Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Trade Deadline Could Redefine NFL Season

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterOctober 23, 2019

FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2019, file photo, Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) runs after a catch against the San Francisco 49ers during an NFL preseason football game in Denver. The 32-year-old speedster revealed this summer that he had surgeries on both ankles in the offseason, one to repair his left Achilles tendon, which he tore in practice last December, and one a month later to fix a severely sprained right ankle, which had bothered him since 2017. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

It's a week before the trade deadline, but on Tuesday two deals may already have determined who will play in the Super Bowl.

No, this isn't a joke.

In the morning, the Patriots acquired Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu, one of the most underrated players in the league, in exchange for a second-rounder. Sanu had fallen out of favor in Atlanta, but that doesn't change the fact that he's a solid route-runner and may be one of the most athletic receivers Tom Brady has worked with after Randy Moss, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon.

Later on Tuesday, the 49ers sent third- and fourth-round picks to Denver for receiver Emmanuel Sanders and a fifth-rounder. Now in his 10th season, Sanders is still an explosive talent, a game-changer who should pair nicely with tight end George Kittle.

Both undefeated, the Patriots and the 49ers may have been on a Super Bowl collision course before Tuesday, but with these moves, the chances they meet in early February only got better.

The league is loaded with talented teams this year from the Ravens to the Packers to the Vikings to the Chiefs, Saints and several others. Any of them could win a championship.

What separates the Niners and Pats are their exceptional defenses and, well, Tom Brady, who has already won 78 Super Bowls, or something close to that.

Now, throw in another significant weapon for Brady and a receiver who can stretch defenses for Jimmy Garoppolo while also opening things up for Kittle, and there may not be two more complete teams in the league.

On the bright side for the rest of the NFL, there is still time to improve as the October 29 trade deadline approaches. Teams continue to demonstrate that the trading ecosystem, once unenergetic, is now vibrant.

The Rams got busy last week in adding Jalen Ramsey and offensive lineman Austin Corbett. Now the Patriots and Niners have responded.

While the NFL deadline isn't quite on the NBA's level yet, the league has moved a lot further in that direction than a generation ago. With the right deal, a good team can become a contender, and a bad team can start hoping for the future. With the wrong deal, of course, a franchise can be set back for years.

In this special trade edition of 10-Point Stance, we examine many of the possible trade scenarios floating around and try to make sense of this secretive, jumbled time where so much happens with so little known publicly—until the trade is pulled off.

This story is based on interviews with three team executives (two from the AFC and one from the NFC). It's important to note that this is guesswork and no one really knows what will happen. Things can also change quite rapidly. Like, The Flash fast.

But these names aren't out there for no good reason.

Along with the names, we've tried to predict the likelihood that each player is actually traded on a scale of zero to 100 percent: zero being no way we trade him unless you give us Aaron Rodgers, Jerry Rice and Captain Kirk, and 100 being you can have him for a cheese sandwich and a Panera gift card.

           

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 12: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers before their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on September 12, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Cam Newton, QB, Panthers: Yes, he's struggled with injuries the past few seasons, but I can tell you for certain that teams are highly interested in him. Still, the former MVP is revered inside the organization, and his contract isn't trade-friendly.

Chances of trade: 5 percent

     

Vic Beasley Jr., DE, Falcons: Teams tell me the Falcons have been pretty aggressive in offering up their fifth-year former All-Pro but so far have few takers. That could change, and one team I've heard that could be interested is the Raiders.

Chances of trade: 30 percent

     

Patrick Peterson, DB, Cardinals: The Cardinals are publicly stating they won't trade Peterson, one of the best defensive backs in the league. But no one, and I mean no one, in the league believes them. Teams are convinced Peterson is on the block, and if the right offer is made, he's gone.

Chances of trade: 15 percent

           

Melvin Gordon III, RB, Chargers: Teams attempted to trade for Gordon this offseason, but the Chargers refused. Now, the season is seven weeks old, and Gordon, who returned in Week 4, has struggled, while running back Austin Ekeler has flourished with more than 700 yards from scrimmage and seven total touchdowns.

As the deadline approaches, teams will likely make another run at Gordon, if they haven't already. The chances the Chargers deal Gordon still remain low, said one AFC front-office source.

Chances of trade: 20 percent

           

Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

Chris Harris Jr., DB, Broncos: The Eagles want Harris badly, and so do other teams. With Denver's season circling the drain, he seems like one of the few pseudo-locks to get traded.

Chances of trade: 80 percent

     

A.J. Green, WR, Bengals: Cincinnati says it won't trade Green. The Jaguars also said they weren't trading Jalen Ramsey. Players are always part of the team until they aren't.

Chances of trade: 30 percent

      

O.J. Howard, TE, Buccaneers: The Patriots asked about Howard and were rebuffed. It seems the Buccaneers don't want to trade him. No, seriously, they don't. It's not just talk. Unless some team makes an incredible offer, Howard isn't leaving.

Chances of trade: 10 percent

       

Trent Williams, Washington: Teams describe this as one of the strangest cases they've ever experienced. Everyone knows Williams is available, and because of a serious dispute with Washington, he likely won't end his holdout. Yet the team stubbornly, and stupidly, refuses to deal him. Still, other teams keep trying and believe Washington will eventually give in. One report from NFL Network's Mike Garafolo even says the Browns call weekly.

Chances of trade: 99 percent

         

DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins: The Dolphins have already had quite the fire sale, so trading Parker wouldn't be surprising. While his numbers have been pedestrian thus far this season, some teams think Parker is far more talented than he's shown in Miami.

Chances of trade: 40 percent

        

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 13: Kenyan Drake #32 of the Miami Dolphins rushes the football during the first half against the Washington Redskins at Hard Rock Stadium on October 13, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
Eric Espada/Getty Images

Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins: Miami is in in full tank mode, so keeping a promising running back when so many teams are in need of one doesn't make a lot of sense for a franchise selling off everything that isn't a draft pick. Drake has been far from spectacular this season, but he's still only 25, and teams are still highly interested.

Chances of trade: 50 percent

        

Derrick Henry, RB, Titans: Another situation where a franchise could get good picks and rebuild an offense that is in dire trouble. However, I'm hearing the Titans are hesitant to trade Henry because they think he can be a good centerpiece of the offense in the future. We'll see how long that theory lasts.

Chances of trade: 25 percent

            

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL. 

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