Buyer or Seller: Which Role Should Every NFL Team Take at Trade Deadline?

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistOctober 29, 2020

Buyer or Seller: Which Role Should Every NFL Team Take at Trade Deadline?

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    It's decision time for all 32 NFL front offices as Tuesday's trade deadline approaches.

    Deciding whether to be a buyer or seller can be tenuous, but it can make a huge difference. Just ask the San Francisco 49ers, whose decision to buy on Emmanuel Sanders last October played an integral role in their Super Bowl run.

    The Arizona Cardinals were also buyers who won in 2019. Acquiring Kenyan Drake after his unsuccessful stint with the Miami Dolphins gave the team its running back of the future.

    Conversely, the Atlanta Falcons have to feel good about being sellers last season. They traded Mohamed Sanu for a second-round pick and now find themselves in a rebuild Sanu would not have helped with.

Arizona Cardinals: Buyer

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals could be a playoff team in 2020, but they could be a Super Bowl contender in the coming years if they play their cards right.

    The core assembled by general manager Steve Keim has shown a lot of promise. The offense is full of players in their primes or approaching them, including quarterback Kyler Murray, running back Kenyan Drake and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. However, the offensive line and defense have yet to reach their potential.

    The Cards have multiple options. They could deal an aging vet in a contract year like Patrick Peterson to acquire draft capital. They already added pass-rusher Markus Golden last week, but they could further bolster a defense that lost Chandler Jones—the team's leading sack-getter in 2019—to a torn biceps.

    Head coach Kliff Kingsbury and Co. have done a good job of building around Murray. They need to take advantage of the money saved by their QB being on a rookie deal, which means taking chances like bringing in another piece who could help them this season and beyond.

Atlanta Falcons: Seller

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    The firing of head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff should be a signal that the Falcons are in rebuild mode.

    Dimitroff oversaw a 12-year stretch in which the franchise went 109-83 and made a Super Bowl appearance. Now the Falcons are 1-6, and Julio Jones and Matt Ryan have been floated as potential trade candidates, per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network later reported that both Jones and Ryan will remain with the team, but things can change by the minute.

    Ultimately, the dead money the Falcons would be charged for trading Ryan ($49.9 million) and Jones ($38.5 million) in 2021 likely makes dealing them a non-starter.

    That doesn't mean the Falcons don't have options, though. They can kickstart the rebuild by offloading Takkarist McKinley. Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported the club has had talks with other teams about the pass-rusher.

    McKinley is in the fourth year of his deal and plays a position of value. He hasn't been the most productive player (just one sack in four games this season), but given his first-round pedigree and the dearth of available talent at the position, he could bring back some draft capital for the next general manager to work with.

Baltimore Ravens: Buyer

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    Brad Penner/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Ravens have been aggressive in their pursuit to win a Super Bowl while Lamar Jackson is on his rookie deal. They brought in Calais Campbell via an offseason trade, and they brought Yannick Ngakoue into the fold last week in a move that could make their pass-rushing unit the best in the league.

    They've even taken a shot on Dez Bryant, signing him to the practice squad. 

    They are more likely to add another veteran to the mix than trade pieces. They already trimmed the fat at one position of depth when they sent tight end Hayden Hurst to the Falcons in the offseason. 

    They used the second-round pick they got from the Hurst deal to select running back J.K. Dobbins. General manager Eric DeCosta might feel comfortable parting with draft capital to add one more piece to a squad that is a legitimate Super Bowl contender. 

    The Ravens would need to get creative if they add a piece via trade. According to Spotrac, they have the least amount of cap space and are $6.4 million over the cap.

    Specifically, the interior of the offensive line could be a place to build depth as they are relying on rookie Tyre Phillips at right guard.  

    His 48.8 PFF grade may indicate he's a little over his head. Someone like Kevin Zeitler of the New York Giants would give the line a more reliable option.

Buffalo Bills: Buyer

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    Jeff Bottari/Associated Press

    With the Dolphins turning to rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the New England Patriots struggling to get things going and the New York Jets going full New York Jets, the Buffalo Bills have a chance to do something special. 

