NFL Trades That Should Happen Before the 2018 NFL Season

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystMay 8, 2018

NFL Trades That Should Happen Before the 2018 NFL Season

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    The NFL offseason has sailed through free agency's massive paydays and the NFL draft's reaches and values. Training camp is on the horizon, but player movement is still happening—and potential trades are always lurking. 

    Some are deals that were discussed during the draft but didn't come to pass. Others involve young players heading into the final year of rookie deals who probably won't be retained next spring. It all but certainly won't involve household names.

    OK, so one might.

    But every one of the potential trades listed here makes enough sense for both buyer and seller that while there's no guarantee they will happen, a fairly compelling argument can be made that they should.

DE Dante Fowler to Indianapolis Colts

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    Gary McCullough/Associated Press

    The Jacksonville Jaguars are unlikely to trade the third overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft in a year where the team has Super Bowl aspirations. They're even less likely to deal defensive end Dante Fowler to their AFC South rivals.

    They should, though.

    Fowler is coming off a career-high eight sacks in 2017, but whether due to numerous dust-ups off the field or the fact he's been passed on the depth chart by Yannick Ngakoue, the Jags declined Fowler's 2019 option. Executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin said Fowler remains in Jacksonville's long-term plans.

    "We do like Dante and we feel that he's on the verge of having a great season, but we did not pick up the fifth-year option at this time," Coughlin said in a statement. "He is making good progress and we like how he practices and how he plays, as he did in the AFC Championship Game, and we want him to have a great season and earn a new long-term contract with us this year."

    If the Jaguars weren't ready to pay Fowler now, it's not likely they will be in a year. Barring an injury to Ngakoue or Calais Campbell, Fowler will see about the same playing time as in 2017.

    Making this deal work would require a team that needs pass-rushing help and has the salary-cap space to keep Fowler around after this year.

    No team fits that bill better than the Indianapolis Colts, who have over $60 million in wiggle room, per Over the Cap, as they transition to a four-man front.

    They also may be willing to part with a Day 2 pick if it means getting a relatively proven pass-rusher with more than a little upside—a high enough pick for the Jaguars to seriously consider moving on.

S Earl Thomas to Dallas Cowboys

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys discussed a deal for veteran safety Earl Thomas during this year's draft. But NFL Network's Ian Rapoport (via NFL.com's Chris Wesseling) reported the Cowboys were unwilling to give up their second-round pick.

    However, the deal isn't dead yet.

    According to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, the 29-year-old defensive back is skipping Phase 2 of the Seahawks' offseason program as he angles for a new contract. Head coach Pete Carroll admitted he's not sure if Thomas will show up for Phase 3 (OTAs) either.

    All of the factors that have led the Seahawks to shop Thomas are still there. His contract expires after the 2018 season, and as the release of Richard Sherman showed, Seattle is trying to cut down on the big pacts for aging defensive players.

    Meanwhile, a Cowboys team that annually fashions itself a Super Bowl contender still needs help at the back end of the defense. While Thomas might not quite be the player he once was, he's still pretty danged good.

    A Round 2 pick may have been too much for the Cowboys in April, but feelings change. So could the cost of acquiring Thomas should he decide to hold out into the summer.

CB Eli Apple to San Francisco 49ers

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    New York Giants safety Landon Collins insists his public feud with young cornerback Eli Apple is a thing of the past.

    "We talked. Definitely we talked. We've definitely buried the hatchet a while ago," Collins told reporters in April. "That's my guy, my brother. I'm always going to have his back. We knew what kind of caliber player he is. He knows what kind of caliber player I am. We're just trying to get to work and make this season go."

    General manager Dave Gettleman made a similar comment in January when he told the New York Post's Steve Serby the former first-round pick has a "clean slate" with the team after two disappointing years.

    But if those first two NFL seasons have been any indication, the best thing for both him and the Giants might be a change of scenery.

    The San Francisco 49ers have a hole at cornerback after Dontae Johnson signed with the Seahawks. While Ahkello Witherspoon is a possibility there, the second-year pro is far from a proven commodity.

    Not that Apple is either, mind you. But he is a Round 1 talent. John Lynch has shown himself to be one of the more aggressive GMs in the NFL when it comes to improving the roster.

    The biggest sticking points here? Compensation for a team that invested the 10th overall pick in Apple in 2016 and the void it would leave the Giants in the secondary.

    But at some point, smart GMs know when to cut to bait on players they didn't draft, and there are some veteran corners still available in free agency—including Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who started five games for the G-Men in 2017.

OT Ereck Flowers to Arizona Cardinals

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Eli Apple isn't the only former first-round pick who hasn't panned out recently for the Giants.

    Offensive tackle Ereck Flowers may be an even bigger disappointment. The ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft, Flowers has made 46 starts over three seasons in New York. But as Jordan Raanan reported for ESPN.com, Flowers' effort level drew criticism last year. The Giants have already passed on Flowers' option for 2019, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, and after they signed Nate Solder in the offseason, Flowers is expected to flip to right tackle this year.

    That didn't sit well with Flowers, who is skipping offseason workouts.

    "It's not that he doesn't want to be here. ... He's just unhappy that they picked up [Solder]," teammate Landon Collins told WFAN.

    Like several of the players on this list, Flowers was shopped by the Giants during the 2018 draft (per Raanan) with no success.

    If at first you don't succeed…

    There are more than a few NFL teams who could use help at tackle, and the Arizona Cardinals are near the top of the list. Arizona picked up the fifth-year option on youngster D.J. Humphries, but Humphries played in just five games last year thanks to two knee injuries and has missed 30 of a possible 48 games in the NFL.

