora noted he could be the “prize of the trade-deadline market” and generate significant interest from contenders. The Los Angeles Rams are no stranger to making splashy trades for veteran pass-rushers and could be the best place for Quinn to land.
The franchise coughed up a pair of Day 2 picks for a half-season rental of Von Miller last year and could go a similar route with Quinn. Dealing a pair of draft selections for a talented player on a reasonable contract who can plug up a glaring edge-rushing hole through the 2024 season would be a shrewd move for the defending champions.
L.A. holds second- and third-rounders in the 2023 draft and has nearly $10 million in available cap space. Shipping those picks to Chicago and making a few minor moves to fit Quinn’s contract in could get this deal done before training camp begins.
DK Metcalf to Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys receive: WR DK Metcalf
Seattle Seahawks receive: 2023 first-round pick, 2023 second-round pick
The Dallas Cowboys went from boasting one of the league’s most enviable receiving corps in 2021 to being thin at the position this summer. They traded Amari Cooper, lost Cedrick Wilson in free agency and are still waiting for Michael Gallup to make a full recovery from a torn ACL that he suffered in Week 17.
If the Cowboys want to bolster their receiving corps, they shouldn’t settle for anything less than one of the best young talents at the position. Fortunately, one such player could be available for the right price.
DK Metcalf has amassed 3,170 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns over his first three years with the Seattle Seahawks and is now in line for a contract extension. While fellow 2019 draftees Hunter Renfrow, A.J. Brown and Terry McLaurin have all received big-money deals over the last few months, Metcalf still has yet to cash in.
The 24-year-old skipped Seattle’s mandatory minicamp while holding out for his new deal. The Cowboys could swoop in and capitalize on this situation, offering the rebuilding Seahawks a package of draft capital in exchange for the rising star.
NFL Network’s Rich Eisen (h/t Mike Fisher of Cowboys Country) called it a move that Dallas owner Jerry Jones is “built to make,” highlighting the allure of Metcalf in a Cowboys uniform during marquee matchups:
“Dallas should be on the phone to Seattle right now. How huge would DK Metcalf be with a star on the side of his helmet? … I do appreciate his star ability to make himself a figurative star wherever he goes, but the star on the side of that helmet. Thanksgiving days, Monday nights, Sunday nights.”
The rival Philadelphia Eagles executed a similar deal during the draft, sending first- and third-round picks to the Tennessee Titans for Brown. They handed him a four-year, $100 million extension as part of the trade.
Considering the Cowboys have more than $20 million in available cap space—more than all but two teams in the league right now—and possess all of their picks in the 2023 draft, this could be a relatively simple move for all parties to hash out.
Mekhi Becton to Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers receive: OT Mekhi Becton
New York Jets receive: 2023 second-round pick, 2023 fourth-round pick
The New York Jets seemed to have found their franchise left tackle in 2020 No. 11 overall pick Mekhi Becton. But a disappointing sophomore showing—one that that included an excruciating slow recovery from a knee injury and subsequent conditioning issues—could result in the organization moving on from the 23-year-old.
Becton played in only one game last year before going down with a knee injury that sidelined him for the rest of the year. ESPN NFL insider Dan Graziano (h/t Paul Andrew Esden Jr.) said the Jets became “frustrated” with their young left tackle after his long-awaited return to the team.
Becton showed up to minicamp overweight—Connor J. Hughes of The Athletic said he was “pushing 400 pounds”—with a seeming lack of motivation that has the coaching staff puzzled on how to proceed. WFAN’s Boomer Esiason said the Jets could even cut Becton if they believe he won't perform at a high level due to his poor conditioning and lack of reps after a nine-month absence.
Several teams stand out as potential suitors for Becton due to their lack of talent and upside on the offensive line. The Pittsburgh Steelers may be the most desperate after deploying a line that Pro Football Focus ranked No. 26 in the league last year.
Rookie left tackle Dan Moore Jr. was one of the most disappointing players on the unit, earning a lowly 57.8 PFF grade while giving up seven sacks and getting flagged for five penalties over 1,079 snaps. He’s one of the projected returning starters on a line that PFF projects to be the third-worst in the league in 2022.
While Becton may not be in peak form right now, he did have a promising 74.4 PFF grade as a rookie. HE could be an ideal buy-low candidate to improve Pittsburgh’s offensive line as it prepares for life without longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Salary-cap figures courtesy of Spotrac.