7 NFL Trades That Should Happen Before the 2020 NFL SeasonMay 4, 2020
7 NFL Trades That Should Happen Before the 2020 NFL Season
Now that the 2020 NFL draft is over, teams are going to turn back to the free-agent and trade markets to fill remaining holes. The latter, in particular, could get interesting very quickly. Remember, notable players like Laremy Tunsil and Jadeveon Clowney were dealt between last year's draft and the 2019 regular season.
Here, we'll examine seven trades that could and should happen before the start of the 2020 season. We'll be examining trades that make sense for both teams and are grounded in reality—factors like scheme fit and cap space will be considered.
Where possible, potential trades will be based on recent trade buzz, though some will be concocted through a combination of needs, surplus and good old-fashioned common sense.
Leonard Fournette to the Pittsburgh Steelers
The Jacksonville Jaguars have had discussions about trading running back Leonard Fournette since March, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport. Now that the draft is over, Jacksonville may be able to find a taker.
The Pittsburgh Steelers could be that team. The Steelers are set to get a healthy Ben Roethlisberger back into the lineup, but they need to improve a running game that averaged just 90.4 yards in 2019, fourth-fewest in the NFL.
Pittsburgh used a fourth-round pick on Maryland's Anthony McFarland, but McFarland isn't viewed as a future star.
"He appears to have low-end backup potential," NFL Media's Lance Zierlein wrote of McFarland.
Adding Fournette would give the Steelers a competent running and receiving option in the backfield. The LSU product topped 1,100 rushing yards and had 76 receptions in 2019. He wouldn't exactly be prime Le'Veon Bell for the Steelers, but he could do a decent impression.
Pittsburgh would have to clear a little cap space to take on Fournette's contract—they have roughly $5.7 million in space—but doing so would help balance out the offense. Fournette, who has just a year remaining on his deal with an $8.7 million cap hit, isn't likely to command an outlandish return.
Jaguars receive a conditional 2021 fourth-round pick that could become a third-rounder.
Yannick Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens
The Jaguars aren't actively trying to trade defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, but it would be in their best interest to do so. Ngakoue, who was given the franchise tag this offseason, has made it clear that he wants to play elsewhere. He has pushed for a trade and continues to do so.
"Tired of the back and forth Jaguars," Ngakoue tweeted. "Let's get this s--t done."
The Baltimore Ravens would be a prime trade partner for Ngakoue, who has at least eight sacks in each of his four pro seasons. The Ravens produced just 37 sacks as a team in 2019, despite spending much of several games with a sizable lead.
Baltimore did trade for Calais Campbell in the offseason, but it did not add an edge-rusher in the draft. Campbell was acquired from the Jaguars, though, which means an open line of communication between the two franchises already exists.
With just under $10 million in cap space, the Ravens would have to free up some room or—the more likely option—sign Ngakoue to a backloaded long-term deal. Doing so would reunite Campbell and Ngakoue, who combined for 14.5 sacks in 2019.
Jaguars receive a 2021 second-round pick.
Josh Rosen to the Jacksonville Jaguars
During last year's draft, the Miami Dolphins traded a second-round pick to acquire 2018 first-rounder Josh Rosen. However, Rosen only received a limited audition to be the team's future quarterback during 2019. During this year's draft, Miami used the fifth overall pick on former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Rosen has zero chance of being Miami's quarterback of the future. That could lead to friction in the quarterback room, and the Dolphins should try getting what they can for Rosen while he still has some trade value. The longer he lingers in obscurity, the less interest he's going to carry.
Jacksonville should gamble on Rosen's potential. The Jaguars traded Nick Foles this offseason, and while they are standing behind Gardner Minshew, they have not dismissed the idea of bringing in some competition.
"We’re still looking to make sure we're upgraded at each position," head coach Doug Marrone said on Good Morning Football (h/t Rapoport). "There are some veterans out there that we might look at to bring in, along with the young guys we have."
While Rosen probably isn't the sort of veteran Marrone was speaking of, he would provide anther young alternative to Minshew should the 2019 rookie phenom stumble. At the same time, Rosen isn't established enough to push Minshew out of a starting opportunity the way that a free agent like Cam Newton probably would.
The Dolphins receive a 2021 conditional fourth-round pick that could become as high as a second-rounder based on playing time.
Kenny Stills to the Green Bay Packers
While the Houston Texans aren't tight on cap space—they have just under $18 million—wide receiver Kenny Stills is still a potential cap casualty. He is due to earn $7 million in 2020 and could find himself buried on the depth chart.
