The Ideal Trade Target for Each NFL Team
Tuesday marks the league's trade deadline, and while the NFL doesn't feature the mayhem of the NBA or MLB, there could still be quite a few players swapping helmets before then.
The trade deadline is a big deal for varying reasons. As we've already seen with the Baltimore Ravens' acquisition of edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, trades can offer contending teams an in-season opportunity to add the missing piece in a championship puzzle. For the league's bottom-feeders, the deadline is a chance to sell veteran assets with expiring contracts and gain draft capital.
It's a balancing act either way—a dance involving fit, contract and compensation.
Still, what if every NFL team was going to make one trade? Add one player? Who would best fit each franchise given how the 2020 season has progressed?
This column aims to answer those questions.
Arizona Cardinals: Edge Ryan Kerrigan
The Arizona Cardinals are in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt. The offense is loaded with skill-position talent. But the defense was a question mark even before the team lost top pass-rusher Chandler Jones to a season-ending arm injury in Week 5.
The Redbirds need help getting after the quarterback—and they've already pursued some. As Michael Eisen wrote at NFL.com, the Redbirds dealt a sixth-round pick to the New York Giants for edge-rusher Markus Golden, who played for the team from 2015 to 2018.
It's a good start. But it doesn't mean Arizona should be finished pursuing pass-rushing help.
At 32, Ryan Kerrigan isn't the player he used to be, and he's become the odd man out for the Washington defense—he has played a career-low 38 percent of the team's defensive snaps in 2020. But as recently as 2018, the four-time Pro Bowler piled up 13 sacks, and he's hit double digits in that category four times and averaged 10 sacks per season over his first nine years.
Kerrigan would be a better fit in Arizona's 3-4 front than in Ron Rivera's 4-3 in D.C., and with his contract set to expire after the 2020 season, Washington would likely part with him for relatively modest compensation.
If the Cardinals think they are ready for a postseason run, this deal makes quite a bit of sense.
Atlanta Falcons: CB Desmond King II
The Atlanta Falcons didn't win their first game until Week 6. Both head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff have already been fired.
It's much more likely that the Falcons will have a fire sale than spend draft capital trying to improve in the middle of a lost season.
However, if the Falcons were looking to get better in 2020, fixing a leaky secondary would be toward the top of the list. And the addition of a versatile, talented player such as Desmond King II of the Los Angeles Chargers would be a sizable step in the right direction.
King's name has been brought up in trade speculation dating all the way back to the summer, and he's a versatile defender capable of playing both cornerback and safety who has a passer rating against of 81 or lower in two of the past three seasons.
Whether it's in the slot or at free safety, King would afford immediate improvement to a bad Falcons back end. A Day 3 pick would get it done for the impending free agent. And if his half-season audition doesn't go well, the Falcons can always punt in free agency.
Baltimore Ravens: WR Marvin Jones Jr.
The Baltimore Ravens have already been busy on the trade front, acquiring Ngakoue from the Vikings. But the Ravens could still be in the market for offensive upgrades.
There's been more than a little talk regarding the Ravens adding a wide receiver, with Julio Jones' name coming up in some speculation. But while adding one of the league's best players would be a dream come true, Baltimore hasn't historically shown a willingness to trade the kind of draft capital it would take to make that big of a splash.
Still, Jones isn't the only wide receiver who might be available—he's just the most expensive. And there are other veterans who could help the wideout corps without breaking the bank.
Over eight-plus seasons, Marvin Jones Jr. of the Detroit Lions has just a single 1,000-yard campaign. But Jones has topped 50 receptions and 700 yards five times and scored at least nine touchdowns in three seasons.
As an impending free agent on a Lions team that's not likely to make the playoffs, Jones' sticker price would also be reasonable enough to justify a one-year rental.
Buffalo Bills: DT Dalvin Tomlinson
When veteran defensive tackle Star Lotulelei opted out of the 2020 season during the summer, it left a massive hole in the middle of the Buffalo Bills defensive line. And if you watched Clyde Edwards-Helaire and the Kansas City Chiefs gash the Bills repeatedly in Week 6, you know that hole has become a problem for the AFC East front-runners.
Meanwhile, down the road a ways, Dalvin Tomlinson has been a bright spot for the horrid New York Giants. In his fourth professional season, Tomlinson has become one of the league's better run-stuffing 1-technique tackles, tallying 30 total tackles and five tackles for loss over the first seven weeks.
