NFL Trades that Should Happen Before the 2019 NFL Season
No trade is unrealistic in the NFL.
This rule used to apply to only mock drafts. The way the 2019 draft ended up unfolding would have been slammed by most onlookers if it was a simple mock draft before the event started.
Similar story for trade suggestions. Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders? Odell Beckham Jr. joining forces with Baker Mayfield on the Cleveland Browns? Top-tier pass rushers on tags like Dee Ford and Frank Clark getting immediately moved?
It all seemed too good to be true—at one point. If this offseason has taught fans anything, it is to not put anything past front offices desperate to win now at almost any price. And thanks to revamped rosters due to free agency and the draft, along with ever-evolving cap situations and needs, more trades are sure to unfold over the course of the summer.
While the Odell Beckham Jr. trade was for Jabrill Peppers and two picks, the other aforementioned trades this offseason were simply for picks. Antonio Brown was acquired for a third- and a fifth-rounder, Dee Ford for a 2020 second-rounder and Frank Clark for a first-rounder, a pick swap and a 2020 second-rounder. Disregarding the specifics, the following trades move undervalued players on shaky ground to organizations that can better utilize their talents—and might only need to sacrifice picks to do so. Whether by adding a necessary tool or subtracting a distraction, these trades can help teams improve in 2019.
RB Leonard Fournette to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Most teams are in a good place at running back via an accumulation of solid committees over the course of many years.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren't most teams.
Luckily for the Buccaneers, 2017's fourth overall pick might be available at a cheap price. The Jacksonville Jaguars might be a willing trade partner if a team hops on the phone with them about Leonard Fournette.
Fournette had an arrest in April over speeding, which doesn't seem like a huge deal until one recalls the Jaguars already canceled all the guarantees in his deal over a suspension from last year. The Jaguars would never say it, but he could probably be had for the right price.
The LSU product missed three games his rookie year, eight more as a sophomore in 2018 and averaged less than four yards per carry during that span. Jacksonville might just want more dependability at running back as they look to prop up Nick Foles and get into the playoffs.
As for Tampa Bay, the team should be willing to take a risk for higher potential at running back. They won five games last year and are now, with Ryan Fitzpatrick's offseason departure, fully rallying around Jameis Winston. Peyton Barber was a dud a season ago at 3.7 yards per carry and 2018 second-round pick Ronald Jones only attempted 23 rushes, averaging less than two yards per carry.
A change of scenery might create a boom for Fournette, who could sledgehammer next to Jones after the Buccaneers mostly ignored the position this offseason.
TE Jimmy Graham to New England Patriots
The Jimmy Graham experiment simply didn't work for the Green Bay Packers last year.
Graham came over from Seattle after a 10-touchdown campaign on 57 catches and caught just two touchdowns on 55 receptions with Aaron Rodgers. Different usage, a new team and all the other excuses apply—but it simply isn't what most expected from the 32-year-old tight end.
Especially the Packers, who went ahead and drafted Jace Sternberger in the third round. Maybe he won't get used like a tight end outright because of his wide receiver skillset and size, but Texas A&M's Offensive MVP will start to soak up a ton of targets alongside Davante Adams.
That could make Graham a valuable trade commodity, especially for a team like the New England Patriots.
Really, he just feels like a Patriots player. Tom Brady lost Rob Gronkowski to retirement so it would only seem fitting that the embarrassment of riches for the team in Foxboro continue.
Those Patriots did add Austin Seferian-Jenkins this offseason, but Graham would be much more of a sure thing. The front office has clearly aimed at getting Brady better weapons, hence selecting wide receiver N’Keal Harry in the first round.
For the Patriots, Graham would be a natural way to extend Brady's effectiveness and his contract has an out built in after this season if things don't work out.
RB Giovani Bernard to Atlanta Falcons
While trade ideas surrounding the Cincinnati Bengals might center on 2017's top-10 pick John Ross, the new coaching staff has been adamant he's sticking around and refused to use one of 10 draft picks on his position.
In reality, a likelier trade candidate is someone with value that should net a solid return: Giovani Bernard.
The Bengals added two running backs in the draft's sixth round. Texas A&M's Trayveon Williams ran for 1,760 yards and 18 touchdowns last year and could play a role as a rookie. Ditto for Oklahoma's Heisman Trophy contender Rodney Anderson who went off for 1,442 yards and 18 scores from scrimmage in 2017 before tearing his ACL in 2018.