    The Cardinals have more than a little cheese invested in quarterback Sam Bradford and just as much draft capital invested in rookie Josh Rosen.

    Keeping them upright is probably a good idea. At this point, a Day 3 pick in 2019 is likely all it would take to make a deal happen.

TE Maxx Williams to Dallas Cowboys

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Back in 2015, Maxx Williams was the first tight end selected. The Baltimore Ravens had hopes that Williams would be their top tight end for years to come after a standout career at Minnesota.

    But in part due to a serious knee injury suffered in 2016, Williams hasn't come close to living up to his second-round draft slot. Now, after the Ravens took South Carolina's Hayden Hurst with their first pick of the 2018 draft, Williams' days in Charm City are all but surely numbered.

    That's where the Dallas Cowboys come in.

    Granted, the 24-year-old Williams may never be an elite pass-catching threat. He may never be an especially good one. But last year Williams at least served as a solid in-line player and run-blocker.

    The Cowboys compensated somewhat for the loss of Jason Witten when they drafted Dalton Schultz, but a Dallas team with annual aspirations of a deep playoff run may want more insurance than a fourth-round rookie.

    Would acquiring Williams soften the blow of Witten's move to the broadcasting booth? Maybe. Maybe not. But it's worth the minimal risk to find out.

    For the Ravens, a third-day pick might not seem an inspiring return for a player taken 55th overall.

    But if the Ravens are as ready to turn the page at the position as the Hurst pick indicates, GM Ozzie Newsome might as well get something back.

OLB Shane Ray to New York Jets

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    There's something of a theme with the players on this list. Most are in contract years. Many were first-round picks in 2015—first-rounders who haven't met expectations.

    Such is the case with Shane Ray in Denver. Taken 23rd overall in the 2015 draft, Ray has shown some flashes—including a 48-tackle, eight-sack 2016 season. But a series of wrist injuries limited Ray to one sack in eight games last season. With Bradley Chubb now in the fold, GM John Elway and the Broncos passed on paying Ray over $9 million for a fifth year on his rookie deal, per Arnie Stapleton of the Associated Press.

    Assuming Chubb is anywhere close to as good as most think, Ray won't sniff the playing time needed for another eight-sack year in the Mile High City. Odds are good this will be his last season with the team.

    However, there are other locales where Ray could see significantly more playing time—teams whose depth chart on the edge is much sparser than in Denver.

    Teams like the New York Jets.

    The Jets are as hard up for pass-rush help as any team in the NFL—a need made all the more pressing by the fact New York didn't address the position in free agency or the 2018 draft.

    It's a win for all involved. Denver gets something in return for a player who will be gonesville in a year. The Jets get the help on the edge they so badly need.

    And Ray gets the snaps he'll need to (hopefully) add some zeroes to his next contract.

OT Cedric Ogbuehi to New England Patriots

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    The first three years of Cedric Ogbuehi's NFL career have not gone as planned.

    Back in 2015, the Cincinnati Bengals made Ogbuehi the 21st overall pick in the hopes that the 6'5", 310-pounder would one day serve as the successor to Andrew Whitworth at left tackle. That hasn't been the case.

    Not even close.

    Whether it's on Andy Dalton's blind side or at right tackle, Ogbuehi has struggled to stay on the field (missing time all three seasons) and has been a turnstile when he is out there. Cincinnati's acquisition of Cordy Glenn this offseason likely sticks a fork in the notion of Ogbuehi as a starter in the Queen City.

    The Bengals have already declined Ogbuehi's fifth-year option, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. He's all but certainly leaving town after the 2018 season.

    The Bengals might as well get some return on their investment.

    The New England Patriots have already taken steps to address the loss of left tackle Nate Solder, drafting Georgia's Isaiah Wynn and trading for Trent Brown of the San Francisco 49ers.

    But Wynn projects more as a guard in the NFL, and there's a reason the 49ers were willing to part with Brown.

    For the cost of a Day 3 pick (say a fifth-rounder), Ogbuehi would offer a Patriots team that epitomizes "win now" mode another body to add to the battle to protect the Golden Boy's blind side.

    The additional depth is more than worth the cost.

CB Quinten Rollins to Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Given that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished the 2017 season dead last in the NFL in pass defense, it's not surprising the team invested a pair of second-round picks in cornerbacks Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart.

    That doesn't mean the rebuild is finished. Tampa's safeties didn't play much better than the cornerbacks in 2017, and to this point in the offseason the Bucs haven't done much to get better at that position.

    Technically, fourth-year pro Quinten Rollins has played cornerback over three seasons with the Green Bay Packers. He's struggled in that role, though, and as Lance Zierlein wrote for NFL.com, some teams viewed Rollins as more of a safety coming out of college.

    "We are grading him as a safety," one AFC defensive backs coach said. "He can play cornerback too, but he has to be protected a little bit because I don't think he's fast enough. I think he's a second-round safety but a fourth-round cornerback."

    As it turns out, that coach may have been on to something.

    There's no guarantee Rollins will make a successful transition to a new position. He also missed 10 games last year with an injured Achilles.

    But after taking corners with each of their first two picks in the 2018 draft, the Packers have a logjam at the back end of the defense—a logjam that could make Rollins available relatively cheaply.

    The Buccaneers need all the help on the back end they can get, and while a late-round pick isn't much of a return, it beats what the Packers will get for Rollins a year from now.

    Nothing but goodbye.

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