Mired at 1-6, the Giants have a long way to go before they become playoff contenders. New York's best bet lies in accumulating draft picks—especially when it concerns players with expiring contracts, such as Tomlinson.
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman and Bills GM Brandon Beane also worked together with the Carolina Panthers, which could grease the wheels a bit on this deal.
Carolina Panthers: ILB Neville Hewitt
There isn't a team in the NFL more likely to be sellers at the trade deadline than the winless New York Jets. It's possible every player is available.
That could be good news for a Carolina Panthers team that is better than many anticipated in 2020.
Several of their players have exceeded expectations, but at least one hasn't come close to meeting them—as Alaina Getzenberg and Jonathan M. Alexander of the Charlotte Observer pointed out, veteran Tahir Whitehead has been a major liability at middle linebacker.
New York's Neville Hewitt isn't an elite talent by any stretch. But the 27-year-old amassed 75 total tackles and three sacks in 12 starts a year ago, and in 2020 he's already got 46 tackles.
Hewitt's a journeyman whose contract is up after the 2020 season. It's unlikely he's in New York's long-term plans. And he'd be a temporary fix for the Panthers.
But he also wouldn't be costly to add to a team that may see a legit path toward a wild-card spot in the NFC.
Chicago Bears: OG Kevin Zeitler
At 5-1 heading into Monday's contest against the Los Angeles Rams, the Chicago Bears are better positioned for a playoff run than just about anyone expected they'd be. As such, the team could be aggressive in filling holes at the trade deadline.
The largest of those holes is at left guard, where the Bears have struggled since James Daniels suffered a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 5.
And of the players who could the available, veteran Kevin Zeitler is far and away the best option.
Over eight-plus years with the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and New York Giants, Zeitler has been a durable, consistent presence on the interior. Zeitler hasn't allowed more than three sacks in a season since 2012, and in 2020, the 30-year-old hasn't allowed any sacks in 430 snaps, per PFF.
Zeitler wouldn't be cheap—his 2020 cap hit is $12.5 million. But he could be released after the season for a cost of just $2.5 million.
Cincinnati Bengals: OG Zach Fulton
For the Cincinnati Bengals to make a splash trade at the deadline might be a sign of the impending apocalypse. The Bengals aren't going anywhere in 2020, and it's more probable that Cincinnati will try to shed veterans with big salaries, such as wide receiver A.J. Green and defensive linemen Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.
With that said, if an opportunity arises for the Bengals to improve the pass protection in front of quarterback Joe Burrow, the team would be well-served to explore it—the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft has been pressured on over 22 percent of his dropbacks.
An upgrade at right tackle over Bobby Hart would be the dream scenario, but the trade market at that position is thin. There's a better chance of adding a guard like Houston's Zach Fulton, an 80-game starter over six-plus seasons in Kansas City and Houston who has played both guard spots and center.
The best part? Fulton carries a reasonable cap hit of $3.75 million into 2021. And after watching the Texans fall to 1-6 on Sunday, it's not to imagine a Houston team that's woefully short of draft capital shopping any number of players at the deadline.
Cleveland Browns: S Marcus Maye
This isn't the first New York Jets player listed in this column. It also won't be the last. Given how New York's season has gone, it's liquidation-sale time—especially with players set to hit free agency in 2021.
The Cleveland Browns have a winning record seven weeks into the season, but the team isn't without problems—chief among them the middle of the defense. If Cleveland wants to make a serious postseason push, the Browns need an upgrade at linebacker or safety.
Marcus Maye would be one.
Playing out the final year of his contract, the safety has been a rare ray of sunlight in a dark season for Gang Green. He's tied for third on the team with 34 total tackles, is tied for the team lead in sacks with two and has allowed a career-best 9.3 yards per completion in coverage.
To say he would be an improvement over Andrew Sendejo is an understatement, and if the 27-year-old Maye continues to play at a high level in his new home, the Browns have the cap space to consider re-upping him in the offseason.
Dallas Cowboys: S Anthony Harris
Given the Dallas Cowboys' disastrous start to the 2020 season, one might think owner and GM Jerry Jones would be selling more than buying at the trade deadline.
But the Cowboys are still in the mix in the woeful NFC East, so Jones may look to bolster the putrid defense—especially if the team can add a player who might stick around into 2021.