A team like the Atlanta Falcons should have plenty of interest if the new coaching staff in Cincinnati wants to shift the new guys into Bernard's spell role.
Those Falcons only got two games from an injury-prone Devonta Freeman last year and lost Tevin Coleman to free agency. With that departure, the offense is missing the production of a back who had 167 rushing attempts and 44 targets while totaling nine touchdowns.
Bernard could represent an upgrade. He averages 4.2 yards per carry on his career with 40-plus receptions in each of his healthy seasons and 60-plus targets three times. He's only 27 and has one year left on his deal, so the Cincinnati front office might be willing to part with him as they focus on extensions for bigger names like A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd.
After not making an impact move at the position, the Falcons would get a big win if they convinced the Bengals to part with Bernard.
LB Darron Lee to Cincinnati Bengals
All signs point to the New York Jets trading Darron Lee.
Lee, the 20th pick in 2016, hasn't played a full 16-game season in three years and the team declined to pick up his fifth-year option. ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini has been one of many to suggest Lee will get moved.
Doing so during the draft would have made sense after a free-agency period when the team spent big on C.J. Mosley and just missed on Anthony Barr. The front office went on to get a big value with fifth-round linebacker Blake Cashman, so a Lee move only seems like a matter of time.
Those Bengals could end up being the team to swoop in at the last second and make it happen. They had the worst linebacker corps in the NFL last year and didn't do much to fix it. Vontaze Burfict is justifiably gone and they re-signed Preston Brown, but he's a two-down thumper and nothing more. The front office didn't add to the position in the draft until the third round with Germaine Pratt.
Granted, there is always a chance Pratt could blossom into a starter quickly. But that's likely the same thing the Bengals said when taking Malik Jefferson in the third round in 2018. Lee is still only 24 years old and has some of that coverage ability the Bengals so desperately need from their linebackers. He's also a cheap one-year rental at this point and an Ohio State product, which is something, following a trade up for Michael Jordan in the fourth round, the Bengals seem to be not-so-secretly prioritizing as they look to win back fans.
DB Patrick Peterson to Pittsburgh Steelers
Patrick Peterson could end up being the next superstar dealt and most wouldn't blink an eye given how this offseason has unfolded.
Once again, these Arizona Cardinals are blowing it up and starting over with a new coaching staff, banking it all on No. 1 pick Kyler Murray. In the background on April 23, it was quietly revealed that Peterson wasn't at voluntary workouts and the Arizona Republic's Kent Somers reported that it was due to someone within the Cardinals angering the star corner.
The Pittsburgh Steelers sure wouldn't mind if the situation deteriorated further. Pittsburgh has spun its wheels for years and years trying to fix the corner position and resorted to Steven Nelson in free agency and third-round pick Justin Layne as possible solutions.
While Joe Haden will still start on one side, those other two names won't necessarily ease the setback created by the first-round investment in Artie Burns back in the first round of the 2016 draft.
A steep asking price would naturally come with the territory of asking about Peterson. But the Steelers have already gotten aggressive once this offseason by trading into the top 10 to secure Devin Bush, the possible answer to the gap left by Ryan Shazier. Securing a top-10 corner and forgetting about the position for a long time makes plenty of sense.
EDGE Jadeveon Clowney to New York Jets
The Houston Texans keep leaking star players, so it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see Jadeveon Clowney waltz out the door not far behind Tyrann Mathieu.
Like Frank Clark and others, Clowney got hit with a tag before free agency. But as of April 25, he hadn't signed it and ESPN's Chris Mortensen (h/t Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk) reported the Texans are open to dealing the star pass rusher.
And the New York Jets aren't strangers to big moves this offseason, not after grabbing Le'Veon Bell and paying up for C.J. Mosley.
But those Jets also missed on Anthony Barr and, while Jachai Polite was a great get in the third round from a value standpoint, it isn't quite like securing a player of Clowney's caliber. The 26-year-old edge-rusher has 29 sacks over five seasons, including nine or more in each of his last two campaigns.
While costly, the Jets have the ammunition necessary via future draft picks to make a trade and the cash ready to dole out a long-term deal. Quinnen Williams, Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson up front with Mosley in the middle of the unit and Clowney rushing the passer sounds too good to pass up in Tom Brady's division.