Imagining Every NFL Team's Trade Deadline Whiteboard
If, for whatever reason, you're looking for a distraction from the real world Tuesday, the NFL just might have your back with the action associated with its annual trade deadline.
Said milestone used to pass without much buzz, but deadline day has become much more eventful in recent years, and several significant trades have already taken place this time around.
To prep you for 2020's deadline, let's imagine the whiteboards in each NFL front office entering the final set of games before trades are taken off the table for the rest of the season.
- Explore the pass-rusher market further
- Call about Stephon Gilmore and other veteran corners
- Seek interior offensive line help
The Arizona Cardinals already dealt for veteran edge defender Markus Golden to help fill the shoes that belonged to injured superstar Chandler Jones (torn biceps), but nobody can single-handedly replace Jones on the edge. They should inquire about guys such as Washington's Ryan Kerrigan and Los Angeles' Melvin Ingram III.
They could also use an upgrade at cornerback, where veteran Dre Kirkpatrick has struggled outside opposite Patrick Peterson. The 30-year-old Gilmore would come cheap if New England decided to blow things up, but a younger alternative like Minnesota's Mike Hughes, 23, would likely cost next to nothing in a trade and could help shore up the Cardinals there.
The interior line isn't pressing because the offense is making progress and continuity is critical, but another body could help, with J.R. Sweezy (elbow) on injured reserve. Riley Reiff could move inside, while Atlanta might be ready to move on from Alex Mack if it's in selling mode.
Regardless, the 5-2 Cards have to try to buy. This team can contend.
- Trade Alex Mack
- Listen to offers for Dante Fowler Jr. and Takkarist McKinley
- Don't rule out trades of Matt Ryan or Julio Jones
It's time for the 2-6 Atlanta Falcons to pack it in. And considering this core's inability to win in recent years, it's also time for significant roster changes.
That should start with their jettisoning of Mack, who is weeks from his 35th birthday and half a season away from free agency. He's unlikely to be part of even a miniature rebuild in Atlanta, but somebody would probably give up draft capital to rent him for the home stretch.
Starting edge defenders Fowler, 26, and McKinley, 24, are still young enough to be factors for years, but neither first-round talent has lived up to expectations. They have one sack each in 2020, so there's little risk associated with selling either to the highest bidder for draft capital.
Ryan and Jones have contracts that make them difficult to trade without significant financial consequences, but a desperate team could be willing to take on a larger-than-necessary proportion of the dead money that would have been left with the Falcons.
The Houston Texans did this when they acquired David Johnson from the Cardinals last offseason. Ryan and Jones haven't gotten it done, and both are beyond their primes at 35 and 31, respectively, so the Falcons should at least be open to a massive move that could allow for a full franchise reset in 2021.
- Explore the wide receiver market
- Try to add a running back
- Try to add a cornerback
The Baltimore Ravens already addressed a pass rush that had room for improvement by acquiring edge defender Yannick Ngakoue from the Vikings last week. They're left with limited salary-cap space, and the roster is loaded for a Super Bowl run, so there isn't much left to do.
Still, they could use another weapon for quarterback Lamar Jackson in the passing game. Somebody who could push wide receiver Miles Boykin, who has struggled in his sophomore season. But they probably can't afford Cincinnati's A.J. Green or Minnesota's Adam Thielen, so a cheaper, underutilized option like San Francisco's Dante Pettis, Las Vegas' Zay Jones or Dallas' Cedrick Wilson could make sense. And yes, Dez Bryant is on the practice squad, but we have no idea what he has in him after so much time away.
Meanwhile, the offensive and defensive backfields could use boosts with running back Mark Ingram II dealing with an ankle injury and corner Tavon Young on injured reserve with a torn ACL.
Those aren't pressing concerns considering their depth in both spots, and adding talent won't be easy thanks to the team's cap crunch, but running backs are pretty cheap and a corner who is struggling elsewhere could benefit from lowered pressure, less playing time and more support in Baltimore.
- Trade Trent Murphy
- Add a cornerback
- Explore the tight end market
Both Murphy and Harrison Phillips were healthy scratches recently for the contending Buffalo Bills. The latter still has room to grow, but Murphy is about to turn 30, and the Bills are loaded with alternatives up front. Other teams are likely to value him in a walk year more than Buffalo does, so the Bills could leverage that to improve elsewhere.
Like, for instance, the secondary. Top slot corner Taron Johnson hasn't played well, and Levi Wallace has been on injured reserve with an ankle injury, though he could return Sunday. Tre'Davious White and Josh Norman could use the help, and the team has the motivation and possibly just enough cap room to chase someone like Mike Hughes. Bradley Roby could also make sense if the Houston Texans look to clean house.
Meanwhile, tight ends Dawson Knox and Tyler Kroft have combined for just 16 catches and two touchdowns. Quarterback Josh Allen could use another talented option in that spot, and it's possible someone like the New York Giants' Evan Engram, Cleveland's David Njoku or Minnesota's Kyle Rudolph could be available.