There's no guarantee that Minnesota Vikings safety Anthony Harris would—the 29-year-old is set to become a free agent in the offseason after playing under the franchise tag in 2020. What is guaranteed is Harris would be a massive upgrade on the back end for Dallas—he set a career high with 60 total tackles in 2019 and tied for the league lead in interceptions with six while allowing a passer rating against of 44.2.
When the Vikings sent Ngakoue packing, it signaled Minnesota was punting on this year—an understandable position at 1-5.
Considering that and Minnesota's rather tenuous salary-cap position, Harris could likely be had at a reasonable price.
Denver Broncos: QB Dwayne Haskins Jr.
The Denver Broncos aren't in position to contend in 2020. The team also believes it has found its franchise quarterback in second-year pro Drew Lock.
But Lock hasn't exactly lit the world on fire during his first eight career starts, as he barely averaged 180 passing yards per game and had an 83.2 passer rating.
But what if Broncos general manager John Elway could secure a first-round talent who is also on his rookie deal as a Plan B under center?
Enter Washington's Dwayne Haskins Jr.
Haskins' career numbers are slightly worse than Lock's, although they come with the caveat that Haskins also has very little around him in the nation's capital. He has fallen out of favor in D.C. amid questions about his work ethic and maturity, relegating him to third-string status behind Kyle Allen and Alex Smith. It's clear Washington just wants rid of him.
A Day 3 selection would probably be enough to land the 15th overall pick from the 2019 draft.
For that meager price, he's worth the flier for a Broncos team looking more toward 2021 than 2020.
Detroit Lions: WR Kenny Stills
The Detroit Lions are a pleasant surprise at 3-3, but the team is still as likely to be a seller as a buyer at the deadline. Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. has been brought up more than once as a player who could be headed out of Motown ahead of November 3.
If the Lions do move the veteran, that will leave a sizable hole at wide receiver opposite Kenny Golladay—one the Lions could look to patch in the short term with a low-cost veteran option such as Kenny Stills of the Houston Texans.
Stills has been a non-factor in 2020—just 10 catches for 138 yards on 18 targets. But the 28-year-old is a ninth-year veteran who has had success before, scoring nine touchdowns for the Miami Dolphins in 2016.
It won't cost the Lions (or any other team) a ton to pry Stills from the floundering Texans, and with the journeyman set to hit free agency before 2021, he also doesn't require an investment past this season.
Green Bay Packers: DE J.J. Watt
Yes, you read that right.
J.J. Watt has been the heart and soul of the Houston Texans for years. But the harsh reality is that Watt is 31 and on his career downslope; the Texans are 1-5 and staring at a rebuild; and thanks to all the draft capital that Bill O'Brien frittered away as general manager, the team is short on the early picks needed for a quick turnaround.
If there's any truth to the trade speculation swirling around Watt, the Green Bay Packers should be the first team to pick up the phone.
Watt won't come cheaply, either in terms of salary or the pick(s) needed to acquire him. But while he may not be the one-man wrecking crew he was earlier in his career, Watt is still a difference-maker. He's piled up 24 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble in 2020.
A Packers front seven featuring Watt, Kenny Clark, Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith would be among the NFL's best. And bringing the Wisconsin native and former Badgers star to Green Bay would be a ginormous hit with Green Bay fanbase.
Houston Texans: CB Pierre Desir
2020 has been a nightmare for the Houston Texans. The team has one win after seven weeks and has already canned O'Brien.
As Jason La Canfora reported at CBSSports.com, rival executives expect the Texans to be among the NFL's biggest sellers at the trade deadline: "'Cal (McNair) knows that a fire sale is probably in order,' said one league source who has been in contact with the owner. 'There are people in that organization who would support it. But this is not where he thought he would be in October. This is a new horizon for him.'"
If the Texans did add a player at the deadline, it would be a low-cost, short-term a fix—a player who would fill the hole created by another deal that shipped a bigger contract out of town.
Pierre Desir of the New York Jets could fit the bill if the Texans wisely deal cornerback Bradley Roby ($11 million cap hit each of the next two years) to a contending team with a hole in the secondary. Desir is no worldbeater, but he's an experienced boundary corner with 41 career starts whose contract is up after the season.
Is it the kind of acquisition the Texans thought they would make in 2020? Absolutely not.
But little has gone according to plan in Houston this year.
Indianapolis Colts: WR A.J. Green
As the Indianapolis Colts come out of their bye week, the team is 4-2 and in good position to take a run at the playoffs. There's also a clear need to upgrade at wide receiver opposite T.Y. Hilton.
