Realistic NFL Trades That Could Significantly Alter Teams' Plans in 2020
Even the best-laid plans are often temporary. This is true in the NFL, as one unexpected trade or surprise signing can significantly alter a team's strategy for the offseason.
Last year, for example, the New York Giants dealt wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive end Olivier Vernon to the Cleveland Browns for the 17th pick in the draft, a third-round pick, safety Jabrill Peppers and guard Kevin Zeitler. This left the Browns without a first-round pick and gave the Giants what they might need to move up in the draft—though they did not.
New York then signed Golden Tate to a four-year, $37.5 million deal to help replace Beckham.
So, one deal changed the game plans for two franchises—more if you count teams that may have been interested in acquiring Beckham. Here, we'll examine some potential trades that could have a similar effect during 2020's edition of free agency.
Lions Trade Darius Slay to Eagles
Detroit Receives 2020 2nd-Round Pick
Despite having the league's 32nd-ranked pass defense, the Detroit Lions are looking to move starting cornerback Darius Slay. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Lions have spoken with "multiple teams" about moving the three-time Pro Bowler.
The Philadelphia Eagles would be a logical destination for Slay. They ranked 19th in pass defense last season and could lose cornerback Ronald Darby in free agency. Philadelphia also looked into acquiring Slay before the 2019 trade deadline, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen (h/t Bleacher Report's Rob Goldberg).
Adding Slay would give the Eagles a premier cornerback and allow them to pursue other positions in free agency and the draft. It would make cornerback an even bigger need for Detroit—one it may then be forced to address with the No. 3 pick in the draft.
Bengals Trade Andy Dalton to Colts
Cincinnati Receives 2020 3rd-Round Pick
The Cincinnati Bengals are widely expected to pick LSU quarterback Joe Burrow with the No. 1 selection in the draft. If they indeed plan to do so, longtime starter Andy Dalton could be on the move.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Bengals will "work with" Dalton to facilitate a trade to an agreeable destination.
Dealing Dalton to the Indianapolis Colts would give the veteran a chance to revive his career and Indianapolis a long-term option at quarterback. At just 32 years old, Dalton could be the Colts' starter for the next half-decade or so. That may not be the case for 2019 starter Jacoby Brissett.
"The jury's still out," general manager Chris Ballard said of Brissett, per The Athletic's Zak Keefer.
While Dalton may not have the raw arm strength of Carson Wentz, he can provide some of the same attributes—accuracy, mobility, leadership—that Wentz displayed for Colts coach Frank Reich when the two were in Philadelphia.
Adding Dalton would take the Colts out of the quarterback market in the first round of the draft.
Washington Trades No. 2 Pick to Chargers
Washington Receives 1st- and 2nd-Round Picks in 2020 and 2021
If the Bengals do pick Burrow at No. 1, it could spark a run at the position. According to Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller, three quarterbacks could be selected among the first five players.
The Miami Dolphins, who own the fifth pick, are presumably another team that wants a quarterback. Having a third would likely require a trade—possibly one involving the Washington Redskins and the No. 2 selection.
"I had somebody who was at the Senior Bowl who told me, flat-out, that the Washington Redskins could remake their franchise this year by dealing the second pick in the draft," NBC Sports' Peter King said in late January on the Redskins Talk podcast.
The Los Angeles Chargers, who have parted with Philip Rivers, could be the team to move up. By going from No. 6 to No. 2, they could have their pick of quarterbacks not named Burrow—likely landing either Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa or Oregon's Justin Herbert.
The New York Jets made a similar move ahead of the 2018 draft, sending three second-round picks and the sixth overall selection to the Colts for No. 3.
Buccaneers Trade O.J. Howard to Colts
Tampa Bay Receives 2020 2nd-Round Pick
Indianapolis has two second-round picks this year, one of them from Washington. The Colts could use the second (No. 44 overall) to acquire a tight end. With Eric Ebron slated to reach free agency, Indy could use the help, and it may be able to find a seller.
O.J. Howard appeared to fall out of favor with Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians in 2019.
"He's a talented, talented guy, but it's not showing up on Sundays," Arians said in November, per Eduardo A. Encina of the Tampa Bay Times.