Regardless, it's finally time for the Bills to buy ahead of a potential run.
- Explore the tight end market
- Send out feelers for guards who could be on the block
- Try to add affordable experience on defense
The Carolina Panthers might not have expected to be contenders this season, but at 3-5, they're still in the playoff picture with an extra wild-card spot available. There's little reason for them to sell, especially because they already lost so many veterans in the offseason.
That said, they have limited cap space and are rebuilding to an extent, so nobody should expect them to buy big at the deadline.
Carolina should instead consider fliers on players who could come cheap and have room to blossom in a new setting. Tight ends Ian Thomas and Chris Manhertz have caught just 11 passes combined this year, so it wouldn't take much to upgrade there. Potential targets include Evan Engram, David Njoku and maybe even Chris Herndon if the New York Jets clean house.
They could also use a boost at guard. John Miller and Chris Reed haven't done a great job there, and Miller is dealing with an ankle injury. They could see if the Texans might part with affordable vet Zach Fulton ahead of a potential mini rebuild, for example.
Finally, they're extremely young on defense after a bunch of offseason turnover on that side of the ball, which could become problematic down the stretch. A cheap veteran could help with that. The Panthers could look to bring in cornerback Logan Ryan from the Giants, while other possibilities include Dallas linebacker Sean Lee, Minnesota tackle Jaleel Johnson and Jets linebacker Avery Williamson.
- Talk to the Miami Dolphins about Ryan Fitzpatrick
- Explore the guard market
- Find another wide receiver
The Chicago Bears are 5-2 and have little choice but to gun for it all considering what they are paying their defensive core. They certainly have the talent on defense to make a run, but neither Nick Foles nor Mitchell Trubisky looks like the solution under center.
The Dolphins aren't going back to Fitzpatrick after launching the Tua Tagovailoa era, and Fitz had far better numbers than both Foles and Trubisky before that move was made. Might as well inquire.
But Chicago's offense has to get better elsewhere. The offensive line misses injured guard James Daniels and could use Zach Fulton or Senio Kelemete if the Houston Texans clean house, or Andrew Norwell or A.J. Cann if the Jacksonville Jaguars have the same mindset.
Finally, they need somebody to push Darnell Mooney and Anthony Miller in support of Allen Robinson II at wide receiver. A.J. Green might be too expensive, but Will Fuller V and Brandin Cooks are worth an inquiry with Houston, the Dallas Cowboys could consider selling Michael Gallup, and Golden Tate might also make sense if the New York Giants are down.
- Explore options to improve pass protection right now
- Consider dealing Geno Atkins for draft capital
- Trade A.J. Green
At 1-5-1, it's fair to say the Cincinnati Bengals should be thinking about 2021. They can't afford to leave rookie quarterback Joe Burrow any higher or dryer than he already is, though, so there should be no selling of offensive parts that protect Burrow.
Instead, they oughta try to bolster the line by acquiring a guard who could become a staple for years to come but might be available right now. A.J. Cann and Andrew Norwell could be targets if the Jacksonville Jaguars are cleaning house, and Riley Reiff could be converted to guard if they can pull him away from the seemingly ready-to-sell Minnesota Vikings (Cincinnati is a lot better off at tackle than guard right now).
Beyond that, the Bengals should try to collect draft capital by selling off Atkins, who at 32 isn't much use to Cincinnati at this point. At this stage, the return should hardly matter—although Atkins' remaining guarantees could complicate matters.
And then there's Green. He's been a staple in Cincinnati for nearly a decade, but the expensive 32-year-old receiver is declining quickly and rookie Tee Higgins is swiftly becoming the main target in that offense. With Tyler Boyd also off to a strong start this season, it's time to move on from Green before he is likely to walk in the offseason anyway.
- Listen to offers for David Njoku
- Explore options to better support Myles Garrett
- Try to find ways to soften the blow stemming from Odell Beckham Jr.'s injury
The Cleveland Browns have little choice but to be all-in based on their current makeup, and they can certainly afford to swing the bat. They somehow lead the NFL in salary-cap space, according to Spotrac.
They can dangle draft capital and leave a lot of options on the table under those circumstances, but it also couldn't hurt to offer up a young first-round pick in Njoku, who remains disgruntled and relatively unproductive. Somebody might appreciate him as a toss-in or believe they can get him on track, and the Browns have several other quality players at that position anyway.
Anything to help with the fact that Garrett isn't getting much assistance on defense and that they're suddenly short-handed in the receiving corps as a result of Beckham's season-ending knee injury.
Who should they target? Nobody should be ruled out, but I'd be making calls about Julio Jones, Adam Thielen, Brandin Cooks, Golden Tate and Alshon Jeffery to help the offense and Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Murphy, Harrison Smith and Avery Williamson on defense.
