Predicting the Biggest NFL Trades That Could Shape the 2023 OffseasonJanuary 17, 2023
Predicting the Biggest NFL Trades That Could Shape the 2023 Offseason
NFL teams can shake up the offseason with blockbuster trades that alter the plans of other clubs going into free agency and the draft. In the coming months, we could see big-name playmakers, starting-caliber quarterbacks and a head coach on the move.
As non-playoff teams begin to make offseason plans, NFL insiders have heard whispers about players potentially on the trade block. In some cases, you can see the writing on the wall with an aging quarterback or an incoming regime that may want to wipe a large salary off the books to save cap space in a rebuild.
Atop the 2023 draft order, the Chicago Bears can change the NFL landscape with how they handle the No. 1 overall pick.
While chatter about quarterback Lamar Jackson's future has generated some buzz, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that the Baltimore Ravens plan to open talks with his camp about a long-term deal. Keep in mind that the Ravens can franchise-tag him, too. The two sides are unlikely to drift apart unless Jackson wants out of Baltimore, and he hasn't given that clear indication yet.
If the Ravens do everything possible to retain Jackson, teams in need of a quarterback still have other options who are more realistic trade targets.
Let's explore five possible trades that can change the dynamic of the league.
Cardinals Trade WR DeAndre Hopkins to the Giants
Last year, we saw the wide receiver market explode as Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams and A.J. Brown signed contracts worth $25-plus million with new clubs after blockbuster trades. Cooper Kupp, Stefon Diggs, D.K. Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, Terry McLaurin, D.J. Moore, Chris Godwin and Mike Williams also inked extensions for $20 million or more annually.
In the upcoming offseason, JuJu Smith-Schuster may be the biggest name set to hit the open market in a mediocre free-agent class of wide receivers. As a result, a top-tier wideout who wants a new deal could command a lot in contract negotiations.
According to Jordan Schultz of The Score, the Cardinals plan to trade wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and he'll "likely seek a new deal."
On Instagram, Hopkins posted a photo of himself with the caption "forever grateful," which may suggest that he expects to play elsewhere next season. Keep in mind that Arizona fired head coach Kliff Kingsbury, and general manager Steve Keim stepped down to focus on his health.
Hopkins has two years left on his contract, and his deal carries a $30.8 million cap hit next season, per Over the Cap. A team that's interested in the receiver can sign him to an extension and lower his 2023 cap hit on a modified pact.
In 2022, Hopkins served a six-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy, yet still caught 64 passes for 717 yards and three touchdowns with a 66.7 percent catch rate in nine outings (missed two games with a knee injury). He ranked 10th leaguewide in receiving yards per contest (79.7).
Going into his age-31 term, Hopkins should have a decent market, specifically, teams flushed with cap space or playoff-contending clubs, and the New York Giants make the most sense.
Already a playoff team, the Giants can look to build on an impressive first year under head coach Brian Daboll. Big Blue can land Hopkins to replace Kenny Golladay, who hasn't played up to his four-year, $72 million contract as Daniel Jones' big-bodied (6'4", 213 lbs) safety blanket receiver.
Big Blue could try to trade Golladay and if no team bites because of his contract, the front office can designate him as a post-June 1 cut and save $13.5 million against the cap, adding to their projected $54.2 million for 2023.
As a physical perimeter receiver, Hopkins would be a complement to versatile rookie wideout Wan'Dale Robinson, who tore his ACL in November, and slot receiver Sterling Shepard, who tore his ACL in September. He would likely become the go-to option and help 24-year-old Isaiah Hodgins' development.
This season, the Giants ranked 26th in passing yards; they desperately need another playmaker to bolster their aerial attack.
Bears Trade No. 1 Overall Pick to the Panthers
Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles said he would have to be "absolutely blown away" to take a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft.
Perhaps that's Poles' attempt to drive up the compensation price for the top selection. Whether he spoke the unfiltered truth or set a weak smokescreen, quarterback-needy teams will find out what it would take to acquire that pick.