    Regardless of whether you believe Josh Allen is the long-term answer at quarterback, he has done enough to have the team sitting atop the AFC East at 5-2. The organization hasn't won the division since 1995. 

    While Allen gets most of the headlines with his uneven play, the defense could use some work—specifically the pass rush. The Bills have only registered a pressure rate of 20.1 percent, placing them in the bottom half of the league.

    Mario Addison is the only player with more than two sacks, and Jerry Hughes is the only defender to record double-digit pressures. The secondary has taken a step back too. The Bills have gone from third in passer rating allowed (78.8) in 2019 to 23rd (99.5) this year.

    Anything the Bills can do to improve the pass rush or pass coverage should be welcome as they prepare to make a postseason run.

Carolina Panthers: Seller

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    The Carolina Panthers have been a pleasant surprise, but now isn't the time to try to contend. They don't have the talent to compete with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints in the NFC South, especially with star running back Christian McCaffrey working his way back from injury.

    One look at the early returns on the Panthers' all-defense 2020 class should give fans reason to trust the team's drafting. Rookies are playing significant roles in all three levels of the defense, and Carolina has crept into the top half of the league in yards allowed per game after ranking 23rd in 2019.

    The team should be able to address both sides of the ball in the 2021 draft, though the team does not own any additional selections.

    Parting with players drafted by the previous administration—like Curtis Samuel or Kawann Short—in exchange for draft capital could give the front office even more ammo to rebuild.

Chicago Bears: Buyer

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears are arguably proving their doubters wrong. They are locked in a battle with the Green Bay Packers for control of the NFC North despite a minus-two point differential. 

    They've done it with a top-10 defense. Nick Foles took over at quarterback after Mitchell Trubisky was benched in Week 3 and has gone 2-2 as a starter, but the offense still has plenty of holes. 

    Foles has few consistent weapons outside of Allen Robinson II. Tight end Jimmy Graham, 34, is second on the team in targets but has 28 fewer than Robinson. Anthony Miller is the only receiver other than Robinson with more than one receiving play of 20-plus yards.

    A second playmaking receiver would be a welcome addition, and there should be some available. A swing for the fences would involve prying A.J. Green from the Bengals, or they could call the Texans and see if they are willing to part with any of their trio of Will Fuller V, Brandin Cooks and Kenny Stills. 

    The team could also improve the offensive line. Specifically, left guard has been a mess with James Daniels sidelined for the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

    Ryan Pace could call the Giants to see what it would take to get Kevin Zeitler. Or they could see how the Patriots feel about parting with Joe Thuney.

Cincinnati Bengals: Seller

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    Rich Schultz/Associated Press

    The notion that an aggressive offseason would keep the Cincinnati Bengals from a rebuild has been dispelled quickly, and the organization should mostly be a seller.

    Joe Burrow hasn't led an immediate turnaround, and the original decision to keep expensive veterans like A.J. Green, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap (a combined $43.4 million cap hit this season) hasn't translated to wins. The Bengals are at the bottom of the AFC North at 1-5-1.

    The team already took action on one of the three players. They reportedly sent Dunlap to Seattle in exchange for a seventh-round pick and offensive lineman B.J. Finney. 

    Burrow has shown the potential that made him the No. 1 pick, but Green has caught a career-low 50 percent of his targets. Tyler Boyd has taken over as the No. 1 receiver.

    The Bengals could get aggressive to acquire offensive line help. They have allowed a league-high 28 sacks.

    With both Atkins and Green still set to command large salaries next season, the team would be wise to try to continue unloading veterans and getting assets in return. If they can find a trade destination for Green, they shouldn't hesitate. The 32-year-old's window of production no longer matches the team's window for winning.

Cleveland Browns: Buyer

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    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    This season is crucial for several in the Cleveland Browns organization.

    Kevin Stefanski is making his first impression as head coach, and Baker Mayfield is in his third season under center. The Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry duo is in Year 2, though OBJ suffered a season-ending torn ACL in Week 7's game against the Bengals. 

    The Browns should be doing all they can to build upon their 5-2 start.

    That would mean making a move to enhance the secondary. Starting safety Andrew Sendejo has been a disaster, allowing an 80.8 percent completion rate when targeted in coverage, and the Browns have allowed the third-most passing yards per game. They are in the bottom half of the league in passer rating allowed.