While the Texans did trade DeAndre Hopkins this offseason, they have Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, Will Fuller V, Keke Coutee and rookie fifth-round pick Isaiah Coulter on the roster.
"Even though O'Brien touted Stills as a significant reason the team gave up so much to Miami in the trade for Laremy Tunsil, flipping the receiver into a late-round pick—or simply cutting him to create cap space for extensions and post-draft free-agent signings—seems more realistic," The Athletic's Aaron Reiss wrote.
The Green Bay Packers should give the Texans a call. They lack a reliable No. 2 receiver opposite Davante Adams, and they did not add a wide receiver in the draft. Stills, who ran a 4.38-second 40 at the scouting combine in 2013—still has enough speed to threaten defenses deep and make them pay for over-committing to Adams in coverage.
Stills could be the speedster that the Packers lack, and trading for him would show Aaron Rodgers that the Packers aren't ready to shut his Super Bowl window.
Texans receive a 2021 fifth-rounder.
Haason Reddick to the Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals drafted former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow first overall and then released veteran signal-caller Andy Dalton days after doing so. This means that the Burrow era is on Cincinnati's doorstep. Now is the time for Cincinnati to start building a roster capable of contending once Burrow develops.
One of the first steps Cincinnati needs to take is improving its 32nd-ranked run defense. The Bengals had a serious lack of talent and depth in their linebacker corps, which is why they added three linebackers in the draft.
The Bengals didn't take a linebacker before Round 3 (Wyoming's Logan Williams), however, so it's not like they cannot or should not continue adding to the position. This is where 2017 first-round pick Haason Reddick comes in.
The Arizona Cardinals have gotten solid production out of Reddick—he had 76 tackles and a sack in 2019—but the 13th overall pick hasn't been special.
"He's been disappointing for them and I think they would like to make a move because they know they need to improve their defense," Michael Lombardi said on the GM Shuffle podcast.
Taking a flier on Reddick should be worth a middle-round pick to Cincinnati. Getting that pick should be worth it to a Cardinals team looking to move on from a player drafted for a different coaching staff.
Cardinals receive a conditional 2021 fourth-rounder that could become a third-rounder.
Larry Warford to the Cleveland Browns
Veteran guard Larry Warford started 15 games for the New Orleans Saints in 2019. A three-time Pro Bowler, he is a valuable asset who could still become a cap casualty. Warford is set to carry a cap hit of nearly $13 million in 2020. That could be tough to swallow for a team holding just under $3 million in cap space.
Additionally, the Saints drafted former Michigan interior lineman Cesar Ruiz in the first round. If Warford is traded or released, Ruiz could likely step in opposite Pro Bowler Andrus Peat.
"We weren't drafting [Ruiz] that high to be a backup," head coach Sean Payton said, per ESPN's Mike Triplett.
Several teams could use a soon-to-be 29-year-old Pro Bowler at guard, but the Cleveland Browns have a need and the league's highest amount of cap space. The Browns invested heavily in their offensive line already this offseason, signing right tackle Jack Conklin and drafting former Alabama tackle Jedrick Wills.
Adding a Pro Bowler at guard to replace Wyatt Teller would essentially "complete" Cleveland's offensive-line makeover. The Browns would then need to sign Warford to a long-term deal. Adding him would give them one of the top lines in the league.
Saints receive a 2021 third-round pick.
Cameron Brate to the Cincinnati Bengals
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Tom Brady in free agency and then traded for temporarily retired tight end Rob Gronkowski. While Brady enjoys throwing to talented tight ends, this leaves the Buccaneers with a surplus at the position—the offense likely won't have room for Gronkowski, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate.
Tampa clearly isn't going to trade Gronk after trading for him, and the team recently exercised the fifth-year option on Howard.
"We're excited about having O.J. Howard play with Rob Gronkowski," general manager Jason Licht said, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. "Why wouldn't you want to have many weapons at that position?"
Brate, who is due to earn $4.25 million in 2020, could be viewed as expendable. If he is, the Bengals should pounce. As previously mentioned, Cincinnati needs to put talent around Burrow, and Brate is a capable receiving tight end—he had 660 yards and eight touchdowns the season before Howard was drafted.
With Tyler Eifert gone, the Bengals are left with C.J. Uzomah and Drew Sample. Adding Brate would unquestionably upgrade the tight end room and give Burrow another proven target. Given Tampa's surplus at the position, a high Day 3 pick should be a fair price.
Buccaneers receive a 2021 fourth-round pick.
Contract information via Spotrac.