But there's another significant reason the Bengals' Green makes sense as the wide receiver to target.
Cost—or more specifically, the length of time the Colts will have to pay that cost.
Green hasn't done a ton with Burrow in 2020: 29 catches for 297 yards. But Green just showed the Colts he can still play, piling up an eight-catch, 96-yard stat line in Indianapolis in Week 6.
Much like Colts quarterback Philip Rivers, the 32-year-old Green is an aging veteran on the downslope of his career. He's also playing under the franchise tag, and that lack of a long-term financial commitment means a couple of things.
The first is that the asking price for Green shouldn't be prohibitive. The second is that he fits well into Indy's brief window to contend with the 38-year-old Rivers under center.
If it works out, great. If it doesn't, the Colts are in a better spot for a more extensive rebuild.
Jacksonville Jaguars: TE Chris Herndon
The Jacksonville Jaguars have made it clear which side of the trade table they intend to be on at the deadline, and it ain't as buyers. The Jaguars have been shedding talent and adding draft picks for months and have long been considered one of the front-runners to land the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft.
However, there's an under-the-radar move the Jaguars could make that wouldn't break the bank in Duval County and would add a target in the passing game for Gardner Minshew II/Trevor Lawrence/Justin Fields/whoever.
After catching 39 passes for 502 yards and four scores as a rookie, New York Jets tight end Chris Herndon carried big expectations. But a suspension and rib injury wiped out Herndon's 2019 season, and his 2020 campaign (like his team's) has been a hot mess: 13 catches for 98 yards in six games.
Those pedestrian numbers aside, Herndon has more than enough potential to justify the Jags' flipping a late pick to one of the few teams in the AFC worse off than they are. It's a low-risk investment—especially with Herndon under contract for 2021 at just over $1 million.
Kansas City Chiefs: WR John Ross III
The Kansas City Chiefs are the defending Super Bowl champions and as loaded on offense as any team. But as they showed in acquiring running back Le'Veon Bell, the Chiefs aren't averse to adding skill-position talent—especially if the price is right.
In 2017, the Bengals selected wide receiver John Ross III ninth overall after the Washington speedster peeled off a record-breaking 4.22-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Since then, however, Ross has been a massive disappointment, and after being relegated to healthy-scratch status in 2020, he has asked to be traded.
Given that Ross has just 51 career catches for 733 yards, the contract-year wideout won't net more than a late conditional pick. But the 25-year-old has shown potential—he averaged over 18 yards per catch in 2019 and scored seven touchdowns the year before.
Ross couldn't ask for a better spot to try to turn around his career, and with Sammy Watkins (hamstring) banged up again, Ross could offer the Chiefs cheap depth at wide receiver.
Las Vegas Raiders: WR Julio Jones
Well, we had to go bold with a few of these, right?
After a convincing Week 5 win over the Chiefs, the Las Vegas Raiders might believe they can make a serious playoff push in 2020.
And if that's the case, head coach Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock should go big. Really big.
There isn't a contending team that could use a big-time receiver more than the Raiders, who have an iffy group of pass-catchers outside tight end Darren Waller. All Julio Jones has done during nearly a decade in the NFL is top 1,100 yards seven times, score 59 touchdowns, average 96 yards per game and make it to seven Pro Bowls.
Other than that, he's hardly done anything.
The rebuilding Falcons will want quite a bit for the best wideout in franchise history. Jones also carries cap hits north of $19 million each of the next three seasons.
But the 31-year-old is what the Raiders hoped to be getting when they acquired Antonio Brown in March 2019: a true game-changer at wide receiver.
Los Angeles Chargers: G/C Billy Price
With just two victories, the Los Angeles Chargers won't be big spenders at the trade deadline. Were the team to add a piece, it would have to be a young player capable of helping L.A. in the future as well as the present.
Say, a player like Bengals offensive lineman Billy Price.
Granted, Price hasn't lived up to his first-round pedigree since being drafted 21st out of Ohio State in 2018. But the 6'4", 310-pounder was regarded as one of the top interior line prospects in his class, and he's battled injuries early in his career. A fresh start could be just what the doctor ordered.
Price isn't a dream fit for the Bolts, who need an upgrade at left tackle over Sam Tevi. But injuries have hit the inside of the line in front of rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, and Price can play both center and guard.