    According to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, tight end David Njoku wants to be dealt before the trade deadline. While Njoku refuted that report, rookie tight end Harrison Bryant has left him obsolete, and his athleticism should be tempting for other teams. 

    Beckham's injury could also mean a trade for a receiver. But Rashard Higgins' chemistry with Mayfield makes that position less of a need. 

    If all the Browns do is unload Njoku, they will have missed an opportunity to maximize their best start in years.

Dallas Cowboys: Seller

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys' season was in trouble before the Dak Prescott injury. One of the most hyped teams of the offseason failed to live up to expectations thanks to a shaky defense that now ranks 27th and then lost its franchise quarterback to a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle.

    Prescott's upcoming contract extension was a specter over the season before his injury. The team has looked even worse without him, making his deal even more important. The problem is the Cowboys don't have a ton of cap flexibility with big-money contracts already on the roster.

    The defense could use help along the line and in the secondary, and the tackle spots on the offensive line are an issue thanks to injuries. But those are going to have to wait with the team needing to commit big dollars to Prescott if it wants him to stay.

    A flashy trade to bring in a veteran would show the Cowboys (2-5) are working toward competing in a weak NFC East that is up for grabs. But that would be a pipe dream. The wiser move would be to either stand pat or find a veteran to offload for a draft pick who could help them continue to rebuild the defense.

Denver Broncos: Seller

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos have been among the most snakebitten teams this season.

    One of their primary objectives is to find out if Drew Lock is worth building around. That's been nearly impossible, with the second-year quarterback only playing three full games. He suffered an injury in Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers after attempting just five passes.

    His isn't the only key player to be injured, either.

    Tight end Noah Fant, one of the most promising weapons Lock was supposed to have in his arsenal, has been in and out of the lineup. Bradley Chubb (working his way back from an ACL tear in 2019) and A.J. Bouye (shoulder) highlight the defensive players who dealt with injuries.

    The result is a disappointing 2-4 start, a battle with the Chargers to avoid last place in the AFC West and holes to fill in the long term. The team that could unload a veteran like Justin Simmons, who's playing on the franchise tag, or one of their pieces who hasn't found a role like DaeSean Hamilton.

    Either way, they shouldn't part with draft picks as they look toward the future.

Detroit Lions: Seller

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    The NFC North is clearly a two-horse race. The Green Bay Packers and Bears are the only two squads that have looked like playoff teams.

    General manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia might not be able to afford it, but the best thing they can do is push toward a rebuild and stock up on draft picks. Whether it's self-preservation or delusions of grandeur, the duo chose to do the opposite by reportedly giving up a late-round pick for half a season of 32-year-old Everson Griffen.

    The pass-rusher showed he still has the ability to get after the quarterback with 2.5 sacks in seven games, but one defensive end is not going to elevate the Lions above the Bears or Packers.

    Selling would likely mean parting with an established veteran like Marvin Jones Jr., who's in a contract year and could help a contender. At 3-3, the Lions haven't given the 30-year-old Jones much reason to stick around even with Griffen on board.

    Quinn and Patricia have to be feeling the heat after another rough start to a season, but the roster is nowhere near contention. And there isn't a player available who is going to change that.

Green Bay Packers: Buyer

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Minus one blip against a strong Tampa Bay defense, the Aaron Rodgers revenge tour has been a success. After a lot of talk about how the Packers weren't going to be as good as last year's 13-3 squad, Green Bay looks capable of at least repeating those results.

    Adding another weapon for Rodgers or getting help on the defensive front could push the club to another title with Rodgers under center.

    Devin Funchess was the only notable addition in the passing game this offseason, but he opted out of the campaign amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Davante Adams had a monster performance against the Houston Texans in his second game back from a hamstring issue, but Allen Lazard is on injured reserve with a core muscle injury. Marquez Valdes-Scantling has seen his catch rate (44.1 percent) decline for a third consecutive year.

    The team is in the bottom third of the league in yards allowed per rush (4.6) and has the third-worst pressure percentage (17.4).

    General manager Brian Gutekunst may get away with Rodgers' ability to be an alchemist on offense, but the defense won't be capable of a deep playoff run without more bite to the pass rush.

