Every NFL Team's Biggest Priority at the Trade Deadline
The 2020 NFL trade deadline is quickly approaching. Teams have until 4 p.m. ET on November 3 to make in-season deals, and after that, trades will have to wait until the offseason. Naturally, we should see a fair increase in activity over the next couple of weeks.
Of course, not every franchise will be looking for the same action at the deadline.
With nearly one-third of the league holding one win or fewer, several teams will be in fire-sale mode. Contenders will be looking to strengthen their rosters for a potential playoff push, while a few teams will look to add young players and/or draft capital for the future.
Here, we'll examine each franchise and its biggest priority with the trade deadline less than two weeks away. Records and rosters will be obvious determining factors, but the long-term outlook for each team will also be considered.
Arizona Cardinals: Find a Replacement for Chandler Jones
While the Arizona Cardinals have done a good job of replacing star pass-rusher Chandler Jones (torn biceps), they've largely had to do so through creative play-calling.
"Now they're having to scheme up pressure," NFL Media's Steve Wyche said on NFL Network. "... players have been asked to play a lot of different roles."
While it will be easier in theory than in practice, the Cardinals need to see if they can add an upper-tier pass-rusher ahead of the deadline.
At 4-2, Arizona is in the thick of the NFC West race. It has a defense that ranks 13th in yards and second in points allowed. However, adding a player who can consistently win one-on-one matchups to pressure the quarterback would give the Cardinals an even better chance of storming into the postseason.
Atlanta Falcons: Gauge the Value of Veterans
The Atlanta Falcons picked up their first win of the season in Week 6, but they're likely closer to an offseason rebuild than a 2020 playoff run. Atlanta is in the NFC South basement and has already parted with head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff.
If the Falcons are considering blowing things up and/or positioning themselves for a quarterback in the 2021 draft, it would make sense to at least gauge the value of some of their older veterans.
A more realistic trade option would be center Alex Mack. The 34-year-old is in the final year of his contract and will likely be gone in the spring. Atlanta, meanwhile, has a potential replacement for Mack on the roster in rookie third-round pick Matt Hennessy.
Baltimore Ravens: Add More Targets for Lamar Jackson
The Baltimore Ravens showed during their Week 3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that they are not well constructed for a comeback. This is partially due to the offensive philosophy of being a run-first, run-often team, but a lack of reliable pass-catchers is part of the problem.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson has an elite target in tight end Mark Andrews, and little else in terms of reliability. Wideout Marquise Brown leads the team with 376 receiving yards, but he's caught just 61.9 percent of the passes thrown his way. He's the only player other than Andrews with more than 200 receiving yards on the season.
What the Ravens should focus on is finding a reliable possession receiver who can help provide Jackson with easy downfield completions.
While the Ravens rank dead-last in pass attempts, they also rank just 24th in yards per attempt. This suggests the team's modest passing numbers are not simply the result of scheme. Jackson has struggled to consistently create big plays with his arm, which he'll need to do if the Ravens again find themselves down against a contender.
Buffalo Bills: Improve the Backfield Depth
The Buffalo Bills have dropped two games in a row, and plenty of fans have likely blamed the subpar play of quarterback Josh Allen. While Allen has tossed three picks and struggled with accuracy over the past two weeks, a bigger concern at the deadline should be the team's running game.
Despite getting 143 rushing yards from Allen, the Bills rank a mere 27th in rushing and 27th in yards per attempt. The duo of Devin Singletary and rookie Zack Moss has underwhelmed, as neither player has topped 4.0 yards per rush.
T.J. Yeldon has averaged 7.0 yards per carry, but he's only ran the ball 10 times. Removing his 34-yard run in Week 5, he's averaged exactly 4.0 yards per carry.
This is likely why the Bills looked into acquiring Le'Veon Bell after he was released by the New York Jets. It's also why Buffalo should pursue a veteran runner at the deadline. If the Bills hope to be a legit contender in 2020, they need to support Allen with a stronger ground attack.
Carolina Panthers: Look to Add Young Talent, Draft Capital
At 3-3, the Carolina Panthers are still very much in the NFC playoff race. However, they should be more focused on the future and their chances of setting up a dynasty in the NFC South.
