Potential NFL Trade Packages for Players Who Need a Fresh Start

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent IMay 25, 2023

Potential NFL Trade Packages for Players Who Need a Fresh Start

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    Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins
    Cardinals WR DeAndre HopkinsChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    The 2023 NFL offseason is chugging along, with free agency entering its late stages and the draft almost a month behind us.

    It's a relatively slow time in the league, though the activity—specifically, trade activity—could pick up in the coming days.

    There are two reasons for this. The first is that teams will start to identify both weaknesses and surpluses of talent during organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamps. The second is that June 1 is fast approaching.

    The cap implications are different after June 1 than before it. A team moving or releasing a player during the summer can prorate any dead-money hit over the next two years instead of taking it all on this season.

    For example, the Arizona Cardinals would only save $8.2 million against the 2023 cap by trading wideout DeAndre Hopkins—who has generated plenty of trade whispers this offseason—by trading him before June 1 but could save $19.5 million by trading him after.

    With the summer trade window about to open, let's examine a few players who could benefit from a change of scenery, their best potential landing spots and what potential trade packages could look like.

    Factors like past production, positional value, recent trade terms, team needs and any relevant trade buzz were all considered here. Players are listed in alphabetical order.

Budda Baker, S, Arizona Cardinals

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    Cardinals S Budda Baker
    Cardinals S Budda BakerGrant Halverson/Getty Images

    Eagles Get: S Budda Baker

    Cardinals Get: 2024 fifth-round pick, 2025 third-round pick

    We'll return to Hopkins in short order, but he's not the only standout member of the Cardinals who could be on the move this offseason. Pro Bowl safety Budda Baker requested a trade or a raise earlier this offseason and appears uninterested in being a part of Arizona's rebuild at his current price.

    The 27-year-old, who logged 111 tackles, seven passes defended, two interceptions and a forced fumble last season, would be a terrific addition to any team in need of secondary help.

    The Philadelphia Eagles have a fairly strong secondary but did lose safety/slot defender C.J. Gardner-Johnson in the offseason. General manager Howie Roseman has also shown he's willing to acquire veterans who can help his team on the trade market—he snagged Gardner-Johnson from the New Orleans Saints just before the start of the 2022 season.

    Philadelphia, which has $12.7 million in cap space, wouldn't have to create a ton of space to absorb Baker's $13 million base salary. He would be a superior replacement for Gardner-Johnson over free-agent addition Terrell Edmunds and perhaps more ready than third-round pick Sydney Brown.

    Gardner-Johnson was acquired along with a 2025 seventh-round pick for fifth- and sixth-round selections, but he was entering the final year of his contract and has never achieved All-Pro status as Baker has.

    Getting the final two years of Baker's contract would likely require a Day 2 selection, though Arizona is light on leverage and might not be able to demand much more.

Kevin Byard, S, Tennessee Titans

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    Titans S Kevin Byard
    Titans S Kevin ByardDavid Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Chargers Get: S Kevin Byard

    Titans Get: 2024 fifth-round pick, 2024 seventh-round pick, WR Jalen Guyton

    After going 7-10 last season and using a second-round pick on quarterback Will Levis, the Tennessee Titans may be headed toward their own rebuild. Safety Kevin Byard may want no part of that, and he isn't interested in taking a pay cut, which Tennessee has requested.

    The 29-year-old did not attend voluntary workouts this offseason, according to Nick Suss of The Tennesseean.

    Landing with a contender and team willing to honor his contract would be great for the two-time Pro Bowler, who will turn 30 in August. The Los Angeles Chargers, meanwhile, could use safety help after losing Nasir Adderley to retirement this offseason.

    The 25-year-old started 15 games last season and recorded 62 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble. His departure will be felt. But Byard, who had 108 tackles and four picks, could fill the void.

    The Chargers have $13.4 million in cap space and wouldn't need to do much work to take on Byard's $13.6 million base salary. Pairing him with Derwin James Jr. would give Los Angeles an incredibly potent safety duo.