Houston Texans: Seller

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    The Houston Texans are a disaster, but they have already gotten past the first phase of recovery: Denial.

    They acknowledged that head coach/GM Bill O'Brien was a problem by firing him. Those positions will need to be filled later, but one thing is for sure: Whoever takes the reins will need draft picks.

    The Texans don't have a selection in the first or second round of the 2021 draft because of the trade for Laremy Tunsil. They may not be able to recoup either of those picks unless they are willing to deal J.J. Watt, who is not owed any more guaranteed money on his contract.

    It would be hard to part with the longtime face of the franchise, but if the Texans could get assets to build for the future, it would probably be for the best. At 1-6, Houston has to start looking ahead to next year.

Indianapolis Colts: Buyer

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    Zach Bolinger/Associated Press

    Truth be told, the Colts should and most likely will hold. They aren't Super Bowl contenders, but general manager Chris Ballard has already made big moves in the offseason and has a track record of making solid decisions.

    This exercise isn't about sitting on the fence, though. It's about making a declaration one way or the other. And if the Colts are going to do anything, they should be buyers given the current market.

    The defense has been among the best in the league, but the offense has dealt with injuries, including the loss of running back Marlon Mack to a torn Achilles.

    And Philip Rivers could use more options in the passing game.

    The aging quarterback hasn't been stellar to this point, but the 38-year-old has gotten the team to a 4-2 record despite his 7-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. No. 1 wide receiver T.Y Hilton has yet to score a touchdown, however, and running back Nyheim Hines leads the team in receptions, which is less than ideal.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Buyer

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    Gary McCullough/Associated Press

    This is one of the more interesting choices on the list. Most would say the Jags should be sellers. The problem is they've already sold off nearly every veteran asset that any other team would be interested in.

    Calais Campbell, Leonard Fournette, A.J. Bouye and Nick Foles were all traded or released. The roster has successfully been gutted. At 1-6 they are well-positioned to net a top pick in the 2021 draft. 

    That means if the Jaguars are going to do anything at the deadline, they should buy. They already made one move that would indicate they agree with that assessment. The team acquired linebacker Kamalei Correa from the division rival Tennessee Titans for a pick swap.

    Few moves would ruin the Jaguars campaign to tank their way to a top draft pick. They shouldn't be in the market for the biggest names that could be available, but if they have the opportunity to take on a young, disgruntled player from another organization, it could be worth the risk.

Kansas City Chiefs: Buyer

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    The Chiefs are well-positioned to return to their post as Super Bowl champions. Patrick Mahomes is once again piloting one of the league’s most explosive and efficient offenses, and the defense is good enough to get the stops they need.

    The team isn’t without holes, though.

    Specifically, the Chiefs could use an upgrade at linebacker. 2020 second-round pick Willie Gay has seen some action but hasn’t been able to supplant Anthony Hitchens, Damien Wilson or Ben Niemann in total snaps.

    Wilson has the highest PFF grade of that trio at just 50.8. Knowing they will likely need to stop Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens or the many receivers that the Pittsburgh Steelers would bring to a matchup, it would be wise to pursue other options at linebacker.

Las Vegas Raiders: Buyer

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    The Raiders have been a player in each of the last two trade deadlines. Amari Cooper was sent to Dallas in 2018. Gareon Conley was shipped off to Houston in 2019.

    The Raiders finished with a losing record in both of those seasons. Now they sit at 3-3 with a chance to compete for a playoff spot in 2020. After two seasons of selling good players to acquire future prospects, the Raiders should change course and get aggressive.

    There are a few different ways they could go. Another receiver would be a luxury Derek Carr would appreciate. Hunter Renfrow is the only receiver with more than 20 targets. Darren Waller is a de facto receiver with his usage, but a proven veteran while Henry Ruggs III is brought along would take the offense to a new level.

    On defense, the pass rush could use an upgrade. Maxx Crosby (four) is the only player with multiple sacks on the roster. Trading for an unhappy veteran on another team who gets after the passer could make the difference in the AFC wild-card race.

