Realistic NFL Trades That Could Happen This Offseason
For the 12 teams in the NFL playoffs, it's still the 2018 season. For the other 20, it's now officially 2019 and time to look ahead to free agency and the draft.
Naturally, those non-playoff teams are going to be under pressure to close the talent gap. This means making the right decisions in the draft and going after positions of need in free agency. Depending on who's available on the open market and what a team's draft position is, this could also mean working out trades.
The Cleveland Browns, for example, traded for starters Jarvis Landry and Damarious Randall last offseason. Both were part of the 7.5-win improvement Cleveland experienced in 2018.
Which teams will be winning big with offseason trades in 2019? That's what we're going to try sorting out here. We'll look at some realistic trades that make sense for all parties involved. We won't be speculating on anything outlandish—Patrick Mahomes for a bottle of ketchup, for example—and we'll be focusing on possible moves that fit both positions of need and into teams' salary-cap constraints.
Odell Beckham Jr. to the San Francisco 49ers
The New York Giants inked star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to a new five-year, $90 million extension last offseason. This makes it seem unlikely that the Giants would already want to move the three-time Pro Bowler. However, it's certainly possible.
If the Giants believe it's time to blow things up and completely rebuild, Beckham could fetch some valuable assets.
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the San Francisco 49ers would be interested in acquiring Beckham if he becomes available.
"The 49ers considered it during that window last year when Beckham seemed to be available, and there's already buzz this year that, if he's available, the 49ers would be interested," Florio wrote.
The 49ers have the cap space for Beckham. However, it seems unlikely that they'd part with the second overall pick in this year's draft. Instead, a 2020 first-rounder and this year's second-round pick should be enough to get a deal done.
New York could ride Eli Manning for one more season and then use its pair of first-rounders to secure a quarterback next year. San Francisco would get a legitimate No. 1 receiver for Jimmy Garoppolo.
Leonard Fournette to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Two years ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars used the fourth overall pick on former LSU running back Leonard Fournette. The hope was that he would have a Todd Gurley-like effect on the offense. However, Fournette has been closer to draft bust Trent Richardson than Gurley or Ezekiel Elliott.
Fournette had a decent rookie season with 1,040 rushing yards, but he fell off in a big way in 2018. He averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, missed time due to injury and was suspended for a game for fighting. Jacksonville has since decided to void the remaining guarantees in his rookie contract, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.
This is obviously going to make the running back unhappy. It would make sense for the Jaguars to seek addition by subtraction and move Fournette.
That is where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come in. They have a potential draft bust of their own in Ronald Jones, they finished with the fourth-fewest rushing yards (95.2 per game) and they're picking high in the draft.
A high third-round pick might be enough to take a potential headache of Jacksonville's hands. Adding him to the group of Jones and Peyton Barber would at least give the Buccaneers a functional rushing attack. If Fournette reaches his full potential in Tampa, that would be a bonus.
DeSean Jackson to the Buffalo Bills
While the Buccaneers struggled to run the ball in 2018, they didn't have the same trouble moving it through the air. Tampa averaged 320.3 yards passing per game, most in the NFL. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson, though, has no desire to return to that offense.
According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, Jackson's preference is to move on.
According to John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia, Jackson would like to return to the Philadelphia Eagles. However, that could be hard for the Eagles to swing either via trade or as a free-agent signing. Philadelphia is already slated to be heavily over the cap in 2019.
Instead of reuniting with the Eagles, Jackson could at least rejoin forces with running back LeSean McCoy in Buffalo. The Bills are slated to have more than $86 million in cap space and could afford Jackson's $10 million 2019 salary if they acquire him via trade.
Buffalo has two fourth-round picks and could move one in order to acquire Jackson. This would give quarterback Josh Allen another deep threat to pair with Robert Foster. The Buccaneers would at least get something in return for a player who no longer wants to be there.
Joe Flacco to the Jacksonville Jaguars
The Baltimore Ravens are now Lamar Jackson's team. The rookie has exploded onto the scene as a dual-threat quarterback, and he's carried the Ravens into the offseason. Former starter and Super Bowl-winner Joe Flacco is still on the team, but Baltimore isn't likely to keep him as a backup beyond the postseason.
While Flacco's 2019 base salary of $18.5 million is affordable for a starting quarterback, it's way too high for a backup.
It makes sense for the Ravens to move Flacco and his affordable contract rather than outright releasing him. The Jaguars, who dealt with a struggling Blake Bortles all season, make a ton of sense as a trade partner.
Jacksonville already has a pair of third-round pick this year, thanks to a deal with the Los Angeles Rams. Our theoretical trade of Fournette would land the Jaguars a third. They could certainly afford to give up two of them for Flacco.
The Ravens would get a pair of Day 2 picks for a quarterback who it can't house. The Jaguars would get a new starting signal-caller.
Antonio Brown to the New York Jets
Things appear contentious with the Pittsburgh Steelers, at least where wide receiver Antonio Brown is concerned. The seven-time Pro Bowler was benched for the season finale after a midweek outburst and after missing the rest of the week's practices.
According to Jason La Canfora of the B-More Opinionated podcsat, Brown has since asked the Steelers for a trade.
Brown is set to carry a cap hit of more than $22 million next season, which would make him hard to move. However, it isn't impossible. The New York Jets, for example, have more than $106 million in cap space.
The Jets also have a need for a No. 1 receiver to accompany quarterback Sam Darnold.
New York isn't going to part with the third overall pick for a 30-year-old receiver with a massive contract, and the Jets don't have a second-rounder this year. However, they do have a pair of third-round picks and could use those to make a creative offer.
An offer to Pittsburgh of two third-rounders this year and a second-rounder in 2020 would be a pretty nice haul for an aging wideout who isn't thrilled about being there.