This is the first year of head coach Matt Rhule, offensive coordinator Joe Brady and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Carolina is potentially setting the stage for a long run of contention, while other teams in the division are staring down closing windows.
The Falcons are likely headed toward a rebuild of their own, while the New Orleans Saints may be in the final year of the Drew Brees era. The Tom Brady era just began for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but at 43 years old, Brady is not a long-term answer in Tampa. If the Panthers employ the right long-term strategy, they could be peaking just as the Saints and Buccaneers slip to the bottom.
While adding more talent to spark a potential playoff run will be tempting, Carolina should prioritize adding young players and/or future draft capital.
Chicago Bears: Add a Wide Receiver
The Chicago Bears made the switch from Mitchell Trubisky to Nick Foles at quarterback less than three full weeks into the season. While the move has helped get Chicago to 5-1, it hasn't exactly caused the passing game to flourish.
While only four teams have attempted more passes this season, Chicago ranks just 23rd in passing yards and 27th in yards per attempt. A lack of a reliable possession receiver could be part of the problem.
Allen Robinson II leads the Bears with 40 catches and 474 yards. However, he's caught just over 60 percent of his targets, and other top pass-catchers haven't fared any batter. Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Anthony Miller and tight end Jimmy Graham have all caught less than 62 percent of the passes thrown their way.
The only wideout with a catch percentage above 61.5 is Cordarrelle Patterson, who has been targeted a mere nine times.
While it's fair to blame Foles and Trubisky for failing to consistently throw catchable balls, Chicago would be wise to aid Foles by looking for a big-bodied and sure-handed possession receiver at the deadline.
Cincinnati Bengals: Improve Joe Burrow's Pass Protection
Normally, a 1-4-1 team would be looking to host a fire sale ahead of the trade deadline. However, the Cincinnati Bengals should be more concerned with adding to their roster—not for any possible playoff run but for the long-term health of quarterback Joe Burrow.
Burrow has shown flashes of being a quality pro signal-caller. However, he's constantly been under duress. He's been sacked a whopping 24 times, putting him on pace for 64 sacks on the season. He's been hit an additional 18 times and has been pressured on 22.6 percent of his dropbacks.
Not only does this sort of poor protection make it difficult for Burrow to grow, but it also makes injury a legitimate concern. Even if Burrow manages to last 10 more weeks, regular beatings could derail his career long-term, just as they ultimately did for Andrew Luck.
Cincinnati owes it to Burrow and to its fans to strengthen the offensive line in front of Burrow now. If the Bengals wait until the offseason, it could be too late.
Cleveland Browns: Strengthen the Secondary
While the Cleveland Browns have been embarrassed by both the Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, they're still playoff contenders at 4-2. However, if Cleveland wants to actually end its playoff drought, it should focus on improving its secondary.
Despite having a premier pass-rusher in Myles Garrett, the Browns rank just 27th in pass defense and 30th in points allowed. This is partially due to injuries—safety Grant Delpit was lost for the year in the offseason, while cornerback Greedy Williams is on injured reserve—and partially due to a lack of talent and depth.
It would behoove the Browns to consider any and all trade options at cornerback and safety. While top-flight defensive backs aren't often available, one could probably be had for the right price.
Remember, it was roughly a year ago when the Los Angeles Rams swung a trade for Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey. While there might not be a player of Ramsey's ability on the trading block, finding a starting-caliber option shouldn't be impossible.
Dallas Cowboys: Try to Unload a Hefty Contract
The Dallas Cowboys may wind up as NFC East champions, but that isn't a win-now-worthy goal. They're not going to parlay one home playoff game into a trip to the Super Bowl, so it makes just as much sense for Dallas to be a seller as a buyer at the deadline.
In fact, it would be extremely beneficial for the Cowboys to part with an expensive veteran like Amari Cooper, DeMarcus Lawrence or even Ezekiel Elliott in-season. Owner Jerry Jones signed these aforementioned players to long-term deals hoping that he could set the stage for a Super Bowl run.
However, by giving out hefty contracts to these players, he's made it difficult for Dallas to ink Dak Prescott to a long-term deal or to strengthen other areas of weakness on the roster. The Cowboys are projected to have just over $27 million in cap space next offseason, and there's a good chance they'll use the franchise tag on Prescott for a second consecutive season.