Los Angeles Chargers: Seller

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    Regardless of how the season finishes up, the Chargers should be ecstatic about 2020. They found out that Justin Herbert has the potential to be a franchise quarterback, which is about the best they could hope for coming off a 5-11 season.

    They should also realize the rebuild is ahead of schedule. Herbert has thrown 12 touchdown passes to just three interceptions, but it has still led to a 1-4 record in his five starts. They did the hardest part of building a team in finding a quarterback. Now it's about building a team around him.

    Making a move for a veteran won't make them a playoff contender. They do, however, have some assets that other teams would be interested in. Namely, defensive back Desmond King II and pass-rusher Melvin Ingram. King has been the odd man out often in the defensive backfield, and Ingram is in the final season of his contract.

    Either one would net the Chargers more draft capital to help them surround Herbert with the tools he needs to succeed.

Los Angeles Rams: Seller

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    This designation has nothing to do with where the Rams are on the field. After a rough 2019 campaign, Sean McVay has his team in a great position to compete this season at 5-2.

    But the Rams need to be careful how they manage the cap. As it stands, they are $19 million over the cap in 2021. Avoiding that will involve some hard decisions and shrewd moves.

    Among those could mean trading away a player like Gerald Everett. The tight end caught a touchdown pass in the team's Monday Night Football win over the Chicago Bears, but he's in the final year of his rookie deal, and the Rams already have big money tied into the position. Tyler Higbee is scheduled to be the third-largest cap hit next season.

    If Les Snead wanted to make a move on a half-year rental of a pass-rusher or defensive back, it would be understandable. But they aren't in a position to add any salary beyond this season.

Miami Dolphins: Seller

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The Dolphins approach the trade deadline as one of the more interesting teams in the league. A 3-3 start to the season technically has them in the thick of things as the second-place team in the AFC East.

    However, they just handed the reins to rookie Tua Tagovailoa despite getting solid play from Ryan Fitzpatrick.

    That could mean they believe Tagovailoa gives them the best chance to win, or it could mean they realize they aren't quite a contender yet.

    Unless Tagovailoa sets the league on fire over the next few weeks, it is likely to become clear this is a team playing the long game. As well it should. The Dolphins were already aggressive in free agency this offseason re-building the defense into a unit that is clearly making strides but isn't there yet.

    Despite the success, it wouldn't be wise to spend now for short-term improvements. If the Dolphins do anything, it should be to send feelers out about what they could get for Fitzpatrick. The veteran quarterback is a proven commodity who could bring back a decent pick and give Tagovailoa the full go-ahead as the starting quarterback.

Minnesota Vikings: Seller

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    This is one of the easiest calls on the list as the Vikings have already taken on this role. They dealt Yannick Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens for a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick, which is the exact kind of move they need to make right now.

    The Vikings are one of nine teams whose charges for next season already exceed the cap. While many of those teams are contenders, the Vikings are certainly not. At 1-5, they are already essentially eliminated from the running in the NFC North.

    There are several veterans the Vikings would benefit from moving. Offensive linemen Riley Reiff and Pat Elflein make sense as trade candidates. Anthony Harris would likely draw some interest, as he is playing on the franchise tender this season and is set to hit free agency in 2021.

    Finding a new home for Kirk Cousins and his massive contract would be ideal but unlikely given his play. If things continue the way they are trending, the Vikings will be in the running for one of the top quarterbacks in the 2021 draft class. A trade now could give them the ammunition and cap flexibility they need to build around that player.

New England Patriots: Seller

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    After decades of dominance in New England, the time for a rebuild has arrived. It might not be a "rip it down to the studs" remodel, but this is a roster in need of some updating and renovations.

    One of those renovations could come by getting their quarterback help. But that may have to wait.

    It would be great if the Patriots could add a receiver who might help them figure out whether Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham can be the guy for them moving forward, but adding someone who would make a difference could be too costly given the current state of affairs.

    Instead, if the Patriots do anything, it should be gauging the market to see what they can get for Stephon Gilmore. He has just one season left on his contract, and a corner of his caliber could bring back a good haul.

    Darius Slay brought a third- and fifth-round pick to Detroit. Albert Breer recently noted that Gilmore's age (30) could keep him from bringing back a haul much better than that, but the team could still get a second- or third-rounder for him.