- Shop Sean Lee and Tyrone Crawford
- Listen to offers for Jaylon Smith
- Do the same with Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper
Despite the fact that they're still in the race for first place in the horrendous NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys have indicated they could be in selling mode by trading veteran pass-rusher Everson Griffen to the Detroit Lions. And that's the right approach, because Dallas would likely be one-and-done in the best-case playoff scenario anyway.
The focus should be on 2021, which means that with Dak Prescott again slated to become a free agent, the Cowboys should cut bait on veterans who are unlikely to remain on the roster beyond this season anyway.
That means the 34-year-old Lee and the 30-year-old Crawford on defense. And potentially even the disappointing Smith, although that would be an example of selling a stock low and the Cowboys would owe Smith between $9-$10 million next year regardless of whether he's on the roster.
Finally, with rookie receiver CeeDee Lamb delivering on first-round expectations early on, the Cowboys can comfortably shop Gallup and/or Cooper. They won't likely have the money to pay Lamb and Gallup with Cooper on the hook for $22 million a year beyond this season, and Gallup's affordable rookie contract (which expires after next season) could make him an attractive trade piece for contenders in need of help in the receiving corps.
Gallup is a good player, but his talent isn't being fully utilized in the deep Dallas offense. The Cowboys have to consider dealing him.
- Drive a hard bargain for key offensive players like Phillip Lindsay and DaeSean Hamilton
- Try to trade A.J. Bouye and Kareem Jackson
- Attempt to take a flier on a pass-rusher
The Denver Broncos aren't contending this season, but it's still a little early to give up on young quarterback Drew Lock, and they owe it to him not to sell off parts that could support his maturation on the field in the second half of what is likely a make-or-break season.
Trading Von Miller also makes a lot of sense before 2021, but he's not likely to command much interest while on injured reserve right now, which means this could be a quiet deadline for Denver.
However, they can at least save some cash and potentially collect some draft capital by dumping Bouye and Jackson now. Bryce Callahan has excelled at corner this season, and Bouye won't likely be worth a $13.5 million cap hit as a 30-year-old in 2021. Meanwhile, Jackson has clearly started to decline at 32 but could be seen as a useful rental elsewhere.
Modest returns for Griffen and Dunlap indicate that pass-rushers could be had for cheaper than usual at this year's deadline, and with the Miller era likely winding down the Broncos should at least explore opportunities to better support Bradley Chubb on the edge. Atlanta's Takkarist McKinley has been the subject of trade rumors and would make sense at the age of 25. Couldn't hurt to see if a change of scenery could help the 2017 first-round pick.
- Don't entertain offers for Kenny Golladay unless they're out of this world
- Find someone to help the run defense
- Explore the cornerback market
The Detroit Lions already made a splash with the acquisition of Everson Griffen to support Trey Flowers on the edge, which indicates they're planning to make a run on a critical season for veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford.
They're certainly alive at 3-3, which is why we should probably disregard Golladay trade buzz. The 26-year-old is having his most productive season yet on a per-game basis, and Stafford needs him.
Even with Griffen on board, the defense could use help. They rank in the bottom 10 in DVOA (defense-adjusted valued over average at Football Outsiders) against the run, and the line could still use more talent in that area. Quinnen Williams would be a dream addition if the New York Jets would actually consider that, but I'd also ask the Broncos about Shelby Harris.
Finally, with both Jeff Okudah and Desmond Trufant struggling with injuries and/or performance issues, another cornerback could really come in handy. Could former New England Patriots staffer Matt Patricia land Stephon Gilmore? That would seem odd after they traded away Darius Slay in the offseason, but it's an odd league. Potential alternatives include A.J. Bouye or Bradley Roby.
Green Bay Packers
- Find another wide receiver
- Consider a tight end
- Look for an off-ball linebacker who could help against the run
Yeah, the Green Bay Packers are faring just fine without another elite receiver to chip in opposite Davante Adams. In fact, they were dominant even when Adams was injured earlier this season. But eventually, they might need another high-quality veteran option at that position after basically ignoring it in the draft.
Aaron Reiss of The Athletic reports there's interest in Will Fuller V of the Houston Texans, which would make sense. Ditto for Michael Gallup in Dallas, A.J. Green in Cincinnati, Julio Jones in Atlanta or even Houston's Brandin Cooks (who would likely come cheaper than Fuller).
Of course, they could always go the tight end route instead. Robert Tonyan has nice numbers, but most of it came in one game and now he's nursing ankle and knee injuries. Evan Engram, David Njoku, Tyler Eifert and Darren Fells could all be available for the right price.
Meanwhile, the run defense continues to be problematic for Green Bay. Rookie fifth-round pick Kamal Martin is intriguing, but a veteran like Myles Jack or Avery Williamson could be worth a call to Jacksonville or the Jets.
- Listen to offers for practically anyone except Deshaun Watson and Laremy Tunsil
- Make a strong effort to trade aging and expensive defensive veterans
- Drive a hard bargain for offensive linemen not named Zach Fulton or Senio Kelemete
It's time for the 1-6 Houston Texans to focus on 2021 and beyond by raising salary-cap space and draft capital. That means a fire sale, where basically everyone except Watson and Tunsil should be up for grabs.