    Byard has two years left on his contract, but because of his age, his trade value should fall more in line with Gardner-Johnson's last year than with what Baker might command. The Chargers could toss in wideout Jalen Guyton—who had 448 receiving yards in 2021 but suffered a torn ACL last year—to help entice the receiver-needy Titans.

    After using a first-round pick on Quentin Johnston, L.A. has a surplus of receivers.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

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    Vikings RB Dalvin Cook
    Vikings RB Dalvin CookBailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Cowboys Get: RB Dalvin Cook

    Vikings Get: 2024 fourth-round pick, 2025 fifth-round pick

    Running back Dalvin Cook has a good thing going with the Minnesota Vikings. He's become a four-time Pro Bowler in Minnesota and is coming off a campaign with 1,468 scrimmage yards and 10 combined touchdowns.

    However, Minnesota doesn't appear interested in keeping the 27-year-old at his current $10.4 million base salary. The Vikings have "come close" to trading Cook, according to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated. They also recently replaced him with Alexander Mattison in its Twitter banner (h/t Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk).

    Cook would benefit by going to a team that wants him and is willing to pay him.

    The Dallas Cowboys, which parted with Ezekiel Elliott this offseason, could be that team. They franchise-tagged running back Tony Pollard, but he's coming off of leg surgery. The 5'5", 179-pound rookie, Deuce Vaughn, isn't physically equipped to handle the workload that Elliott did last season (248 touches).

    Cook could be that high-end complement to Pollard that Dallas needs, and with $14.2 million in cap space, the Cowboys could afford to grab him. The question, of course, is whether Minnesota would be willing to trade him inside the conference.

    While Cook has three years left on his contract, virtually everyone knows the Vikings are willing to move on. This lowers his trade value and likely puts it in line with what the Detroit Lions got for D'Andre Swift during draft weekend.

    While Swift is a lesser back and entering the final year of his contract, his trade package—the Eagles gave up a 2024 fourth-rounder and swapped 2023 seventh-round picks with Detroit—serves as an accurate baseline for a Cook trade.

Matt Corral, QB, Carolina Panthers

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    Panthers QB Matt Corral
    Panthers QB Matt CorralFred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Rams Get: QB Matt Corral

    Panthers Get: 2024 fifth-round pick

    Last year, the Carolina Panthers used a third-round pick on Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral, but he suffered a Lisfranc injury during the preseason and never saw the field during the regular season.

    This season, the Panthers traded up for the No. 1 pick and took Alabama signal-caller Bryce Young, essentially ending any chance Corral had of becoming the franchise's quarterback of the future.

    But the 24-year-old insists that he doesn't want to play elsewhere.

    " I don't want to get traded," Corral said, per NFL.com's Grant Gordon. "I love the people here, I love the people that I'm around."

    If Corral wants to see the field, though, he should look for a change of scenery. Young is the future, and the Panthers have journeyman Andy Dalton as a potential placeholder.

    Corral could find a better opportunity with the Los Angeles Rams, who lost Matthew Stafford to a neck injury and concussion last season. The 35-year-old will be under contract for at least two more years, as his 2024 salary became fully guaranteed on March 17, but L.A. needs a succession plan.

    In Los Angeles, Corral could at least compete with rookie fourth-round pick Stetson Bennett to be that quarterback of the future. It's a chance he won't get in Carolina for as long as Young remains healthy.

    The Panthers couldn't expect a lot in return for Corral, as depth quarterbacks carry little value—the Cleveland Browns got a seventh-round pick for one of the league's best backups, Case Keenum, last offseason. A fifth-round pick should be considered great value for a player who probably isn't in Carolina's long-term plans.

Mike Evans WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Buccaneers WR Mike Evans
    Buccaneers WR Mike EvansCooper Neill/Getty Images

    Colts Get: WR Mike Evans

    Buccaneers Get: 2024 second-round pick, 2024 third-round pick

    To be fair, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers probably aren't interested in trading wide receiver Mike Evans. He's a four-time Pro Bowler coming off a 1,174-yard campaign who can help young quarterbacks like Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask tremendously.

    However, the 29-year-old could benefit from a new home. There's going to be a big drop-off in quarterback play going from Tom Brady to Mayfield and/or Trask, and he might not get another opportunity to chase a championship if he stays in Tampa.