Los Angeles Rams: OLB Jordan Jenkins
The Los Angeles Rams aren't likely to make any huge moves at the trade deadline. It's not that it would be unprecedented—Rams GM Les Snead is fond of splash deals like the swap that brought Jalen Ramsey to L.A. last year. But with only about $6.5 million in 2020 cap space, much less than that next year and no first-round pick in the 2021 draft, the Rams aren't in position for Snead to do something similar.
Still, that doesn't mean the team couldn't bolster a group of outside linebackers that has struggled with rushing the passer.
After tallying a career-high eight sacks last year, Jets edge-rusher Jordan Jenkins couldn't secure a long-term deal in free agency, instead returning to New York on a one-year pact. This year, Jenkins has managed just one sack, but a change of scenery could do the 26-year-old some good, and Jenkins did tally 15 sacks over his last two full seasons.
The Rams are in line to receive at least one fourth-round pick as compensation for the losses of Dante Fowler Jr. and Cory Littleton in free agency.
A fourth-rounder should be enough to get Jenkins in a trade, and his expiring contract leaves the Rams with no long-term liability.
Miami Dolphins: RB Royce Freeman
It's the dawn of a new era for the Miami Dolphins. When the team hosts the Rams on Nov. 1, it will be with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback.
Given that the Dolphins made the change under center despite a 3-3 record, it's clear the franchise intends to continue being patient with the rebuild in South Florida. As such, the Dolphins won't make a trade that will cost significant draft capital.
Still, they can help themselves at the deadline by getting Tagovailoa some cheap backfield help.
Myles Gaskin has been a find, but he's barely averaging over four yards per carry, and Matt Breida and Jordan Howard have both been disappointing behind him.
Denver's Royce Freeman has become an afterthought, touching the ball 27 times this season. That would make the third-year pro an inexpensive target who has the ability to become a more effective complement behind Gaskin.
It will make it a lot easier for Tagovailoa to have success early if the Dolphins can get their 22nd-ranked run game going.
Minnesota Vikings: CB Brian Poole
The Minnesota Vikings were supposed to contend for an NFC North title—not be a 1-5 disaster looking at a ground-up rebuild in 2021.
As such, the Vikings were supposed to be buyers. But the trade of Ngakoue (who just joined the team in September) to the Ravens was a sign the Vikes have all but given up on the 2020 season.
In other words: If there's another trade involving a big name in Minnesota, he'll be going, not coming.
However, it's at least possible the Vikings could take advantage of the impending fire sale (again) in New York to do something about one of the league's weakest cornerback groups.
The Jets' Brian Poole won't single-handedly fix what ails the position in the Twin Cities. But the 28-year-old is a decent starter in the slot on an expiring contract.
Assuming the price is right, he's worth a look. And as bad as the Vikings are, Poole would probably still welcome the change of scenery.
New England Patriots: TE Evan Engram
Noticing a theme? A lot of players could be cleaning out their lockers at MetLife Stadium when the dust settles on the trade deadline.
There's also been quite a bit of speculation that the New England Patriots could be in a buying mood. It's not hard to see why—whether it's at wide receiver or tight end, the Pats need to improve their pass-catchers. That's especially true at the latter spot, where Ryan Izzo is the team's only player who has caught a pass.
Evan Engram of the New York Giants hasn't lived up to his status as the 23rd pick of the 2017 NFL draft, and when last we saw Engram, he was committing an ugly drop in the Week 7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
But Engram is an athletic 6'3", 240-pound field-stretcher of a tight end with 4.42-second speed who would be New England's most dangerous downfield threat the moment he stepped on the field at Gillette Stadium.
If the Giants are willing to part with Engram for a reasonable cost, his potential is worth a flier for the Patriots.
New Orleans Saints: WR Dede Westbrook
It's no secret that the New Orleans Saints could use another complementary receiver. But there's an issue in New Orleans that could make adding a player at the deadline problematic: The Saints' salary-cap situation in 2021 is a nightmare. They are projected to be $78.2 million over the cap next year.
Yes, you read that number right.
If the Saints are going to add a wideout, it needs to be a player with an expiring contract, a low-cost addition or both. As John Sigler wrote for Saints Wire, Jacksonville's Dede Westbrook meets that criteria.
"An accomplished slot receiver, Westbrook has been a healthy scratch in Jacksonville after the Jaguars upgraded their receiving corps with a series of high draft picks," he said. "He could benefit from a change of scenery with the Saints."