But because you don't want to get Watson killed, and because Will Fuller V and Brandin Cooks remain pretty young, the focus should be on unloading defenders. J.J. Watt is well beyond his prime and due $17.5 million next year, Whitney Mercilus's contract is on the verge of becoming an albatross, and highly paid corner Bradley Roby is unlikely to outlast an inevitable rebuild.
And while Fulton and Kelemete both now look like bad signings from a couple years ago at the guard position, the Texans shouldn't rush to unload any of their young offensive linemen. Tunsil is practically untradeable, but it's also too early to give up on Tytus Howard, Nick Martin and Max Scharping.
The idea should be to establish some continuity at those positions. For once.
- Toss out some feelers on young quarterbacks
- Try to land one more impact player
- Gauge interest in Malik Hooker
While the Indianapolis Colts are a contender right now, it's become pretty clear the Philip Rivers experiment won't be a long-term success. Ideally, the Colts can line up potential successors at quarterback without having to spend an arm and a length in draft capital. Let's keep in mind they're unlikely to have a high draft pick in 2021.
So, Indy should talk to the Washington Football Team about benched second-year signal-caller Dwayne Haskins Jr. General manager Chris Ballard should also connect with the New York Jets on Sam Darnold, and it couldn't hurt to see if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will part with Josh Rosen for a cheap return.
More broadly, the Colts could simply use another game-changing player, even if we're just looking at a one-year rental. DeForest Buckner and Darius Leonard could use a strong presence like Stephon Gilmore in the secondary or Ryan Kerrigan on the edge, while a standout like Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Adam Thielen or Golden Tate could help mask Rivers' shortcomings.
Beyond that, the rise of rookie safety Julian Blackmon should embolden the Colts to explore trade options for the oft-injured Hooker. It's possible a team focusing on 2021 could take a shot at Hooker and extend his expiring rookie deal with a prove-it year. It's worth exploring.
- Toss out some feelers on young quarterbacks
- Try to trade Andrew Norwell and Myles Jack
- Consider taking a flier on a young player who hasn't panned out
The Colts aren't the only team in the AFC South that should explore possibilities on a quarterback market that might include Dwayne Haskins Jr., Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen. All three haven't panned out thus far, but they're young and the jury remains very much out on starter Gardner Minshew II.
Aside from that, the focus in Jacksonville should continue to be on a rebuild that will likely consume multiple seasons. That should at least involve an effort to get rid of big salaries belonging to Norwell and Jack, who haven't been difference-makers and are the two highest-paid players on the roster.
Another option who is less of a financial burden is guard A.J. Cann.
Finally, the Jaguars should inquire about guys like Evan Engram, David Njoku, Takkarist McKinley, Isaiah Oliver, N'Keal Harry, Chris Herndon and other young players who have plenty of talent but haven't come through and might have worn out their welcome elsewhere.
It's flier-taking time.
Kansas City Chiefs
- Explore options to shore up the run defense
- See about bringing in another guard
- Consider potential options at cornerback
The Kansas City Chiefs remain a Super Bowl favorite, but the run defense ranks 31st in DVOA. Potential targets to shore them up there are Myles Jack, Avery Williamson, Quinnen Williams, maybe even Eric Kendricks if the Minnesota Vikings are serious about cleaning house.
Elsewhere, with Laurent Duvernay-Tardif missing 2020 as a COVID-19 opt-out and Kelechi Osemele on injured reserve, they could use another experienced body at the guard position. They should see if the Texans will send former Chief Zach Fulton back to K.C., while vets like Riley Reiff, Andrew Norwell, A.J. Cann, Senio Kelemete and Kevin Zeitler are worth inquiring about.
There aren't many weaknesses elsewhere for Kansas City, but Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward don't exactly form an elite duo at cornerback. The Chiefs can be had in coverage, so it would be silly not to ask about a veteran cover man like Logan Ryan, Bradley Roby, Isaiah Oliver or Mike Hughes, all of whom are employed by potential deadline sellers.
You'd have to imagine there's no chance Bill Belichick would hand them Stephon Gilmore.
Las Vegas Raiders
- Address the defense
- Address the defense
- Address the damn defense
The Las Vegas Raiders are at least a wild-card contender despite the league's 31st-ranked scoring defense. That unit is equally terrible against both the pass and run, according to Football Outsiders, so the key is essentially to land more impact defenders across the board.
The focus, though, should probably be on the secondary. They've got plenty of talent and experience in the front seven, but they could benefit from upgrades at cornerback, safety and—to a lesser extent—linebacker and on the edge.
They have a little bit of cap space, so there's little reason not to inquire about Stephon Gilmore, Bradley Roby, Logan Ryan, Isaiah Oliver, Mike Hughes, A.J. Bouye, Harrison Smith, Avery Williamson, Myles Jack, Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Murphy, Takk McKinley and even J.J. Watt.