It's unlikely Dallas will give Prescott a new long-term deal without first knowing how he performs returning from the broken ankle. The team will have to free up some cap space somewhere, so it's worth at least gauging the market for the team's highest-paid veterans.
Denver Broncos: Strengthen the Secondary
At 2-3, the Denver Broncos probably aren't going to contend in the AFC West this season. However, if they manage to upset the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7, they can get right back in the wild-card race—remember, each conference is sending three teams this season.
For the Broncos to contend down the stretch, though, they desperately need to bolster the back end of their defense. The Broncos rank just 20th in passing yards allowed while surrendering seven passing touchdowns and notching a mere three interceptions.
With teams like the Chiefs (twice), Falcons, Las Vegas Raiders (twice) and Saints remaining on the schedule, an inconsistent pass defense could be enough to keep the Broncos from reaching the postseason.
At the same time, failing to upgrade the secondary could lead to more shootout situations and undue pressure on quarterback Drew Lock. Yes, Denver will want to see how he handles himself in shootout and comeback scenarios, but not every single week.
Detroit Lions: Improve the Run Defense
Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia remains employed, and with two wins in the last three games, he still has a chance of turning the season around. However, if Patricia is going to push for the playoffs and save his job, Detroit is going to have to be better against the run.
Last season, the Lions ranked dead-last in pass defense. They helped address the issue by drafting cornerback Jeff Okudah, signing Desmond Trufant and trading for Duron Harmon. Now, the Lions rank a more respectable 15th against the pass, but they're a miserable 29th against the run and 26th in yards per carry allowed.
The defensive-minded Patricia could help the run defense by focusing more on schemes to limit opposing ball-carriers. However, adding a run-stuffing defensive tackle, a sideline-to-sideline playmaking linebacker or an edge-setting defensive end to the equation would also help.
If the Lions can improve their run defense, they'll have a shot at climbing out of their 2-3 hole. If they cannot, they're likely looking at another lost season, and Patricia will soon be looking for a new job.
Green Bay Packers: Strengthen the Receiving Corps
The Green Bay Packers are looking at the end of their time with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Whether Rodgers departs after this season or plays out the final few years of his contract (through 2023), Green Bay's drafting of Jordan Love ensures the window with Rodgers is closing.
To maximize it, Green Bay needs to add at least one more reliable weapon to its receiving corps. Green Bay has a tremendous No. 1 receiver in Davante Adams (when healthy) and a budding young tight end in Robert Tonyan, but little dependability after that.
Despite being limited to three games by a hamstring injury, Adams leads the team with 23 receptions. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is second among wideouts with 15 catches, but he's been targeted 30 times. A 50 percent catch rate does not scream reliability. Allen Lazard had core muscle surgery, and his timetable for a return is unclear.
With the Packers unable to run the ball against the Buccaneers in Week 6, the offense floundered. Having another quality target for Rodgers could help avoid similar results, and Green Bay should explore its pass-catching options at the deadline.
Houston Texans: Sell, Sell, Sell
The Houston Texans appear to have a franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson. However, they appear to have little else in place for the long-term. Houston will be looking for a new head coach in the offseason and will likely embark on another rebuilding journey as well.
Aside from Watson, virtually every player on the roster should be considered expendable moving into deadline week. David Johnson, Kenny Stills, even J.J. Watt—the Texans should explore the value of each of them.
The problem is that former head coach/general manager Bill O'Brien left little ammunition for the pending rebuild. Thanks to O'Brien's trade for Laremy Tunsil, Houston won't pick until the third round of next year's draft.
If the Texans hope to set Watson up for sustained success, they need more talented young pieces around him. That will likely require adding more draft capital—potentially much more—which is why there should be a fire sale in Houston on November 3.
Indianapolis Colts: Look to Add Draft Capital
At 4-2, the Indianapolis Colts are in prime position to push for the playoffs in 2020. However, adding pieces for a potential playoff run shouldn't be the primary goal.
Yes, the Colts could benefit greatly from adding another healthy wide receiver to the roster. However, Indianapolis should be just as focused on the future of its quarterback position. Philip Rivers has been a fine veteran stopgap—he's thrown for 1,598 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions—but he clearly isn't the long-term answer at the position.
