Hypothetical NFL Trades We Wish Could Happen Before the Playoffs

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent INovember 28, 2022

Hypothetical NFL Trades We Wish Could Happen Before the Playoffs

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    Texans WR Brandin Cooks
    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    The 2022 NFL trade deadline came and went on Nov. 1, and player movement is now limited to free-agent signings and practice-squad elevations. That means that many contenders are practically out of luck when it comes to filling late-season holes.

    This is a problem that NFL franchises are hoping to fix, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    "Multiple teams reached out to the NFL office this past week to inquire about pushing back the trade deadline from its current spot after Week 8 to after either Week 10 or Week 12, league sources told ESPN," Schefter wrote.

    A later trade deadline would make a ton of sense. With 10 full weeks remaining after the current deadline, it's impossible for some teams to know whether they can make a run or are playing for next season. At the same time, injuries aren't limited to the first half of the season.

    It would likely make the trade market a whole lot more active and interesting too.

    How might a Week 12 deadline look? That's exactly what we're here to examine. We'll dive into six purely hypothetical trades that we wish we could see coming out of Sunday's games. Factors like team records, team needs, future free-agent status, player production and any relevant in-season trade buzz were all considered here.

    Contracts and cap space were not largely considered here. As we saw with the Robert Quinn trade, franchises will usually find ways to make it work financially when they're motivated to make an in-season trade.

    Perhaps in a year or two, we'll be able to see late-season deals just like these come to fruition.

Kareem Hunt to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    CLEVELAND, OHIO - OCTOBER 31: Kareem Hunt #27 of the Cleveland Browns carries the ball during the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 31, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)
    Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

    Buccaneers Get: RB Kareem Hunt

    Browns Get: 2023 fifth-round pick

    The Cleveland Browns weren't too motivated to move players at the trade deadline, largely because the team was sitting at 3-5 and still holding out hope for a playoff run. Things have gone downhill since then, and Cleveland may make a stronger push to move running back Kareem Hunt now if it were possible. Though, at 4-7, the Browns are technically still alive in the AFC playoff race.

    Hunt was on the trade block at the deadline, and he was open to leaving Cleveland.

    "I'm down for whatever, man," Hunt said, per NFL Media's Nick Shook. "I'm a football player and this is a business."

    Hunt is also set to be a free agent in 2023, so getting something in return for him now would be logical.

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers—who just so happened to lose to Cleveland on Sunday—could use a dual-threat back like Hunt. Tampa is getting solid production from rookie Rachaad White, but with Leonard Fournette nursing a hip injury, Hunt could fill a valuable role in the rotation.

    Given that this would be a short-term rental for an impending free agent, a Day 3 pick would hypothetically get a deal done. The Miami Dolphins gave up a fifth-round pick for running back Jeff Wilson Jr. at the deadline, and that could serve as the baseline for this trade.

Brandin Cooks to the Dallas Cowboys

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    HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 20: Brandin Cooks #13 of the Houston Texans lines up at the line of scrimmage against the Washington Commanders at NRG Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    Cowboys Get: WR Brandin Cooks

    Texans Get: 2023 second-round pick

    The Dallas Cowboys are sitting at 8-3 and are in a good position to make a run in the NFC postseason. They're also clearly interested in adding to their receiving corps ahead of the playoffs.

    According to The Athletic's Jon Machota, Dallas has been in constant contact with free-agent wideout Odell Beckham Jr.

    If the trade window were still open, the Cowboys could target a healthy and productive receiver instead of one coming off of a torn ACL suffered in February. Houston Texans receiver Brandin Cooks would be an ideal candidate.

    According to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, Dallas and Houston discussed a Cooks deal at the deadline, but Cooks' $18 million guaranteed 2023 salary was a sticking point.

    In this hypothetical scenario, the Texans agree to pay a large chunk of Cooks' 2023 salary in exchange for a premium draft pick.

    The Texans add to their 2023 arsenal of draft picks—that may well include the first overall selection—while Cooks gets to go to a contender. Dallas, meanwhile, adds a savvy veteran receiver who posted back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns before this season.

    Everybody would win in this trade, and who wouldn't love to see that?

Jadeveon Clowney to the Atlanta Falcons

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    CLEVELAND, OHIO - OCTOBER 31: Jadeveon Clowney #90 of the Cleveland Browns looks on during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 31, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)
    Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

    Falcons Get: Edge Jadeveon Clowney

    Browns Get: 2024 sixth-round pick

    The Browns are nearly done for 2022, and they may lose pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney in free agency. The 29-year-old has spent two years in Cleveland and not sniffed the postseason and may well search for greener pastures in the spring.

    While Clowney hasn't shined this season, he has made an impact as a pass-rusher. He did miss time with an ankle injury but logged 1.5 sacks and eight quarterback pressures in seven games coming into Sunday. He also had a pair of passes defended.

    The Atlanta Falcons, meanwhile, could use a boost to their pass rush. Atlanta has been surprisingly competitive this season and remains alive in the NFC South race at 5-7. However, getting to the quarterback has been an issue.

