NFL Teams That Desperately Need to Strike a Trade
A quarter of the way into the NFL season, the honeymoon period is over for most teams, but the next beacon of hope is approaching—the trade market.
The NFL hasn't been a stranger to blockbuster trades thanks to an NBA-esque offseason headlined by the Odell Beckham Jr. deal.
Fans flock to the idea of trades, whether the teams they support are missing a piece, need to sell disgruntled players or look ready to host a fire sale in hopes of a better future.
Ahead of the Oct. 29 trade deadline, these teams have to make a notable move to compete now, solve a problem or stockpile assets.
The Detroit Lions are a quality team that needs a little more juice.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford is playing well with nine touchdowns and two interceptions, and the defense has put up nine sacks and forced eight fumbles, recovering six.
Yet the record stands at 2-1-1. The Lions only mustered a tie against Arizona and then beat depleted Los Angeles Chargers and Philadelphia teams before losing to Kansas City.
The Lions could set themselves apart by upping the ante defensively, such as adding a top-flight talent like Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey to a strong defensive backfield with Darius Slay and Justin Coleman.
That sounds ambitious, but teams have to be in the NFC North, where two teams have three wins and two more boast a pair. The Lions have yet to face a divisional opponent, and more defensive star power for Matt Patricia's defense isn't a bad idea.
Ramsey and the Lions are a good schematic fit, and the Detroit front office has plenty of draft assets to splurge (it still has all of its top-50 picks over the next two years) if it wants to make a move.
San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers seem like contenders after getting off to a fast start.
"Seem" was used with purpose, though. A 3-0 start before a Week 4 bye is nice, yet wins over Tampa Bay, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh aren't anything to write home about because those teams share three total wins.
There are encouraging signs, such as a much-improved defense. Defensive end Nick Bosa has placed himself in Defensive Rookie of the Year conversations on a unit that has nine sacks and five picks. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is benefiting from Kyle Shanahan's brilliant approach to game plans and adjustments. A hodgepodge of names at running back is helping the 49ers average 4.6 yards per carry with four scores.
The schedule will get tougher, though. Better opponents will not only adapt to what's on film but also expose the fact that the 49ers don't have a No. 1 wideout. Tight end George Kittle leads the team in receiving.
Acquiring someone like Minnesota Vikings wideout Stefon Diggs would further the team's ambition as contenders and prop up Garoppolo, who still seems shaky with four picks against five scores.
A team that wants to win should probably add a wideout with 3,700-plus yards and 25 scores over just 59 games if he's available. The 49ers are in win-now mode and should be desperate to avoid regression and keep this thing going.
It's emergency time for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Coming off a Week 4 loss in which Andy Dalton suffered eight sacks, things could get worse along the offensive line.
The running tally: Guard Clint Boling retired in July, first-round tackle Jonah Williams is on injured reserve, left tackle Cordy Glenn is still out with a concussion he suffered in the preseason, and 2018 first-round center Billy Price can barely crack the starting lineup.
Against Pittsburgh, no lineman graded better than a 54.0 in pass blocking at Pro Football Focus. This is a trend for a Bengals front office that has drafted busts like Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher in recent years.
The Bengals' offensive line scouting and coaching aren't working, so it would be better to use assets to acquire linemen who have already shown they can play at a high level—think Washington's Trent Williams. That would be costly, of course, but seemingly necessary. It won't save this 0-4 season, but looking ahead, it would help solve their biggest issue—one that is somehow getting worse.
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers weren't shy about going all-in this offseason with big additions. Besides head coach Matt LaFleur, think Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Adrian Amos on the defense.
Why stop now?
The Packers are 3-1, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers has looked somewhat comfortable while completing 62.3 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and one pick. But this Packers squad has a different character than usual. The defense is winning games, while Rodgers' offense has scored more than 21 points just twice.
Behind Rodgers, no running back averages better than 3.3 yards per carry. The ground game as a whole is sitting on a 3.5 average with four touchdowns and no scampers of 20-plus yards.
The mind wanders to the Los Angeles Chargers, where Melvin Gordon III has returned from his holdout. The star back could still be dealt, especially since the Chargers are happy with other options like Austin Ekeler.
In 55 games, the 26-year-old Gordon has put up 3,600-plus yards with 28 touchdowns on an average of four yards per carry. He's also caught at least 33 passes in each of his first four seasons and twice gone for 50 or more.
Arguments about the importance of running backs persist, but adding Gordon for a reasonable price would be a good get if it provides a spark for the ground game. (The MMQB's Albert Breer reported that the Eagles proposed a middle-round pick and player swap.) The Wisconsin link doesn't hurt.
How long can the Seattle Seahawks keep going like this?
Past narratives about a Seahawks falloff didn't hold much merit. This year, though, Russell Wilson and Co. escaped with a one-point victory over winless Cincinnati, beat mediocre Pittsburgh by two and lost to New Orleans before stomping Arizona.
Not encouraging—and once again, neither are Wilson's surroundings. He's completing 73.1 percent of his passes with 12 scores and no picks. It feels like a year where he'll need to do more than usual to compensate for a defense that coughed up two touchdown passes apiece to Mason Rudolph and Teddy Bridgewater before allowing 29 points in a critical win over the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday.
Wilson isn't getting much from his weapons. Tyler Lockett leads all receivers, while rookie DK Metcalf is coming on, but perhaps slower than expected. Tight end Will Dissly can only do so much.
A drastic move to get Wilson a secure target like Cincinnati's A.J. Green would help. The 31-year-old Green is on the mend from an ankle injury but still has star potential if his body can handle the rigors of being on the field. He's caught six or more scores in all but one of his seasons since 2011 despite a rough injury history. The latter point could drive the price down if the Bengals look to sell and rebuild.
Gunning after that sort of rental to contend in the improving NFC West would help the Seahawks to not only stay in the division race but also preserve Wilson beyond this season.
The Washington Redskins need help.
That goes without saying given the 0-4 predicament the team finds itself in, not to mention the hot seat for head coach Jay Gruden. A rebuild seems likely with or without Gruden, though first-round rookie passer Dwayne Haskins figures to feature in this endeavor.
It's time to start stockpiling talent and shipping away those who don't want to be around; think Minkah Fitzpatrick in Miami. This means wrapping up the Trent Williams situation.
It seems clear Williams won't play for the Redskins. The left tackle might show up so he gets an accrued season, and the Reskins can't hold him hostage for longer than his contract says, but the massive fines he's incurred suggest this is a staredown that can't be resolved.
To the trade block the Redskins should go. Strong offensive line play rarely slips to the market, let alone a player of Williams' caliber. The front office should be able to net a massive return for an elite left tackle in his prime. Washington can invest those assets in the future of the line and hit budding problem areas like linebacker and the defensive backfield, not to mention surround Haskins with as many quality weapons as possible.
Shipping away Williams won't be a popular move with fans, and the blame should likely fall on Washington's decision-makers. But for a team stuck in middling purgatory, freeing up space and gaining assets in exchange for a guy who isn't even playing is necessary in an effort to set a proper course.