Therefore, it would make a ton of sense for the Colts to try acquiring some draft capital ahead of the deadline. The team isn't likely to end up in the top 10 of Round 1, but with enough bargaining chips, it could possibly move into range for a quarterback prospect like Trey Lance or Justin Fields.
Future picks would likely also be involved, but if Indianapolis can add an extra Day 2 selection or two, it would help make for a more enticing trade package.
The trick, of course, will be adding draft capital while not compromising this year's playoff-caliber roster. Indianapolis may have to hope for a quarterback injury and a chance to leverage backup signal-caller Jacoby Brissett, who has 32 career starts and is in the final year of his contract.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Add Draft Capital
Give quarterback Gardner Minshew II a lot of credit. He's fought hard, played relatively well—he has 11 touchdowns, five interceptions and a rating of 94.1—and refused to complain about the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, he isn't the future at quarterback in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars stripped away much of their talent in the offseason, presumably to start the rebuilding process while posturing for a high pick in the 2021 draft. After losing five straight games—three of them by double digits—it appears that Jacksonville's plan of organizational tanking is working.
The Jaguars can further increase their chances of landing a quarterback like Trevor Lawrence or Trey Lance by dealing away even more talent at the deadline. Young potential building blocks like pass-rusher Josh Allen, wideout DJ Chark Jr. and running back James Robinson should be off-limits, but most other players should be up for consideration.
Adding draft capital should be the top deadline priority, as the Jaguars might have to move up for the quarterback they want.
Kansas City Chiefs: Improve the Run Defense
Despite having one loss on the season, the Kansas City Chiefs appear to be one of the most complete teams in the NFL. They've won with the passing game, they've run over opponents offensively, and they flustered the reigning MVP en route to a lopsided win over Baltimore.
However, run defense is still an issue for Kansas City. The Chiefs showed as much while giving up 183 rushing yards in an overtime win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2 and 144 yards in the Week 5 loss to Las Vegas. The Chiefs rank 30th in rushing yards allowed and 25th in yards per attempt allowed.
As the Raiders proved, Patrick Mahomes can be kept out of a rhythm if he's kept off the field. Las Vegas ground thing out with Josh Jacobs and held the ball for more than 35 minutes, and while Mahomes passed for 340 yards, he also completed just 22 of 43 attempts.
Opposing offenses are going to continue testing the Chiefs on the ground until they can show the ability to stop it. If Kansas City wants to make this less of a factor, it should prioritize trade options that can help against the run.
Las Vegas Raiders: Bolster the Pass Rush
The 3-2 Las Vegas Raiders might be a playoff team. They might also end up being an also-ran. With games against the Buccaneers and the Browns in the next two weeks, the Raiders will have a better idea of where they stand at the deadline.
However, if Las Vegas does view itself as a contender, it should go all-out chasing pass-rushers on the trade market.
Despite having a possible star-in-the-making in edge-rusher Maxx Crosby, the Raiders have struggled to get to the quarterback on a consistent basis. They've produced just seven sacks through five games, and only three have come from players not named Crosby.
Unsurprisingly, Las Vegas ranks 25th in pass defense and 27th in points allowed.
While finding a quality edge-defender midseason is no small challenge, this should be Las Vegas' single biggest priority at the deadline.
Los Angeles Chargers: Strengthen the Offensive Line
Like the Bengals, the Los Angeles Chargers should be buyers at the deadline—but not to make any sort of playoff run. As is the case in Cincinnati, L.A. should focus on improving the pass protection around their rookie quarterback.
In the Chargers' case, that quarterback is sixth overall draft pick Justin Herbert. The Oregon product has been just as impressive as Burrow early this season, though he's also faced a similar amount of pressure.
Herbert has been sacked nine times in four games, has been hit 11 more and has been pressured on a whopping 31 percent of his dropbacks.
While Herbert has done a better job of escaping pressure than Burrow has, a 31 percent pressure rate is alarming. This is a trend that has to change if the Chargers hope to develop Herbert, keep him upright and/or push for a wild-card slot in the AFC.