    The Falcons had just 17 sacks as a team coming into Week 12. They did not reach Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke on Sunday.

    This hypothetical deal involves the draft compensation Cleveland gave to Atlanta near the trade deadline for linebacker Deion Jones. Cleveland gave up a 2024 sixth-round pick for Jones and a 2024 seventh-rounder.

    This deal would allow Cleveland to get its sixth-round pick back while essentially netting the Browns a future seventh-rounder in a Jones-for-Clowney swap.

    Unconventional? Sure, but we'd love to see it.

Larry Ogunjobi to the Los Angeles Chargers

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    CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 22: Larry Ogunjobi #99 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during the second half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 22, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)
    Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

    Chargers Get: DT Larry Ogunjobi

    Steelers Get: 2023 fifth-round pick

    It's never wise to completely count out the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, at 3-7 heading into Monday night, Pittsburgh probably isn't making the playoffs this year.

    With the Steelers eying a lost season, they could benefit from moving impending 2023 free agent and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi. The 28-year-old came to Pittsburgh on a one-year deal and has been a solid contributor.

    Ogunjobi has logged 23 tackles, 10 solo stops, a half-sack, eight quarterback hits and just one missed tackle.

    The Los Angeles Chargers could desperately use a defensive tackle of Ogunjobi's caliber. Los Angeles has been gashed on the ground this season—5.5 yards per carry allowed coming into Sunday—and has lost several players at the position.

    Otito Ogbonnia (knee) and Christian Covington (pectoral) are both out for the year, and L.A. also parted with 2019 first-round pick Jerry Tillery after the trade deadline.

    Adding Ogunjobi would give the Chargers valuable depth while also helping to improve the team's biggest weakness ahead of the postseason.

    A Day 3 selection isn't a ton, but it would be solid value for the rebuilding Steelers who may lose Ogunjobi in a couple of months anyway.

J.J. Watt to the Buffalo Bills

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    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 13: J.J. Watt #99 of the Arizona Cardinals is seen during warmups prior to the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on November 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Bills Get: Edge J.J. Watt

    Cardinals Get: 2023 third-round pick

    Arizona Cardinals pass-rusher J.J. Watt has carved out a Hall of Fame career, but he has barely tasted the postseason. In nearly 12 seasons with the Cardinals and Texans, Watt has appeared in only nine playoff games. He has won three of them.

    The 4-8 Cardinals don't appear poised to give Watt a run of playoff success this year, and he'll be a free agent in 2023.

    We'd love to see the 33-year-old get a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl, and the Buffalo Bills could potentially give him that opportunity. Buffalo also has a need, as star pass-rusher Von Miller suffered a serious knee injury on Thursday.

    "Miller will miss at least one to two weeks, sources said, with the possibility that he is out for the rest of the 2022 season," ESPN's Alaina Getzenberg wrote, relaying information from insider Adam Schefter.

    Watt, who had 5.5 sacks and 16 pressures coming into Sunday and logged another sack against the Chargers, would be a replacement for Miller down the stretch. He probably wouldn't come cheaply, given his positional value and Buffalo's obvious need, but the Bills are in a position to justify a win-now move.

    While Arizona probably believes it can still make a postseason push, a third-round pick would be hard to pass up considering the playoffs are a long shot and Watt may not return next year.

Jamaal Williams to the Cincinnati Bengals

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 23: Jamaal Williams #30 of the Detroit Lions celebraes against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on October 23, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    Bengals Get: RB Jamaal Williams

    Lions Get: 2023 fifth-round pick

    The Detroit Lions deserve a ton of credit for turning things around during the 2022 season. Detroit probably isn't sneaking into the playoffs at 4-7, but it won three straight games before giving Buffalo everything it could handle on Thursday.

    Running back Jamaal Williams has been a big part of the Lions' recent success—he has rushed for 734 yards and a league-high 13 touchdowns—while filling in for or splitting time with D'Andre Swift.

    However, Williams will be a free agent in 2023, and Swift is likely to lead the backfield for at least another year. If Detroit could get a high Day 3 pick to surrender Williams for the final five weeks, it would be logical.

    The Cincinnati Bengals could use some running back help as they look to get back to the postseason. Samaje Perine has been a serviceable fill-in for Joe Mixon, but Mixon is in the concussion protocol and hasn't really done much outside of one game.

    In Week 9, Mixon scored five touchdowns and rushed for 153 yards. However, he's only topped 80 rushing yards one other time and has averaged just 3.8 yards per carry. Coming into Sunday, Cincinnati ranked 28th in rushing and 39th in yards per carry (3.9).

    Perine rushed for only 58 yards and 3.4 yards per carry against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

    Adding Williams would help bring a spark to the ground game and a bit of balance to a very pass-heavy Bengals offense. Cincinnati came into Week 12 ranked seventh in passing attempts and only 22nd in rushing attempts.

    Who wouldn't want to see a better Bengals team get back to the postseason this year?


    *Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference

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