In B/R's latest mock draft, we projected a couple of Alabama prospects to take the top two spots with edge-rusher Will Anderson Jr. and quarterback Bryce Young going to the Bears and Houston Texans, respectively.
At No. 2, the Texans will probably select a quarterback if they don't land a veteran starter in free agency. Davis Mills mostly struggled through the 2022 season, throwing for 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions (tied for the most leaguewide) with a 61 percent completion rate.
At the very least, Poles seems intrigued by quarterback Justin Fields' second-year strides—enough to trade the No. 1 overall pick and stock a 3-14 roster with early-round draft additions. If that's the case, the Carolina Panthers should make a strong offer for the top selection.
The Panthers have one quarterback on the roster for the 2023 offseason, rookie third-rounder Matt Corral, who went on injured reserve last August with a Lisfranc injury. Slotted ahead of Carolina, the Indianapolis Colts (No.4), Seattle Seahawks (No. 5), Las Vegas Raiders (No. 7) and Atlanta Falcons (No. 8) could all take a quarterback, which puts the Panthers in a precarious situation if they want a blue-chip prospect at the position.
Carolina can skip the line to land the best quarterback prospect in this year's class. The Panthers could package the No. 9 overall pick with one of their second-rounders and future draft capital to move up eight spots. If general manager Scott Fitterer chooses to do this, head-coaching candidates may find Carolina's open position a little more appealing with the chance to coach a potential franchise player.
Furthermore, the Panthers would have a young high-upside quarterback in a division that doesn't have any premier signal-callers in their prime years. If 45-year-old Tom Brady doesn't re-sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a rookie passer could quickly become the best at his position in the NFC South, which may keep the Panthers in the mix to win a division title.
Raiders Trade Derek Carr to the Jets
Derek Carr's tenure with the Silver and Black looks like it's coming to an end. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Las Vegas Raiders started the "process of evaluating the trade market" for the ninth-year quarterback.
If the Raiders cannot find a trade partner for Carr—likely because his contract carries a $34.9 million cap hit in 2023—they're prepared to cut him, per The Athletic's Vic Tafur.
Quarterback-needy teams would likely prefer Carr at a pay rate that's lower than his current salary, but if he hits the open market, clubs may have to get into a bidding competition for him. As a result, a front office may want to acquire the signal-caller and restructure his contract to skip the free-agent frenzy for a solid passer.
According to SNY's Connor Hughes, the New York Jets think they're a quarterback away from playoff contention and have an interest in Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo and Lamar Jackson, if available.
Gang Green parted ways with Mike LaFleur (h/t Rapoport), who served as Garoppolo's passing game coordinator for four seasons (2017-2020) in San Francisco, which may hurt the club's chance to lure the impending free agent to New York. The Baltimore Ravens can drag out negotiations with Jackson by franchise-tagging him, which would give them until July 15 to work out a new deal.
If the Jets want to make a quick and decisive move for a quarterback, they can start with Carr, who may be available for a second-round pick in a trade. The Raiders quarterback struggled through the 2022 campaign, throwing for 24 touchdowns and 14 interceptions with a 60.8 percent completion rate. So, he may not command a first-round pick.
New York can offer Las Vegas the No. 44 overall pick in the 2023 draft and a middle-round selection to start the conversation for Carr. If the Raiders accept the proposal, Gang Green would have a significant upgrade over quarterbacks Zach Wilson and Chris Streveler, who remain on the books beyond the 2022 campaign.
Wilson, who went No. 2 overall to the Jets in the 2021 draft, looks like a bust. In 2022, he threw for six touchdowns and seven interceptions with a 54.5 percent completion rate in nine games before the team benched him in Week 16 amid a playoff push.
Mike White will become a free agent in March, but Hughes pointed out that the club has concerns about the 27-year-old quarterback's durability. He missed three games with fractured ribs between December and January.