In other words, Las Vegas should swing at every pitch on D, because the offense has been pretty effective and looks fairly shored up.
Los Angeles Chargers
- Explore opportunities to strengthen the offensive line
- Make calls about linebackers
- See about upgrading at safety
The primary goal for the Los Angeles Chargers now should be to bolster support for rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, who through seven weeks was the most frequently pressured passer in the AFC.
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga has been hampered by a back injury, left tackle Sam Tevi has been hampered by the fact that he's not a starting-caliber NFL player, Dan Feeney has done a poor job in place of injured center Mike Pouncey, and guards Trai Turner (who has also been healthy) and Forrest Lamp (who hasn't performed well as a run blocker) haven't been any more reliable.
Turner and Bulaga are highly paid and should eventually come around, but the Bolts could use an influx of talent and experience at all three remaining offensive line positions. Could they get Alex Mack from the Falcons? What about Riley Reiff from the Vikings? Andrew Norwell, A.J. Cann, Zach Fulton, Senio Kelemete and Kevin Zeitler could all potentially become available based on the trajectories of their teams, so there's no shortage of options to pursue if you're the Chargers.
Beyond that, L.A. could use a boost in run defense and at safety. Another guy like Avery Williamson, Myles Jack, Harrison Smith or Logan Ryan would be huge.
Los Angeles Rams
- Try to find affordable help for Aaron Donald against the run
- Try to find affordable help for Aaron Donald on the edge
- Pray this is enough
The Los Angeles Rams are positioned for cap hell again next offseason, so they may have to limit themselves to bargain hunting ahead of this year's deadline. The good news is the offense is pretty locked in, as is the secondary, and Aaron Donald is again a Defensive Player of the Year candidate up front.
So the Rams can contend as is, but this team isn't without its flaws. The run defense ranks below the league median in DVOA, and top edge-rusher Leonard Floyd is far from dominant. L.A. misses Cory Littleton, Clay Matthews and Dante Fowler Jr. this year, and it could use somebody like Myles Jack, Avery Williamson or Eric Kendricks off the ball or somebody like Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Murphy or Takk McKinley on the edge.
Most of those guys represent pipe dreams, though. A linebacker like Josey Jewell or an edge like Tarell Basham or Charles Harris might be more realistic.
Regardless, the Rams will spend most of deadline day looking at their current depth chart and hoping that it's enough, because they're pretty much all-in for 2020.
- Try to get something for Ryan Fitzpatrick
- Stand pat with Xavien Howard
- Add experience to the offensive line
We specifically suggested earlier that the Bears talk to the Miami Dolphins about Fitzpatrick, who is essentially done with his bridge work in Miami now that the Tua Tagovailoa era has arrived. It couldn't hurt to land even a late-round draft pick for the soon-to-be 38-year-old at this point.
Meanwhile, there's been chatter that Howard could be on the move. While the Dolphins should of course listen to any offers that come their way, trading Howard would be nonsensical without a lopsided offer. Even though Miami signed Byron Jones in the offseason, Howard is a different kind of playmaker. He might not be as reliable in coverage as Jones, but he's intercepted a ridiculous 16 passes in just 39 games since the start of 2017. Besides, his contract would likely make trading him too costly when it comes to dead money.
Beyond that, the Dolphins look like a playoff contender with cap space and draft capital to spare. There are dozens of routes they can go with that. They could address a so-so pass rush, they could try to upgrade a vulnerable pass defense, and they could try to bolster Tua's offensive line.
That last area seems most important considering Tagovailoa's injury history as well as the lack of experience along a line that is currently without injured rookie first-round pick Austin Jackson. A vet like Andrew Norwell or Riley Reiff could help immensely.
- Try to trade Riley Reiff, Harrison Smith and Kyle Rudolph
- Consider offers for Adam Thielen, Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks
- See if anyone might be willing to take on Kirk Cousins and his massive contract
The Minnesota Vikings signaled that a reload was coming when they traded Yannick Ngakoue just weeks after acquiring him from the Jaguars. Now, a 1-5 team might as well trim more fat with a focus on 2021 and beyond.
We've tossed out a lot of Vikings players as trade targets for other teams here, and the Vikes—who are likely to remain in a cap crunch through next year—should absolutely listen to offers for highly paid vets like Thielen, Reiff, Barr, Kendricks, Smith and Rudolph.
But the priority should be to get rid of Reiff, Smith and Rudolph, all of whom are over 30 (Reiff and Smith will soon turn 32, Rudolph is on the verge of 31). All are beyond their prime, all should be seen as potential rentals elsewhere, and there's time for the focus to shift to long-term replacements (they might already have one for Rudolph in second-year second-round pick Irv Smith Jr.).