Westbrook might not be the bigger name Saints fans are looking to add, but he won't cost more than a conditional draft pick. And while he's fallen out of favor in Jacksonville, Westbrook has a skill set that meshes well with what the Saints do offensively, and he posted over 65 catches in both 2017 and 2018.
New York Giants: ILB Jarrad Davis
Much like their MetLife Stadium tomato-can compatriots, the Giants are much more likely to shed players at the trade deadline than add them. Golden was already dealt to Arizona. Tomlinson, wide receiver Golden Tate, Engram and safety Jabrill Peppers could all follow.
So could Gettleman after the season.
If the Giants are going to make an addition, it will be an inexpensive one. There won't be any splashing in the Big Apple.
Inside linebacker Jarrad Davis wouldn't cost the G-Men much. The 25-year-old has fallen out of favor in Detroit, playing less than 30 percent of the defensive snaps in each of the Lions' last three games. But the 2017 first-rounder averaged 98 total stops over his first two seasons and could offer a cheap upgrade at the inside linebacker spot opposite Blake Martinez.
It's going to be a long second half of the season in New York. Really long.
New York Jets: RB Kerryon Johnson
For the sake of argument, let's say the Jets decide to add a placeholder—one the can use over the second half of the season and then potentially discard in the offseason. A player who won't cost more than a Day 3 pick.
A player like Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson.
There was a time not that long ago when Johnson looked like he might be a featured back for years in Detroit. A second-round pick in 2018, he averaged 5.4 yards per carry and caught 32 passes as a rookie. But after knee injuries truncated his first two seasons, the Lions drafted D'Andre Swift, and Johnson became a third-stringer who never sees the ball.
If Johnson can recapture past form, he'd be a cheap backfield upgrade. And even if he can't, he'll still be more fun to watch than Frank Gore and his falling forward 15 times per game.
Philadelphia Eagles: TE David Njoku
In a Thursday night win over the Giants in Week 7, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz targeted tight end Richard Rodgers eight times—second-most on the team. It wasn't a fluke, either. Wentz has long loved targeting the position.
But the group (like seemingly every other one in Philly) has been decimated by injuries. Zach Ertz is out indefinitely with an ankle setback. Dallas Goedert hasn't played since Week 3 with an ankle injury of his own.
The Eagles are just 2-4-1, but they remain in the hunt for the NFC East title. However, to win the division, they need to add tight end depth. And offensive playmakers.
David Njoku has never lived up to his 2017 first-round draft status in Cleveland. But the 24-year-old is the type of athletic field-stretcher teams covet, and he's shown flashes of considerable potential.
Best of all for Philly, he can all but certainly be had for a modest cost.
Pittsburgh Steelers: ILB Avery Williamson
There isn't a more obvious trade fit than the one between the Pittsburgh Steelers and veteran linebacker Avery Williamson.
The Steelers are off to a great start, but the Week 6 blowout win over the Browns came at a high price—inside linebacker Devin Bush was lost for the season to a torn ACL.
That injury left a sizable hole in the middle of one of the NFL's best defenses. In a perfect world, Pittsburgh would fill that hole with a player like Jacksonville's Myles Jack—a young, athletic linebacker having a career year.
But the 25-year-old makes in excess of $12 million per season, and the Jags will no doubt want a big return. Williamson isn't Jack, but the 28-year-old is a capable pro with 79 career starts who would go a long way toward softening the blow of Bush's injury.
Williamson is also set to hit free agency after the 2020 season, and with the Jets potentially about to have the fire sale to end all fire sales, he could be had (most likely) for a middle-round pick.
San Francisco 49ers: QB Sam Darnold
In February 2018, the San Francisco 49ers gave Jimmy Garoppolo a contract worth $137.5 million. Garoppolo rewarded the franchise by leading the Niners to a berth in Super Bowl LIV.
The thing is, as time passes, it's becoming harder to tell if the 49ers made the Super Bowl because of Garoppolo or in spite of him. He didn't play well in that game and has been up-and-down (when healthy) in 2020.
That whole "when healthy" caveat is another concern—Garoppolo has missed 15 games since signing that extension.
In September, Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan talked up Sam Darnold before a meeting with the Jets.
"I'm a big fan of Sam's," Shanahan said, via Ethan Greenberg of the Jets website. "He's a very good player. He's going to have a very good career in this league."