Howard would help the Colts replace Ebron. A second-round pick would give the Buccaneers options in the draft—options that could include trying to move up from No. 14 to land a quarterback.
Tampa Bay may move on from Jameis Winston this offseason, and it could consider seeking his replacement in the draft. If so, having the capital to move up would be huge.
Panthers Trade Cam Newton to Chargers
Carolina Receives 2020 2nd-Round Pick
If the Chargers aren't keen on dealing a wad of draft capital to move up in the draft, they could try going a different route to replace Philip Rivers. Trading for Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton could give them a short-term starter with long-term potential.
The long-term potential will hinge on Newton's ability to return to form after he has had two consecutive seasons hampered by injuries.
The Panthers believe Newton will pass his physical and "be cleared for some football activity in March," according to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic.
New head coach Matt Rhule could start his tenure with his own quarterback—possibly one the Panthers draft after a trade up from No. 7—while the Chargers could use 2020 to gauge Newton's health and long-term prospects.
Browns Trade David Njoku to Patriots
Cleveland Receives 2020 4th-Round Pick, 2021 5th-Round Pick
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku was a major disappointment in 2019. He landed on injured reserve early, fell out of favor with then-coach Freddie Kitchens late and finished the year with just four appearances and five receptions.
In 2018, however, Njoku grabbed 56 passes for 639 yards and four touchdowns.
The issue is that Njoku may not be a terrific fit for new head coach Kevin Stefanski, who utilized a run-heavy offense with the Minnesota Vikings. Njoku is not a strong in-line blocker—the Browns challenged him to improve in this area last offseason—and he could have more value as a trade chip.
The New England Patriots could be interested in making a deal. If the Patriots are serious about retaining quarterback Tom Brady, they're going to have to upgrade the talent around him. Adding an athletic 6'4", 246-pounder would be a good start.
If New England could agree to acquire Njoku before the start of free agency, it would show Brady that it is serious about improving his supporting cast. If the Patriots convince Brady to stick around, it would make a huge impact on several teams' plans this offseason.
Meanwhile, this would leave Cleveland searching for another pass-catching tight end.
Giants Trade Nate Solder and Two 4th-Round Picks to Browns
New York Receives 2020 4th-Round Pick
The Browns are back to letting analytics guru Paul DePodesta run the show—along with new general manager and former vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry—which could lead to some unusual trades.
In 2017, the Browns essentially absorbed Brock Osweiler's contract in exchange for the Houston Texans' second-round pick. They could try something similar, though not quite as extreme, by dealing for Giants left tackle Nate Solder.
Cleveland could offer to swap fourth-round picks with the Giants—netting a slightly higher selection (No. 100 overall vs. No. 105)—and pick up a future fourth-rounder to eat Solder's $19.5 million salary. Solder has been a massive disappointment, and there's a strong chance New York will draft his replacement with the fourth overall pick.
Getting only a minor increase in draft capital would be acceptable for Cleveland because Solder would at least give it options. According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, the Browns have no interest in re-signing Greg Robinson.
The Browns may still target a tackle with the 10th pick in the draft. However, Solder could give them a bit of insurance against an early run on the position and would get them out of the free-agent market for left tackles. That market isn't overwhelming—Anthony Castonzo is arguably the top option—but will still be pricey because of the importance of the position.
Vikings Trade Stefon Diggs to Bills
Minnesota Receives 2020 1st-Round Pick
The Minnesota Vikings are in a tough salary-cap situation. They're projected to be more than $12 million over the threshold, which means they'll have to cut money from somewhere. It could be wideout Stefon Diggs, who is set to carry a cap hit of $14.5 million in 2020.
Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd said Tuesday the Vikings are looking to deal Diggs "for the right pick."
Perhaps the 22nd selection in this year's draft could get a trade done. The Buffalo Bills own that pick, and Diggs could fill their need for a No. 1 receiver.
This would give the Bills the go-to pass-catcher Josh Allen doesn't have, allowing Buffalo to focus its attention on other positions. It would create another need for the Vikings, but given their cap situation, that's a problem they may be willing to accept.
Salary-cap and contract information via Spotrac.