Of course, it will be tough for Minnesota to completely rebuild with 32-year-old Cousins. He's tied for the league lead with 10 picks, and it's fair to wonder if he'll ever be capable of leading this team deep in the playoffs. Problem is, the Vikes are on the hook for $76 million in 2021 and 2022 alone, but a desperate trade partner could potentially take Cousins off their hands and leave them with a "mere" $20 million cap hit in 2021.
It's worth considering if the opportunity presents itself.
New England Patriots
- Try to trade Cam Newton, Dont'a Hightower, Marcus Cannon, Devin McCourty and Julian Edelman
- Consider trading Stephon Gilmore
- Pursue trades for reclamation projects with room to grow
The New England Patriots are not a good football team anymore, and Bill Belichick and Co. have to realize that, at this point, they're better off cleaning house and rebuilding the entire roster. That process technically started when they lost a slew of key veterans including legendary quarterback Tom Brady in the offseason, and now it should continue if indeed they drop to 2-5 with a loss to the Bills on Sunday.
Well, it should happen regardless, but a defeat in Buffalo would make it a little easier to swallow.
Still, there's little reason not to get something for Newton, McCourty and Edelman, all of whom are well above 30 and could help somebody else this year. Hightower and Davenport are COVID-19 opt-outs who are also beyond their primes and rather expensive for a rebuilding team.
Gilmore would be tougher to part with considering he just turned 30 and is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but if the price is right, Belichick shouldn't—and likely won't—shy away from parting ways with a player before he truly begins to decline.
However, because they're the Patriots, it would also make a lot of sense to chase talented young players who could be had for pennies on the dollar and could be made into stars in New England. Names that come to mind include Evan Engram, David Njoku, Charles Harris, Takkarist McKinley, Dwayne Haskins Jr., Josh Rosen, Mike Hughes, John Ross III, Gareon Conley and Taven Bryan.
New Orleans Saints
- Try to land another pass-rusher
- Explore the receiver market
- Gauge interest in Nick Easton
It might only be a matter of time before five-time Pro Bowler Cameron Jordan gets rolling after a slow start, but the New Orleans Saints were linked to trades for pass-rushers even before Jordan and Marcus Davenport struggled out of the gate this season.
They simply could use another player to apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks, and there are several intriguing options out there if they're prepared to go YOLO with the salary cap and make 2020 an all-in season.
The Saints should call about J.J. Watt in Houston, Ryan Kerrigan in Washington, Demarcus Lawrence in Dallas and Trent Murphy in Buffalo. But even if a blockbuster doesn't pan out, cheaper potential options like Takk McKinley, Charles Harris and Tarell Basham come to mind (although they could be hard-pressed to get a deal done with division-rival Atlanta).
Beyond that, with Michael Thomas still dealing with multiple injuries and Emmanuel Sanders positive for COVID-19, the receiving corps could use another proven target for quarterback Drew Brees. A.J. Green or Adam Thielen might be pushing it in terms of the price tag, but what about Michael Gallup or Will Fuller V? Or, if they want to go even cheaper, somebody like Breshad Perriman, Dante Pettis, Zay Jones or Cedrick Wilson. There are options.
One way they could save money? Parting ways with interior offensive lineman Easton, who might not be needed with the rest of the line healthy and rookie Cesar Ruiz looking strong.
New York Giants
- Try to trade Golden Tate or Kevin Zeitler
- Entertain offers for Evan Engram
- Try to take fliers on young players who might be on the block
The New York Giants are in a weird spot. They remain very much alive in the sick joke that is the NFC East, and they likely aren't fired up about the prospect of committing to a long-term rebuild with Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley and Nate Solder on the roster.
But nobody said you have to be an all-out buyer or seller at the deadline. The Giants need to think about keeping or adding players who can help Jones right now and selling players who are unlikely to be factors when Barkley and Solder are back from the injured reserve and the COVID-19 opt-out list, respectively, in 2021.
It wouldn't be fair to strip the offense for parts entirely, but Sterling Shepard is healthy again, Darius Slayton has officially emerged, and they aren't likely to keep Tate around for more than $10 million as a 33-year-old in 2021. Zeitler is also over 30, and he's slated to cost $14.5 million next season. Maybe you don't deal both, but getting some capital back for one or the other makes sense.
Meanwhile, Engram continues to disappoint with dropped passes and a lack of touchdowns. He might need a fresh setting, and the Giants might be running out of time to get something of value in return.
The Giants, though, should keep their eyes on the market for the same types of potential reclamation projects we mentioned for New England. Charles Harris, Takkarist McKinley, Mike Hughes, John Ross III, Gareon Conley and Taven Bryan could all come cheaply and potentially contribute to a rebuild.
New York Jets
- Try to trade Sam Darnold
- Trade Pierre Desir, Henry Anderson, George Fant and Avery Williamson
- Drive a hard bargain for Quinnen Williams
It's a little more clear-cut for the Big Apple's greener, less successful franchise. The winless New York Jets are clearly the worst team in the NFL, and their quarterback, Sam Darnold, has had two-and-a-half years to establish himself to no avail.