Los Angeles Rams: Improve the Run Defense
It's hard to argue with what we've seen from the Los Angeles Rams thus far. If not for a questionable call and a wild comeback from Buffalo in Week 3, the Rams would be sitting at 5-1. They rank fifth in total offense, fourth in total defense and first in both passing yards per attempt and passing yards per attempt allowed.
The one real question mark on the roster is L.A.'s run defense. The Rams rank 11th in run defense, but just 18th in yards per attempt allowed. They've also allowed more than 120 rushing yards four times this season—including last week's loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
While this isn't necessarily a fatal flaw for Los Angeles, the Rams would be wise to bolster their run defense ahead of the trade deadline.
After L.A.'s Week 9 bye, the Rams face the Seattle Seahawks twice, the Cardinals twice, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Patriots. Giving any of them an advantage in the ground game could derail Los Angeles' chances of stealing the NFC West crown.
Miami Dolphins: Add Young Players and/or a Running Back
The Miami Dolphins find themselves in a unique position heading into the trade deadline. They're 3-3 and only a game back in the AFC East. They've also decided to turn the quarterback job over to rookie Tua Tagovailoa.
"We're ready to go. We believe in Tua. He definitely can get the job done," linebacker Jerome Baker said, per ESPN's Cameron Wolfe.
The Dolphins should believe in their chances of reaching the postseason, but they shouldn't go all-in on trades that could jeopardize the future with Tagovailoa under center. Therefore, the focus at the deadline should be on adding young players with upside who can potentially grow and thrive alongside the first-year signal-caller.
Ideally, one of those young players will be a running back. Though the Dolphins rank 22nd in rushing, they're 26th in yards per attempt with 3.8 per carry. Myles Gaskin has shown promise, leading the team with 4.1 yards per carry, but Matt Breida has underperformed. Jordan Howard has been a complete non-factor outside of goal-line plays. He has three touchdowns but has averaged less than a yard per carry.
Running back would be the position to target if Miami is going to consider an aging veteran—anything to take pressure off of Tagovailoa will be valuable—but again, the focus should be on potential long-term building blocks.
Minnesota Vikings: Try to Move Kirk Cousins
The Minnesota Vikings know they can't get anything of value in a trade for quarterback Kirk Cousins. He's set to have $41 million in dead cash remaining on his contract after this season, and Minnesota will hope to convince any potential trade partner to take on some of that money.
However, the Vikings should make it a priority to at least explore their options with Cousins. They're not going anywhere in 2020 with him under center, but they could wind up in contention for a top selection in next year's draft.
That pick could be turned into a potential franchise signal-caller like Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields or Trey Lance.
The reality is that Cousins probably isn't the future in Minnesota. The Vikings owe it to themselves to see just how feasible it would be in-season to make him part of the past.
New England Patriots: Strengthen the Receiving Corps
One of the New England Patriots' biggest issues in 2019—and perhaps a reason why Tom Brady decided to leave town—was a serious lack of pass-catching weapons. While the Patriots have a new quarterback in Cam Newton, they have not quite addressed their lackluster receiving corps.
Julian Edelman is the only player on the roster with at least 20 receptions and the only one averaging more than 15 yards per reception (minimum two catches). Damiere Byrd is the only wideout with more than two catches who has caught more than 60 percent of his targets.
Things have been equally disappointing at tight end, where Ryan Izzo leads the position group with a mere six receptions.
If the Patriots hope to climb out of their 2-3 hole and push for a wild-card spot this season, they need to surround Newton with better receiving weapons. Otherwise, losses like the Week 6 disappointment against Denver will continue to mount.
New Orleans Saints: Add a Wide Receiver
Michael Thomas' lingering injury has shown just how shallow the Saints' depth at receiver is. With Thomas missing the last four games, Emmanuel Sanders has become the leading wideout with 26 catches and just 304 receiving yards. No other wide receiver on the roster has reached the 200-yard mark.
While the Saints rank a respectable 12th in passing yards per game, this is largely due to the receiving prowess of running back Alvin Kamara. The three-time Pro Bowler is responsible for 38 of Drew Brees' 125 pass completions (30 percent).