For the 2022 term, the Jets lost their final six games to finish 7-10. If they land a decent quarterback in the offseason, they could become a wild-card playoff team. Carr would help them close the gap with the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East.
Saints Trade HC Sean Payton to the Chargers
Because Sean Payton remains under contract with the New Orleans Saints, the club would have to trade him if he accepts a job offer from another team.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Saints "want a first-round pick and more" for Payton.
Thus far, the Denver Broncos (h/t ESPN's Adam Schefter), Houston Texans (h/t Fox Sports' Peter Schrager) and Arizona Cardinals (h/t Rapoport) have spoken to or requested a formal interview with Payton.
Following a 31-30 wild-card playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Los Angeles Chargers should jump in line to interview Payton.
In Week 18, Chargers head coach Brandon Staley made a boneheaded decision to keep his key players on the field for a significant number of snaps in a game that didn't impact his team's playoff seeding. In that contest, Joey Bosa (groin), Kenneth Murray (neck) and Mike Williams (back) suffered injuries. This season, Bosa and Williams missed multiple games because of groin surgery and an ankle injury, respectively.
On Saturday, Bosa and Murray suited up against the Jaguars, but Williams sat out because of a transverse process fracture in his back, per Rapoport. Even though the NFL insider reported that the Chargers made an "organizational decision" to play their starters in the season finale, Staley has the ultimate say in the final roster calls, and he didn't show awareness in that situation.
The Jaguars came back from a 27-0 deficit as the Chargers offense stalled in the second half. Los Angeles scored touchdowns on three out of five red-zone trips. We'll never know if Williams would've changed the outcome of the game, but he could've helped a squad that threw the ball 43 times with a big lead.
Between Staley's questionable fourth-down calls over the past two years, and his recent roster personnel gaffe, he should be on the outs if Payton wants the Chargers' head-coaching job.
Payton, who's a Super Bowl-winning head coach, would be a clear-cut upgrade over Staley. The latter is a defensive-minded lead skipper with a defense that finished outside the top 20 in scoring in each of his two seasons in Los Angeles and has a 19-16 overall record with an ascending quarterback in Justin Herbert.
Los Angeles can probably get more out of its team and Herbert with an offensive-minded head coach who's won 63 percent of his games. With a playoff roster in place, the Chargers can offer multiple premium picks to the Saints for Payton and remain a postseason contender in 2023.
Titans Trade QB Ryan Tannehill to the Falcons
The Tennessee Titans have gone through major changes over the past month-and-a-half. They've fired Jon Robinson and Todd Downing to open up their general manager and offensive coordinator positions, respectively.
Set to hire a new front-office executive and offensive play-caller for the 2023 season, the Titans may look at other options at quarterback. They have the 11th overall pick in the 2023 draft, so a move up a few spots for a signal-caller isn't out of the realm of possibility. The new decision-makers could also push to develop rookie quarterback Malik Willis, who started in three games but made more of an impact as a ball-carrier (123 rushing yards and a touchdown) than a passer (three interceptions with a 50.8 percent completion rate).
Heading into his age-35 term, Tannehill has one more year left on his deal before it voids in 2024. Coming off an injury-riddled 2022 season, he could be headed on the decline, and his passing numbers have trended in the wrong direction since former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith accepted the Atlanta Falcons' head-coaching job, which brings us to the perfect situation for the tail-end of his career.
Under Smith, Tannehill became the 2019 Comeback Player of the Year and helped lead Tennessee to the AFC Championship Game for the 2019 campaign. They can reunite in Atlanta if the Falcons want a veteran upgrade over rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder, who threw for 708 yards and two touchdowns with a 63.5 percent completion rate in four games.
The Falcons should be able to get an aged Tannehill for a middle-round draft pick. So, they can upgrade at quarterback and still use their eighth overall pick to land a high-end prospect at the position, who may have a higher ceiling than Ridder—a 2022 third-round pick. General manager Terry Fontenot can set up his team to win now with Tannehill and groom the potential long-term answer at quarterback to succeed him.
Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.