It's time to start from scratch. Somebody else will still try to make Darnold happen, and they'll pay up for the 23-year-old despite his sub-60 career completion percentage and his sub-80 career passer rating. But the Jets are going to be in line to draft Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields or Trey Lance next offseason, and they can't afford to pass up on that opportunity. So there's really no point in keeping Darnold around so that he can further hurt his trade value in a bad situation.
And if you're giving up on Darnold, you can pretty much give up on anyone else who isn't likely to be helpful come 2022 (let's face it, the Jets won't contend in 2021). That's why they'd be smart to simply hold a firesale for veteran defenders Desir, Anderson and Williamson as well as Fant, who hasn't panned out at all at right tackle.
One player the Jets shouldn't part with unless they land a king's ransom is Williams. The 22-year-old sophomore No. 3 overall pick hasn't delivered on high expectations yet but still has the ability to become a superstar along the defensive line.
And it appears they at least know that.
- Trade Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson
- Put Zach Ertz up for sale
- Try to get a discount on an offensive lineman
According to Spotrac, only New Orleans is slated to be in deeper cap hell than the Philadelphia Eagles next offseason. And while we suggested the Saints go YOLO in hopes of winning this year's Super Bowl even if it further burns them in future seasons, the Eagles aren't positioned to make that type of run this year.
It'll be tempting to buy because the NFC East is of course winnable, but this Eagles team is far too flawed and depleted to contend in January anyway. It would be much better off waving the white flag on 2020 and regrouping with fewer bills to pay and more draft capital in 2021.
That's why the Eagles should sell hard.
Carson Wentz, Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Brooks and Darius Slay aren't going anywhere, and Brandon Graham's contract unfortunately makes him untradeable (they'd still owe him more than $17 million in 2021).
But they can save a bunch of cash by parting ways with the 30-year-old Jeffery (who hasn't really been consistently healthy and productive since 2018), the 33-year-old Jackson (who has played just seven games since the start of 2019) and Ertz (who turns 30 in two weeks and makes big bucks compared to promising backup Dallas Goedert).
The first two guys are must-trades regardless of return because they're extremely unlikely to be worth it in 2021, while the Eagles should at least drive a hard bargain for the younger and more recently successful Ertz.
Finally, just for Wentz's sake, they oughta at least make some calls about a cheap offensive lineman who would come off the books soon and would only cost them some draft capital. Current Texans guards Zach Fulton and Senio Kelemete would fit that profile.
- See if the rebuilding Jets will part with Avery Williamson
- See if the down-and-out Giants will part with Evan Engram
- Anyone want Benny Snell Jr.?
We won't use too many words here because according to Stathead's trade database, the Pittsburgh Steelers have never made a deadline trade in their history. They're a pretty conservative team, they haven't lost all season, and they're thus unlikely to break character and made any noteworthy moves ahead of Tuesday's deadline.
Still, general manager Kevin Colbert will undoubtedly monitor the trade market. And while he doesn't have much money to spend, he should at least see if there are some discounts available on linebackers who could help soften the blow associated with Devin Bush Jr.'s torn ACL. Myles Jack and Eric Kendricks are likely too expensive, but Williamson is affordable in a walk year.
Beyond that, tight end Eric Ebron is dealing with an elbow injury, and he hasn't been overly reliable at previous stops, either. Engram is even less reliable, but he's affordable on a rookie deal, and more support in Pittsburgh could do the trick.
Snell has had some nice flashes, but James Conner has rebounded this season, and rookie Anthony McFarland Jr. is beginning to eat into Snell's reps as well. The Steelers should see if they can get a middle-round pick for him.
San Francisco 49ers
- Explore the market for an affordable rental defensive lineman
- Do the same for a wide receiver
- Talk to the Falcons about Alex Mack
Because the San Francisco 49ers remain in contention in a critical season despite a slew of brutal injuries, their deadline focus has to be on trying to land guys who can fill some holes over the course of the next two or (ideally) three months.
They're a bit tight for cap space, but the 49ers could get creative to make room for a defensive lineman on a one- or two-year rental. That would help with the fact that Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas and Dee Ford are all on IR. They could talk to Kyle Shanahan's former team about Ryan Kerrigan, or his other former team about Takkarist McKinley and Dante Fowler Jr.
Meanwhile, with Deebo Samuel injured again and the receiving corps in need of another experienced but affordable target, Michael Gallup and Will Fuller V could be available as they play out rookie contracts in Dallas and Houston, respectively.
Finally, the center position has been a problem with injured veteran Weston Richburg still seemingly far from a return and Ben Garland on IR as well. If the Falcons are cleaning house anyway, the 49ers should see about acquiring the highly accomplished 34-year-old Mack in a walk year.
