NFL Trade Big Board: Ranking the Top 10 Players Who Could Move This Season

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistSeptember 28, 2018

NFL Trade Big Board: Ranking the Top 10 Players Who Could Move This Season

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Now that the 2018 NFL season is several weeks old, we're getting a feel for who might contend and who might not. In other words, we're figuring out who might be buyers and who might be sellers ahead of the Oct. 30 trade deadline. 

    Eight deals were executed in advance of that deadline last October, and several high-profile players make sense as potential trade candidates this time. 

    Ranked by their ability and potential impact, here are 10 veterans to watch on the trade market this fall.


10. Buffalo Bills DE Shaq Lawson

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    Shaq Lawson's career hasn't come together the way many expected it would, but the 2016 first-round pick could be viewed as a quality rotational pass-rusher for a sack-needy contender. 

    The 1-2 Buffalo Bills may not be in contention in a month, and they've got two other quality edge-rushers in Trent Murphy and Jerry Hughes.

    Lawson has just six sacks in 22 games as a pro, and this Bills regime didn't draft him. The team might not exercise his fifth-year option for 2020 anyway, which could inspire it to cut bait sooner. 

    Of course, he'll probably have to get healthy first. The 24-year-old has missed all but 35 snaps this season while dealing with a hamstring injury.     

    Potential landing spots: Chiefs, Packers, Falcons, Lions

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Cameron Brate

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    O.J. Howard is looking good. Really good. 

    The 2017 No. 19 overall pick finished his rookie season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a strong note and has picked up where he left off, catching 11 of the first 14 passes thrown his way for 222 yards and a touchdown.

    Among players with at least 10 targets, only Howard, teammate DeSean Jackson and Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James have averaged over 20 yards per reception and pulled in at least a 75 percent catch rate. 

    That might make highly paid Bucs tight end Cameron Brate expendable. 

    Brate has been on the field for just 35 percent of Tampa Bay's offensive snaps, and he's been targeted just six times in three games. Under those circumstances, he's not worth his $6.8 million average annual salary, but other teams might get more out of a tight end who caught at least 48 passes for 590 yards and six touchdowns in each of the last two seasons.      

    Potential landing spots: Cowboys, Titans, Ravens, Patriots

8. Indianapolis Colts TE Jack Doyle

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Offseason addition Eric Ebron has become the top tight end for the Indianapolis Colts. He's already caught 12 passes and scored in two of Indy's first three games, while veteran Jack Doyle has yet to score despite being on the field more often than his positional cohort. 

    The Colts love their two-tight end sets in Frank Reich's offense, but if they fall far behind Tennessee and/or Jacksonville in the AFC South, Doyle's three-year, $18.9 million contract could look heavy. And you'd think he'd be attractive on the trade market, because the 28-year-old is only one season removed from a Pro Bowl campaign in which he caught 80 of the 108 passes thrown his way for 690 yards and four touchdowns. 

    No. 3 tight end Erik Swoope is a lot cheaper and coming off a strong offseason, which could cause Colts general manager Chris Ballard to pull the trigger on a Doyle trade. 

    Potential landing spots: Cowboys, Titans, Ravens, Patriots

7. Atlanta Falcons RB Tevin Coleman

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Tevin Coleman is likely to hit the open market in March, and the Atlanta Falcons probably won't pay him big bucks. Devonta Freeman is their lead back, and he's already got an average salary of $8.3 million. 

    That reality could inspire the Falcons to trade the fourth-year third-round pick this season. One would imagine there'll be interest in a 25-year-old running back with a career 4.2 yards-per-attempt average and a pair of 900-scrimmage-yard seasons, which came mainly as Freeman's backup. 

    Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told 92.9 The Game in February (via's Vaughn McClure) he had no interest in trading Coleman, but a team desperate for backfield help could change that by making Dimitroff and Co. an offer they can't refuse. What might that be? A middle-round draft pick would probably get the job done.

    Potential landing spots: Buccaneers, Steelers, Jets

6. Houston Texans S Tyrann Mathieu

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    The Houston Texans signed talented defensive back Tyrann Mathieu to a one-year, $7 million prove-it deal in the 2018 offseason.

    And he's off to a strong start. The Honey Badger intercepted Tom Brady and recovered a fumble in Week 1, and he recorded nine tackles against the New York Giants in Week 3. He still hasn't dominated like he did as an All-Pro in 2015, but it's clear he's getting his form back. 

    So if the Texans continue to struggle in the AFC South, a trade might make sense for a team that would risk losing the 26-year-old in the offseason.  