New Orleans Saints: Buyer

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    Tyler Kaufman/Associated Press

    The Saints are at a crossroads. They are projected to be $81.5 million over the cap in 2021 (that's not a typo). Yet they find themselves in a rapidly shrinking window to get another Lombardi Trophy with Drew Brees as their quarterback.

    That means they should be doing whatever they can to maximize that opportunity in 2020 even if it means having a big mess to clean up in subsequent years.

    Ideally, they would find a way to improve on their pass rush. The offense is humming along as usual and should be getting Michael Thomas back from injury in time for the second half of the season.

    The Saints' ability to get after the passer is just pedestrian. They are generating pressure on 22.6 percent of dropbacks (15th in the league) and have 14 sacks (17th) on the year.

    Adding one more veteran to the rotation is the kind of move that would give them the depth on defense that could be the difference come January.

New York Giants: Seller

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    Rich Schultz/Associated Press

    The Giants have already been active sellers. They shipped off Markus Golden and his 1.5 sacks to the Arizona Cardinals for a sixth-round pick in the 2021 draft.

    The selling shouldn't be over for Big Blue, though.

    Even though the NFC East is terrible, this isn't the time to be buying. Sure, they could manage to compete against the ugly lineup of contenders in the division this year, but what is the reward? Whoever wins this division is going to be a home underdog in the Wild Card Round.

    Instead, they should take advantage of the aging veterans they have on the roster who may interest a true contender. Kevin Zeitler should spark some interest as an offensive lineman who is strong in pass protection. Golden Tate would be interesting to any team looking for wide receiver help.

    Neither of those players are going to be around if and when the Giants build a contender around Daniel Jones. They should be looking to cash in while those players still have value.

New York Jets: Seller

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    The New York Jets are unequivocally the worst team in football, and they don't seem too interested in changing that fact this season.

    As the only team in the league without a win, they have a leg up on all the competition in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. The fact that they released Le'Veon Bell is the latest sign the Jets aren't all that interested in winning. Bell isn't what he used to be, but he certainly has more left in the tank than Frank Gore.

    The team has already dealt defensive tackle Steve McLendon to the Bucs and pass-rusher Jordan Willis to the Niners.

    The only pieces remaining are the big ones. No. 3 overall picks Sam Darnold and Quinnen Williams have been floated as potential trade chips, and while the Jets would need substantial compensation for each, dealing either of them should be on the table.

Philadelphia Eagles: Seller

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    Derik Hamilton/Associated Press

    After an offseason of debating whether the Cowboys or Eagles were better positioned to win the NFC East, the first half of the season has an answer: neither.

    No one is in a good position to win the NFC East. It will only have a winner because it mathematically has to.

    The Eagles shouldn't use that as an excuse to buy at the deadline. They have a number of contracts they should be looking to move. From Alshon Jeffery's nearly untradeable deal to Zach Ertz's contract that expires in 2021, they have some tough decisions to make moving forward.

    Only the Saints have a worse cap situation for 2021. The franchise is nearly $64 million in the red for next season. Whatever they can do to alleviate that number while they are this bad is advisable.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Seller

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    Brett Carlsen/Associated Press

    This pick comes with a caveat. The Steelers should only be looking to be sellers in the same way that someone with multiple Ferraris would be OK offloading a Ford Focus from their car collection.

    Pittsburgh is a legitimate Super Bowl contender. If their previous five wins weren't enough to convince people of that, their performance against the previously unbeaten Tennessee Titans should do the trick.

    But they really can't be buyers based on their cap situation ($19.2 million in the red for 2021), and there aren't many positions that need upgrading to push them over the top.

    So what's left to do for Pittsburgh prior to the trade deadline?

    The smart answer is nothing, but that's not in the spirit of this exercise. If they had to do something, it would be to move a piece they aren't using much. Jaylen Samuels comes to mind, as the running back still has potential but has fallen out of favor.

San Francisco 49ers: Buyer

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    If there's one team that should be making a lot of calls about veteran pass-rushers on short or expiring contracts, it's the San Francisco 49ers.