- Shop Rashaad Penny
- Approach the Falcons regarding Takkarist McKinley
- Consider a flier on a tight end
The Seattle Seahawks already addressed a struggling pass rush by acquiring veteran edge defender Carlos Dunlap from the Cincinnati Bengals, and now they have the lowest amount of salary-cap space in the NFL. Still, this is a critical season for a Super Bowl contender with a prime MVP candidate at quarterback, and Seattle has to try to get creative to improve a strong but flawed roster in support of Russell Wilson.
They can start by seeing if anyone wants to take a flier on Penny, who remains on injured reserve while Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde do all the work. They'd never recoup the first-round pick used on Penny in 2018, but at least they'd get him off the books, possibly with some draft capital in return.
The Seahawks also shouldn't stop with Dunlap as they try to bolster a dull pass rush. McKinley is super affordable on the final year of his rookie deal and might be on the block in Atlanta. They could also see about getting Tarell Basham from the Jets as a Plan B.
Finally, Greg Olsen is averaging just 7.2 yards per target, and Wilson could use another option at the tight end position. Evan Engram and David Njoku still have relatively high ceilings and would also come pretty cheap on rookie deals if the Giants or Browns decided to move on.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Talk to the Jets about Brian Poole
- Try to add an interior defensive lineman like Shelby Harris
- Shop Justin Watson
With a 43-year-old Tom Brady at quarterback, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren't saving anything for next year. And if they're going to gun for it in 2020, they might as well leverage some capital at the deadline and use the approximately $5 million they have in remaining cap space.
Second-year second-round pick Sean Murphy-Bunting hasn't done a good enough job in slot coverage this season, and the Bucs can't afford to wait out his growing pains. Poole would probably provide an upgrade as a fairly cheap rental in a walk year, and there's a good chance Gang Green wouldn't need much in return considering their circumstances.
And while William Gholston has done a solid job with Vita Vea down inside, he's a one-dimensional player with a pretty clear ceiling. We're nitpicking here, but if they can't address the secondary, the Bucs could instead opt to pursue a jolt up front by pursuing Denver's Harris in an inexpensive walk year.
Finally, Antonio Brown is set to make his Bucs debut in Week 9 alongside Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and the team's current receiving yardage leader, Scotty Miller. There just isn't much room for the physically enticing Watson. Somebody else would likely take a flier there, which could free up some cap space and land the Bucs an extra late-round pick.
- Call the Vikings about Riley Reiff
- Try to add a cornerback
- Trade Taylor Lewan?
The contending Tennessee Titans have some cap room to make moves between now and Tuesday's deadline, which could come in handy because the offensive line might need some work.
Remember, Tennessee lost steady right tackle Jack Conklin in free agency last offseason, and stud left tackle Taylor Lewan is now out for the year with a torn ACL. Ty Sambrailo and Dennis Kelly have fared OK in those spots, but they aren't ideal starters, and second-year third-round pick Nate Davis has yet to put it together at right guard.
Enter Reiff, who would cost just $3.2 million the rest of the year if the Vikes decide to keep cleaning house and include him in that process. He's a solid veteran with the ability to kick inside if asked.
Elsewhere, a pass defense that ranks below the league median in DVOA could also use a boost. Even if Tennessee general manager Jon Robinson can't convince his former team to give up Stephon Gilmore, the Titans should consider calling Atlanta about Isaiah Oliver or Minnesota about Mike Hughes, both of whom are relatively affordable without long-term commitments.
Malcolm Butler is fading, rookie Kristian Fulton is dealing with a knee injury, and seventh-round rookie Chris Jackson is in over his head in a major role. Plus, they're also putting quite a lot on a 36-year-old Johnathan Joseph there.
Finally, the Lewan trade needed a question mark because it's far-fetched and possibly a bit wacky, but Tennesse used a first-round pick in April on Isaiah Wilson, and if it were to add Reiff to a group including Wilson, Sambrailo and Kelly, Lewan might be expendable ahead of 2021. That would free up more than $9 million in cap space, which could actually make a Gilmore trade more feasible.
It's just a thought, and probably a stupid one, but we're 7,500 words deep so sue me.
Washington Football Team
- Drive an extremely hard bargain for Dwayne Haskins Jr.
- Trade Ryan Kerrigan
- Consider taking a flier on a young player who hasn't panned out
It's never a good sign when you bench your first-round quarterback in his second season, and the Washington Football Team is understandably low on patience, but it's important to remember that Haskins is a one-year college starter with 11 NFL starts under his belt at age 23. There's no reason for the WFT to panic and bail on this quickly unless Ron Rivera gets blown away by an offer, which seems unlikely at this point.
It's a different story with Kerrigan, who's had a long, distinguished run in Washington but has half a season remaining on his contract. With four other first-round picks up front on defense for the WFT, it's hard to imagine the team keeping him around as a 33-year-old in 2021.
Get something for him now if you can.
Lastly, with the cap on its side, it couldn't hurt for Washington to pursue some intriguing fliers who could contribute beyond 2020. John Ross III, N'Keal Harry, Chris Herndon, David Njoku, Mike Hughes, Isaiah Oliver and Gareon Conley might be worth phone calls.