    All it takes is one team that believes Mathieu can get back to where he was when he intercepted five passes and recorded 89 tackles in 14 games in his third season with the Arizona Cardinals. A torn ACL late that year at least temporarily derailed his career, but he's still young. 

    Potential landing spots: Chiefs, Falcons, Cowboys, Buccaneers 

5. Houston Texans DE Jadeveon Clowney

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    If indeed the 0-3 Texans continue to slide, Mathieu won't be the only potential trade candidate from the Houston defense. There's also defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, whose rookie contract will expire in March. 

    The 2014 No. 1 overall pick was a Pro Bowler in 2016 and 2017, recording 15.5 sacks and three forced fumbles during that span. And while the Texans wouldn't likely trade Mathieu and Clowney considering the state of their defense, it might be tough to sign both. 

    Clowney is the more accomplished player, has the higher ceiling and plays the more premium position, which will make him mighty expensive. The Texans are already paying big bucks for J.J. Watt and Benardrick McKinney, so a trade would make a lot of sense for a team that doesn't look as though it'll be in contention in November and December.      

    Potential landing spots: Chiefs, Packers, Falcons, Lions

4. Jacksonville Jaguars DE Dante Fowler Jr.

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    This is a copycat league, and a lot of teams must have taken notice when the Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl LII thanks partly to a deep pass-rushing rotation last season. With that in mind, anybody positioned to make a run this fall might be compelled to trade for another edge-rusher. 

    So we've got one more. 

    2015's No. 3 overall pick, Dante Fowler Jr., has been an obvious trade candidate for a while. After all, the Jacksonville Jaguars declined to pick up his fifth-year option for next season. Now, he's slated to hit free agency in the fall. And while the Jags are contenders, they can afford to capitalize on Fowler's value. 

    The 24-year-old Florida product recorded eight sacks in a situational role in 2017, but he was suspended for Week 1 this year for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. Since then, he's been on the field for just 35 snaps. It's tough to keep top defensive ends Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue out of the action, which is why Fowler might not be a Jaguar on Halloween. 

    Potential landing spots: Chiefs, Packers, Falcons, Lions

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston

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    Mark Zaleski)/Associated Press

    It's possible Ryan Fitzpatrick will run out of Fitzmagic, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will turn back to Jameis Winston at quarterback. But Winston is back from a three-game suspension for violating the league's personal-conduct policy, and Fitzpatrick is still the starter. 

    Winston is also wrapping up his four-year rookie contract, and his $20.9 million fifth-year option is guaranteed only for injury. If the Bucs aren't sold on their mistake-prone 2015 No. 1 overall pick, they'd be smart to either keep him on the sideline or try to make a deal.  

    So if a competitive team loses its quarterback to injury or loses confidence in its QB, it's possible Winston will become a trade target. 

    And he'd be attractive on that market, because he's a 24-year-old with a Pro Bowl on his resume at the game's most important position. 

    Potential landing spots: 49ers, Cowboys, Broncos, any team that loses its starter

2. Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell

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    Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell is sacrificing $852,000 in lost wages every week he holds out under the franchise tag, and that could last until Week 10. So it wasn't surprising when ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sept. 23 that the team is "listening to trade offers" for the three-time Pro Bowler. 

    Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News piggybacked that by reporting the New York Jets are interested, but there would be plenty of teams inquiring about Bell's services if he becomes available. 

    Bell has accumulated 1,800-plus yards from scrimmage in three of his last four seasons, and the 2017 first-team All-Pro is still only 26 years old. He wouldn't cost his new team much down the stretch this season, and he'd likely be fresh after sitting out the early part of the 2018 campaign. 

    Bell trade watch has already begun.     

    Potential landing spots: Buccaneers, Jets

1. Seattle Seahawks S Earl Thomas

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    But Bell isn't the only NFL superstar already on the trade radar. Seattle Seahawks six-time Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas has continually expressed frustration over his contract, and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports a Thomas trade is a distinct possibility. 

    Meanwhile,'s Jeffri Chadiha says the Kansas City Chiefs—who have lit it up on offense but have struggled on defense—"continue to inquire about a trade for Thomas," and he's been connected to the Cowboys. 

    Thomas has yet to turn 30, and he's a three-time first-team All-Pro with a Super Bowl championship and 28 interceptions. He's a game-changer, and he might be a future Hall of Famer. That'll probably cause the Seahawks to drive a hard bargain for one of the last remaining legends from their 2013 Super Bowl season, but if Seattle continues to struggle, it might not have much to lose. It appears team and player aren't on great terms, and Thomas' contract expires in March. 

    Potential landing spots: Chiefs, Falcons, Cowboys, Buccaneers