This is an obvious issue because it leaves the Saints vulnerable if they're forced to play without Thomas or Kamara in the playoffs.
Ideally, such an event won't occur, but New Orleans isn't exactly in a position to take chances. This could be Brees' last year as the starting quarterback, meaning it should be Super Bowl or bust in 2020. Strengthening the depth at wide receiver must be a priority.
New York Giants: Strengthen the Offensive Line
While the New York Giants are technically still contenders in the awful NFC East, the remainder of their season should be about evaluating second-year quarterback Daniel Jones. The sixth overall pick in the 2019 draft has shown hints of promise but hasn't displayed the sort of second-year growth a team would like to see at the position.
Of course, Jones isn't solely responsible for his struggles in 2020. An unreliable offensive line has frequently put Jones in unfavorable situations—and has constantly put him under pressure.
Jones came into Thursday night's game having been sacked 17 times, hit another 20 and been under pressure on 29.6 percent of his dropbacks. With that kind of pressure, it's impossible for the Giants and first-year head coach Joe Judge to know what they have in Jones.
However, New York had better figure it out. If the Giants continue losing, they could wind up in a position to take a different signal-caller in the 2021 draft. Passing on a top-tier prospect only to learn that Jones isn't the answer would be a disaster.
While the team shouldn't cough up high draft capital to do so, New York should focus on bolstering its offensive line before the deadline.
New York Jets: Weaken the Roster
The New York Jets are unquestionably the worst team in football right now. They've been outscored by 110 points in six games, have journeyman Joe Flacco under center and have only surpassed 17 points once this season.
Head coach Adam Gase is a lame duck walking, and the same may be true for 2018 first-round pick and injured quarterback Sam Darnold. The best-case scenario for New York appears to be winding up with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft. This would give the team and its new head coach a crack at the draft's biggest prize, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Getting the No. 1 pick might be the Jets' only chance of landing Lawrence.
"Whoever is going to have a chance to get him is probably going to take him," Jets legend Joe Namath said of Lawrence on The Jake Asman Show, via Peter Botte of the New York Post.
Therefore, while adding draft capital could be beneficial at the deadline, the Jets' only real concern should be making sure they're bad enough to land that No. 1 overall pick. This means looking to strip away even more talent from the roster than they already have.
A few potential building blocks—including wideout Jamison Crowder and rookie tackle Mekhi Becton—should be the only players not made available ahead of the deadline.
Philadelphia Eagles: Look to Deal Alshon Jeffery
Philadelphia Eagles wideout Alshon Jeffery still hasn't appeared in a game during the 2020 season. However, he has practiced in a limited capacity over the past few weeks and could soon be healthy enough to see the field.
The Eagles should do all they can to ensure he does so with another franchise.
Signing Jeffery to a long-term extension was a mistake. While he's been a fine possession receiver, he hasn't warranted the $15.4 million cap hit he's carrying this season or the $18.5 million cap hit he'll carry next year.
Getting out from under that deal won't be easy. Ideally, Philadelphia will convince a team to take on most of the $26.1 million in dead money remaining on his deal. Even if it cannot, convincing a team to take on some of his contract would make sense.
In any way, the Eagles should try to move Jeffery while they can. They still have a shot at winning the NFC East, but they also have young up-and-coming receivers Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward and Travis Fulgham. Jeffery should not be a part of the franchise's long-term future.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Examine Options for Replacing Devin Bush
The undefeated Steelers rolled over the Browns in Week 6, but they still suffered a very significant loss. Star linebacker Devin Bush tore his ACL, ending his season. This could be a devastating blow to Pittsburgh's playoff hopes.
The Steelers do believe in replacement linebacker Robert Spillane.
However, Spillane is not the same sideline-to-sideline playmaker that Bush can be. Are the Steelers likely to find such a player waiting to be plucked from the trade market? Perhaps not, but attempting to land a viable replacement for Bush should be priority No. 1.
Like several teams with veteran quarterbacks, the Steelers are looking at a closing championship window with Ben Roethlisberger. Now is not the time to be shy about working the phones.
San Francisco 49ers: Bolster the Pass Rush
At 3-3, the 49ers haven't looked like the Super Bowl contenders they were a year ago. Injuries have been a major part of the problem, though, especially on defense. With Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas both done for the season, San Francisco's pass rush has been lacking.