    Since a blowout loss to the Miami Dolphins, they have shown signs of life with back-to-back wins over the Rams and Patriots. Coming off a Super Bowl appearance, the 49ers have the potential to put things together in the second half of the season, especially if they ever get reasonably healthy.

    One area they aren't going to get healthy in is the defensive line. Both Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas are out for the year. The 49ers have just 12 sacks on the season. They already acquired Jordan Willis from the New York Jets, but he has only played in two games this season and may not move the needle.

    Kyle Shanahan and the offense got a lot of credit for the NFC title season a year ago, but the Niners defense was an integral part of their run. Getting a reinforcement to add depth could be the difference as this team tries to right the ship.

Seattle Seahawks: Seller

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    The Seahawks are another team that is undoubtedly a Super Bowl contender but may be better off shipping a player or two out if they can find a team willing to send them a pick in exchange.

    They could use a pass-rusher, but the cost of adding one who would actually move the needle is likely to be prohibitive. They don't have a first-, third- or sixth-round pick in 2021. They don't have a first in 2022, either.

    And they reportedly don't have a seventh-rounder in next year's draft. They shipped it off with B.J. Finney to Cincinnati in a deal that brought them Carlos Dunlap.

    The Seahawks have put their eggs in the undrafted-free-agent basket in the past, but adding a pick or two in the upcoming draft wouldn't hurt.

    Seattle has depth at some positions that would allow it to make a move that won't hurt its chances to contend this season. The tight end room remains fairly crowded even after the Seahawks shipped Nick Vannett to the Steelers for a fifth-round pick last season.

    Offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi has largely been a bust, but his first-round pedigree and the fact that he plays an important position may be enough to get a team to bite.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Buyer

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    Going back to the offseason, no team has been in win-now mode more than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    From the moment they acquired Tom Brady, they showed they were ready to contend right away, and their subsequent moves have followed the same path. They brought in running back Leonard Fournette despite already having Ronald Jones II and rookie third-round pick Ke'Shawn Vaughn on the roster.

    When Vita Vea went down with a season-ending injury, they wasted no time in bringing in Steve McLendon from the Jets to make up for the loss. With wideouts Chris Godwin and Mike Evans banged up, they also signed Antonio Brown on Tuesday.

    In other words: The Buccaneers are all-in on hosting the Super Bowl.

    Is there another deal out there? They don't have any obvious holes to fill or players on the market that make a whole lot of sense, but if there's a possibility, general manager Jason Licht has likely thought about it.

    It's Super Bowl or bust in Tampa, and that means continuing to find ways to improve the roster and depth now rather than worry about selling parts for the future.

Tennessee Titans: Buyer

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    The Tennessee Titans have carried the momentum from last season's run to the AFC Championship Game to a 5-1 start to this season.

    The Titans' recipe of running back Derrick Henry pulverizing opposing defenses with Ryan Tannehill and A.J. Brown keeping them honest through the air is no fluke. They have the goods offensively.

    But that style of football also relies on a defense they can count on. As the Pittsburgh Steelers showed last week, Tennessee still has work to do on that side of the ball.

    The Titans have been vulnerable against opposing rushing attacks. They are giving up 4.9 yards per carry, which ranks 26th in the league. That won't do in the playoffs when they might be forced to win a game ugly and the trenches take on increased importance.

    There are conflicting reports about the availability of New York Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. The Titans should be among the teams on the phone with Jets GM Joe Douglas about him right now.

Washington Football Team: Seller

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    Steve Helber/Associated Press

    Coming off a 3-13 season, the Washington Football Team's first year with new head coach Ron Rivera was never expected to yield a contender. Even though they are only a half-game out of first place in the putrid NFC East, that sentiment remains true.

    The Football Team has shown signs of improvement under Rivera, but this is still a multiyear rebuild, and Washington holds some intriguing trade chips.

    One such example is Ryan Kerrigan. With several teams looking for pass-rushing help and younger players such as Chase Young and Montez Sweat holding their own, Washington has no need to keep the 32-year-old around.

    Washington could also snag a draft pick if it moves on from Dwayne Haskins Jr. By benching the 2019 first-round pick for Kyle Allen, the team all but declared it has given up on him, so sending him elsewhere would just make it official.

    Either move would give Rivera more ammunition to build this team how he sees fit.