NFL Players Who Could Be Traded Following Free Agency

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2020

NFL Players Who Could Be Traded Following Free Agency

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    Gary Landers/Associated Press

    Free agency continues to roll on in the NFL, though the activity has begun to slow. The same is true for the trade market, as evidenced by the Carolina Panthers' inability to move quarterback Cam Newton before releasing him earlier this week.

    While there may be the occasional deal over the next couple of weeks, the next wave of trades will probably come before, during and after April's draft. Teams will have a better idea of where their needs are and how they can maximize the value of moving players.

    Here, we'll examine eight notable veterans who could still be moved this offseason, based on factors like salary, cap space, positional depth and long-term roster outlook. Some of these players could be traded as money moves; others because the team has a replacement on deck or is likely to draft one.

           

Carlos Dunlap, Edge, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Gary Landers/Associated Press

    Because of their long-term outlook, the Cincinnati Bengals may try moving longtime pass-rusher Carlos Dunlap. Though he is still a productive sack artist—he had nine sacks in 2019—Dunlap is also 31 years old and set to earn nearly $24.5 million over the next two seasons. Only $4.5 million of that is dead money.

    Will the Bengals be ready to contend within the next two years? Probably not. They're entering a new rebuild that will likely be centered around presumed No. 1 pick Joe Burrow. Cincinnati is not a quarterback away, however, so the rebuild will take some time.

    Cincinnati could save roughly $20 million over the next two seasons by dealing Dunlap—money that could be used on younger players who will be around to see the rebuild through. The Bengals obviously would get a little something in return in a trade while also opening up an expanded role for 2017 fourth-round pick Carl Lawson.

    Lawson produced five sacks in 2019 but played just under 43 percent of defensive snaps, according to Football Outsiders.

Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Gary Landers/Associated Press

    As previously mentioned, the Bengals are expected to make LSU quarterback Joe Burrow the first pick in the draft. This means that current Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is expendable. The challenge for Cincinnati will be finding a trade partner.

    The Bengals are open to dealing Dalton, but his 2019 salary has been prohibitive, according to NBC Sports' Peter King.

    "I think I keep hearing no one will trade for Andy Dalton and pay him $17 million this year in the last year of his deal," King wrote.

    It's unlikely that a team will jump on a Dalton trade now—especially with players like Newton and Jameis Winston on the open market. However, this could change later in the offseason. If a team misses out on a starting-caliber quarterback in the draft or loses its starter to injury during training camp, Dalton could suddenly become a prime trade target.

Olivier Vernon, Edge, Cleveland Browns

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Cleveland Browns pass-rusher Olivier Vernon is coming off a disappointing and injury-hampered year. He appeared in just 10 games and finished with a mere 3.5 sacks. Vernon is also set to earn $15.5 million in 2020 with none of it guaranteed. However, Cleveland isn't looking to release him just yet, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.

    Vernon could be a cut candidate post-draft if the Browns are able to add another pass-rusher. He could also be offered as trade bait at some point during the draft.

    Vernon's salary for 2020 isn't appealing, but a team may be willing to acquire him and then restructure or extend his contract. Vernon has shown himself to be a quality pass-rusher when healthy—he had 22 sacks in 39 games with the New York Giants—and teams are regularly looking for pass-rushing help.

    Given the money Cleveland would save, a late-round draft pick might be enough to land Vernon. At that price, some team should be willing to deal.

Trent Williams, OT, Washington Redskins

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    Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

    Washington Redskins offensive tackle Trent Williams is another player whose market may not come together until after the draft. The seven-time Pro Bowler didn't play in 2019, and Washington's current asking price of a second-round pick is turning off prospective trade partners.

    "At that asking price, [a deal] is not going to get done," Garafolo said on NFL Now.

    Washington will still likely have to reduce its asking price, but teams will likely be more interested if they strike out on a top tackle prospect in the draft.

    Cleveland is a potential landing spot. The Browns explored a trade early in free agency, and he remains a possible target, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. However, the Browns also own the 10th overall pick in the draft and will likely try landing a tackle there before turning their attention back to Williams.

    Other tackle-needy teams will likely take a similar approach.

Matt Judon, LB, Baltimore Ravens

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    On one hand, trading linebacker and sack artist Matt Judon doesn't make a ton of sense for the Baltimore Ravens. They're looking to bolster their front seven and pass rush, as evidenced by last week's trade for Calais Campbell and signings of Jihad Ward and Michael Brockers.

    On the other hand, the additions of Campbell and Ward provide pass-rushing help and could make Judon—who had 9.5 sacks in 2019—closer to expendable. With Judon set to play on the franchise tag this season, the Ravens may be looking to execute a tag-and-trade.

    "Judon is a candidate for Baltimore's franchise-tag-and-trade inquiries from other teams, league sources tell ESPN, potentially continuing the recent trend of offseason trades featuring high-profile pass-rushers," ESPN's Adam Schefter wrote in January.

    A tag-and-trade could indeed be the route the Ravens take with Judon, especially if they're looking to make additional moves. Baltimore has just over $11 million in cap space.

Yannick Ngakoue, Edge, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Jacksonville Jaguars do not appear eager to deal defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. According to Garafolo, there is "nothing going on" regarding a potential trade of Ngakoue.

    This could change in the coming weeks, however, depending on what interested teams are willing to offer the Jaguars.

    At this point, it appears unlikely that Ngakoue will be a piece of Jacksonville's long-term plans. The former Maryland star made it clear shortly after he received the franchise tag that he has no desire to remain with the Jaguars over the long haul.

    "The Jaguars are aware I no longer have interest in signing a long term contract in Jacksonville," Ngakoue tweeted.

    If Jacksonville isn't going to have the edge-rusher beyond the 2020 season, it would make a lot of sense to move him while it has the option to do so. Ngakoue, who has registered at least eight sacks in each of his four seasons, should also bring something valuable in return.

Anthony Harris, S, Minnesota Vikings

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Like Judon and Ngakoue, Minnesota Vikings safety Anthony Harris is a tag-and-trade candidate. It was a bit surprising to see Harris get the tag in the first place, as the Vikings were not exactly loaded with cap space.

    After releasing Xavier Rhodes, Linval Joseph and David Morgan, trading Stefon Diggs and making a few additions and re-signings, the Vikings have just over $12 million in available cap room. That's enough of a bankroll that dealing Harris to clear cap space isn't a necessity. It's also not so much room that he's guaranteed to stay.

    According to Rapoport, the Vikings "acknowledged to teams that Harris could be had for a mid-to-late-round draft pick" early in free agency.

    If the compensation is right, Minnesota could indeed deal Harris. Doing so would give the team another $11.44 million in cap room, which would nearly double its buying power. Given Harris' stellar 2019 season—11 passes defensed and an NFL-high six interceptions—Minnesota should also be compensated well in a trade.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    Former Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been a fine role player since arriving with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018. However, his production hasn't come close to matching his massive three-year, $48 million contract.

    In two seasons with the Chiefs, Watkins has produced just 1,192 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

    Watkins is set to carry a ridiculous cap hit of $21 million in 2020, $14 million of which the Chiefs could save by releasing or trading him. Trading him could be difficult at that price, but a team might be willing to take a chance on him at $14 million for one season.

    Unfortunately, the Chiefs probably won't find a trade partner until after the draft. The rookie receiver class is believed to be deep, and teams may only show an interest in Watkins if they pass on receivers in the first few rounds.

    A team that deals for Watkins could be in store for a bargain in terms of trade value, though. Kansas City is over the cap and may be willing to accept low-end compensation to free up that $14 million.

        

    Contract and cap information via Spotrac.