Through six games, the 49ers have just 10 sacks. While they added Ezekiel Ansah to the mix, he quickly landed on injured reserve with a torn biceps. Dion Jordan was activated from the practice squad in late September, but he's only contributed one sack. San Francisco more recently traded for Jets linebacker Jordan Willis. With just three career sacks, he probably isn't the answer either.
The tricky part for San Francisco will be adding a quality edge defender who isn't under contract for the long term. This won't be a major need once Bosa returns in the offseason.
Finding the right player won't be easy, but San Francisco had better find a way to improve its pass rush to get back into the NFC West race. The defending NFC champions are currently in the division's basement.
Seattle Seahawks: Add a Quality Edge-Rusher
The Seahawks are not much better at getting to opposing quarterbacks than they were a year ago. They've produced nine sacks in five games after logging just 28 in 2019. More importantly, the Seahawks still lack a dominant edge-rusher.
Blitz schemes have played a large role in Seattle's sack production. No player has more than 2.0 sacks on the season, and three have come from safety Jamal Adams and defensive tackle Jarran Reed. As far as distinguished edge defenders go, Seattle doesn't have one.
This needs to change for the Seahawks to continue rolling over the opposition. Their pass defense has been shaky—dead-last in yards per game allowed and 27th in yards per attempt allowed—and could use more consistent pressure from the front four.
As we've noted several times already, finding an available pass-rusher at the deadline won't be easy. However, multiple teams are likely to be on the verge of playoff elimination after Week 8, so it shouldn't be impossible.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Improve the Pass Protection
While the Buccaneers have a strong defense, a couple of quality running backs and a plethora of high-end pass-catchers, they're only going to go as far as Tom Brady can take them this season.
Therefore, boosting Brady's pass protection should be the team's biggest priority at the deadline. Naturally, not many franchise offensive tackles are going to be available, but Tampa needs to upgrade the group it has.
While Brady has only been sacked eight times in six games, he's been hit 21 other times and pressured 36 times. He's only been pressured on 15.5 percent of his dropbacks, but this is still an alarming number with a 43-year-old quarterback under center.
For comparison's sake, consider that Drew Brees has only been sacked seven times and has been hit 11 more in five games.
If Brady goes down, the Buccaneers are looking at Blaine Gabbert leading them the rest of the way. Tampa must avoid that by strengthening its offensive line while it can.
Tennessee Titans: Improve the Run Defense
The Tennessee Titans are building themselves a reputation as an offensive bully. The hard-nosed running of Derrick Henry is at the forefront of Tennessee's offensive identity, but quality play from the likes of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and wideout A.J. Brown has the 5-0 Titans rolling.
Tennessee is averaging 32.8 points, second-most in the NFL.
Here's the thing, though. The Titans run the risk of having opposing teams do to them what Tennessee largely did to the opposition during the 2019 postseason. Tennessee ranks just 26th in run defense and 30th in yards per attempt allowed.
That's a problem because most opposing contenders can control games via the run, keeping Tennessee's offense off the field.
Whether they do so by beefing up the defensive front or by adding another pursuit linebacker to the second level, the Titans have to focus on improving their run defense. They face quality running teams like the Ravens, Colts, Browns and Packers in the second half of the season.
Washington Football Team: Try Trading Dwayne Haskins
The one-win Washington Football Team isn't out of the playoff mix just yet. This is because of the sorry state of the NFC East. While Washington's season isn't over, its experiment with quarterback Dwayne Haskins appears to be.
Haskins was demoted to third string two weeks ago and has stayed there since. This has led to some around the league believing that the 2019 first-round pick is on his way out the door.
"Some rival executives have already begun looking at film of the former Ohio State star, anticipating him being moved in the coming weeks," CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported.
If Washington is indeed interested in moving Haskins, it should try doing so before the deadline. While the former Buckeyes standout has two more years remaining on his contract, his trade value should be higher now than in the offseason.
A team interested in kicking the tires on Haskins could test-drive him over the last half of the season before considering its options in the 2021 draft. If Washington waits until the offseason, it might not be able to move Haskins until after the draft—when his value would be even lower.