The Jets have been horrible beyond words in 2020, but Darnold did lead Gang Green on a 6-2 run in the second half of 2019. He's also under contract in 2021 for less than $10 million. Garoppolo, on the other hand, carries a cap hit north of $25 million the next two years, although the Niners can get out of the deal relatively painlessly after this season.
This isn't to say Darnold is a for-sure replacement for Garoppolo. But he gives Shanahan an option they don't have, and with the Jets in the lead in the Lawrence sweepstakes, a Day 2 pick may be all it takes to land him.
Seattle Seahawks: DE Carlos Dunlap
The Seattle Seahawks are in first place in the NFC West and appear well positioned for a deep playoff run. But the team has a glaring weakness on defense—and the biggest cause of that weakness is the lack of a consistent pass rush.
Last season, the Seahawks tallied fewer sacks (28) than all but one team. Things aren't any better in 2020—Seattle had nine sacks in five games before the bye. Heading into Week 7, two players were tied for the team lead with two sacks apiece—and one of those was safety Jamal Adams.
Carlos Dunlap won't single-handedly make a nonexistent pass rush a great one, and he has struggled in 2020—just one sack in 265 snaps. But the 31-year-old has been consistent presence for the Bengals for over a decade. During 10 full seasons in the league, Dunlap has averaged over eight sacks per year, and he hasn't had less than 7.5 in a season since 2012.
Dunlap carries a hefty salary—a cap hit of almost $11 million in 2020. But the Bengals would likely part with him for a Day 3 pick, and cutting the veteran after the season if things don't pan out would only cost the Seahawks $2.25 million in dead cap money.
That's a risk worth taking.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DT Danny Shelton
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren't especially likely to make a deadline deal, if only because the team has already inked, like, everyone. The latest addition is wide receiver Antonio Brown, who signed with the Bucs and will reportedly take the field for the first time November 8 against the New Orleans Saints.
The Buccaneers are also snug up against the salary cap, with less than $4 million remaining.
There's zero doubt at this point that the Buccaneers are all-in on 2020, but with limited financial resources the Bucs need a trade target who won't break the bank...say a veteran defensive tackle with a contract that wouldn't be overly difficult to get out from under in the offseason the team could use to replace the injured Vita Vea.
The Detroit Lions are sitting at .500 and may not be inclined to sell off everything that isn't nailed down. But making a call to inquire about the availability of defensive tackle Danny Shelton wouldn't be a bad idea at all.
In his six NFL seasons, Shelton hasn't lived up to his status as the 12th overall pick in 2015. But the 6'2", 345-pounder has developed into a solid run-stuffer who piled up over 60 total tackles and three sacks with the New England Patriots in 2019.
Tennessee Titans: OT Riley Reiff
The Tennessee Titans have done an excellent job of showing that last year's run to the AFC Championship Game was no fluke. But the AFC South leaders were dealt a big blow in Week 6 when left tackle Taylor Lewan went down with an ACL tear.
It's hard enough to find a competent tackle in free agency. Doing so in a trade is that much more difficult. But thanks to the face-plant going on in the Twin Cities, there just might be someone available who can help.
Riley Reiff of the Vikings is a ninth-year veteran who has been both durable and capable, missing just eight games. He allowed five sacks in 874 snaps last season, per PFF, but this season (380 snaps), he hasn't allowed a sack or committed a penalty.
Reiff's 2021 cap hit is admittedly robust (almost $14 million), and the Vikings are well aware that the 31-year-old will be in demand. But he's easily the best tackle who might be dealt, and he could be released in 2021 for a dead cap number of $2.2 million.
Washington Football Team: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
We'll close this out with a trade that would be very 2020, in that it makes no sense except when it does.
Despite being 3-3 and in the mix for a playoff spot in the AFC largely because of Ryan Fitzpatrick's play, the Dolphins have moved on from him as their starter—when the team gets back from its Week 7 bye, Tagovailoa will start at quarterback.
Meanwhile Washington is a bad team in a bad division. But in spite of a 2-5 record, Washington remains in contention in the NFC (L)East.
This all comes down to whether Washington cares more about the possibility of winning the league's worst division than it does about its slot in the 2021 draft.
If Washington does, then Fitzpatrick gives the team a better chance to win than Kyle Allen or Alex Smith. And considering the Dolphins' propensity for hoarding draft capital in recent seasons, Miami likely wouldn't be averse to flipping him.