    While the Indianapolis Colts have their own uncertain quarterback situation, they used the fourth overall pick on Florida's Anthony Richardson. The 6'4", 244-pound prospect is a tremendous dual threat who could quickly emerge as Pro Bowl-caliber talent under the tutelage of new head coach and former Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen.

    Evans' ability to present a big (6'5", 231 lbs), dependable downfield target would be a tremendous asset for an inexperienced but strong-armed passer like Richardson. He would give Indy a borderline elite trio of big-bodied receivers along with Michael Pittman Jr. (6'4", 223 lbs) and Alec Pierce (6'3", 213 lbs).

    That size advantage could also be valuable for a run-oriented offense based around Richardson and Jonathan Taylor. Indy has $23.9 million in cap space and could absorb Evans' $13 million base salary.

    Evans is entering the final year of his contract and hasn't been quite as productive as Davante Adams, who netted the Green Bay Packers a first- and a second-round pick in last year's trade. His price point should be just a notch lower.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals

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    Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins
    Cardinals WR DeAndre HopkinsCooper Neill/Getty Images

    Bills Get: WR DeAndre Hopkins

    Cardinals Get: 2024 third-round pick

    According to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, the Cardinals granted DeAndre Hopkins permission to seek a trade after their initial ask of a second-round pick and more generated little interest.

    The 30-year-old is likely eying a down year in Arizona if he stays since quarterback Kyler Murray is recovering from a torn ACL.

    Hopkins recently discussed what he'd like to get from his next employer.

    "What I want is stable management upstairs," he told the I Am Athlete podcast (h/t NFL.com's Nick Shook). "...a QB who loves the game like I do. And a great defense. I think defense wins championships."

    Hopkins could find all of those desired qualities in the Buffalo Bills, which have an energetic star in Josh Allen, the 2020 Sporting News Executive of the Year in general manager Brandon Beane and a defense that ranked second in points allowed last season.

    The Bills also need a high-end No. 2 receiver to partner with Stefon Diggs and complementary target Gabe Davis.

    The caveat here is cap space. The Bills have just $1.6 million available and would have to clear a ton of room for Hopkins' $19.4 million base salary—and/or restructure his contract to lower his cap hit significantly. That could be tricky, as Buffalo already restructured the contracts of linebacker Von Miller, Diggs and Allen this offseason.

    If the Bills could make it work financially, though, they could probably get Hopkins for a third-round pick, which is about the best Arizona could hope for at this point in the offseason.

Chase Young, Edge, Washington Commanders

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    Commanders edge Chase Young
    Commanders edge Chase YoungJess Rapfogel/Getty Images

    Bengals Get: Edge Chase Young

    Commanders Get: 2024 fourth-round pick, LB Logan Wilson

    Pass-rusher Chase Young was the second overall pick in the 2020 draft but has missed much of the last two seasons (all but 11 games) with a torn ACL and could be on his way out of Washington.

    The Commanders already have a deep and talented defensive front—headlined by Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Montez Sweat—and declined the fifth-year option on Young's contract. If he wants to showcase his value and get paid, he might have to do it elsewhere.

    The Cincinnati Bengals, who recorded just 30 sacks last season, could provide a prime opportunity for the 24-year-old. The team used a first-round pick on Myles Murphy but could also lose standout pass-rusher Trey Hendrickson in 2025.

    Cincinnati could lose starting linebacker Logan Wilson sooner than that, as he's scheduled to be a free agent in 2024. He is a player who could entice Washington, which lacks reliable depth at the linebacker position. Despite having a dominant front, the Commanders defense ranked just 16th in yards per carry allowed (4.4) last season.

    This could be a win-win trade for two teams getting an opportunity to audition young players at positions of need for the future. The Bengals could chip in a middle-round selection in order to pair Young with 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow and add the player with greater positional value.

    This could put Cincinnati in a difficult position with extensions due for Burrow, Young, Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase in the same offseason, but having too many good young players is far from the worst problem a team can have.

    *Cap and contract information via Spotrac.