Realistic NFL Trades That Could Happen This Offseason
Last offseason, two of the most impactful trades involved wide receivers Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins. Although we could see more star pass-catchers on the move, keep your eyes on quarterbacks in the coming months.
The New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles have critical quarterback decisions to make during the 2021 offseason.
The Jets have the No. 2 overall pick, which gives them the opportunity to select a top passer to replace Sam Darnold, who's yet to play up to his potential.
The Eagles will need to mend fences with Carson Wentz, whom they benched late in the season.
Aside from the potential movement at quarterback, two teams that took a step back could unload star defenders in the final year of their contracts in exchange for draft capital and salary-cap flexibility.
Realistically, who could be on the way out? Where would they land?
WR Odell Beckham Jr. to the New England Patriots
Cleveland Browns Receive: Second-Round Pick
Typically, playoff-caliber teams should keep big-time playmakers if they fit under the cap. However, Odell Beckham Jr. has a few factors that work against him as a long-term piece with the Cleveland Browns.
For starters, Beckham hasn't made the most of his targets in Cleveland. In 23 games, he's recorded just two 100-yard performances—the last one in Week 6 of the 2019 campaign. Over the last two terms, his catch rate has dipped below 56 percent—lower than any of his years with the New York Giants.
Secondly, Beckham tore his ACL in Week 7. Since 2017, he's missed 25 games. With a cap hit at $15 million or higher for the next three seasons, the Browns could use that money more efficiently, specifically to shore up their 21st-ranked scoring defense.
Finally, quarterback Baker Mayfield had his most productive stretch of the 2020 campaign without Beckham. Through Week 6, he threw 10 touchdown passes and six interceptions, completing fewer than 57 percent of his attempts in three of those contests.
After a stretch of inclement Cleveland weather between Weeks 8 and 11, Mayfield threw for 10 touchdowns and just one interception between Weeks 12 and 15.
The Browns aerial attack can put up numbers without Beckham. He isn't an essential asset to the team's success or its offensive production.
The New England Patriots need perimeter weapons. Julian Edelman turns 35 years old in May. Thus far, wideout N'Keal Harry, a 2019 first-rounder, hasn't panned out as a playmaker, logging just 45 receptions for 414 yards and four touchdowns in 21 games. Instead of waiting for his development, the front office can inject an established commodity into the offense for whoever starts under center in 2021.
Beckham doesn't have any dead money left on the remaining three years of his contract. The Patriots can financially cut all strings attached to him if the experiment doesn't work out.
QB Sam Darnold to the Indianapolis Colts
New York Jets Receive: Third-Round Pick, EDGE Ben Banogu
The New York Jets will reportedly make a blockbuster transaction that would dictate the draft.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Jets are prepared to trade quarterback Sam Darnold or the No. 2 pick. If the first option plays out, general manager Joe Douglas will target a signal-caller in the second slot.
Gang Green can hit the reset button at quarterback and take Ohio State's Justin Fields or BYU's Zach Wilson with the No. 2 pick. In this scenario, Darnold should garner interest from multiple clubs in the hunt for new blood under center.
The Indianapolis Colts clinched a playoff berth with Philip Rivers, but he's on an expiring contract and just turned 39 in December. He's also faded late in the season, throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions since Week 16 while logging a quarterback rating under 85 for both contests.
Instead of moving several premium picks for the No. 2 spot, the Colts can offer a third-round pick and edge-rusher Ben Banogu to a Jets squad that needs help with the pass rush. Gang Green tied for 20th in sacks (31) and ranked 20th in quarterback pressures (134) this season.
Banogu has been inactive for multiple contests this season. Since Indianapolis selected him in the second round of the 2019 draft, he's suited up for 25 games, recording 17 tackles, three for loss and 2.5 sacks. The TCU product would have an opportunity to play more snaps and realize his potential with Gang Green.
As for the Colts, they can move on from a quarterback close to retirement and mold Darnold, a 23-year-old with room for growth.
CB Stephon Gilmore to the San Francisco 49ers
New England Patriots Receive: Second-Round Pick
New England Patriots general manager and head coach Bill Belichick should attempt to trade Stephon Gilmore and recoup draft capital rather than allow him to walk as a free agent next offseason.
According to MMQB's Albert Breer, the Patriots had talks with other clubs about Gilmore's availability before the 2020 draft and trade deadline.
"The team did discuss Stephon Gilmore with other teams before the draft, and then again in training camp, before moving $4.5 million in his contract from 2021 to '20," Breer wrote. "Other teams took that restructure as a sure sign that this will be Gilmore's last year in New England."
Gilmore has one year left on his contract, so his name will likely circulate the rumor mill in the coming months. He suited up for 11 games and underwent season-ending surgery for a torn quad, which may force the Patriots to lower their asking price for him.
Still, Gilmore is only one season removed from winning Defensive Player of the Year. Assuming he bounces back from surgery, he can change the complexion of a secondary.
The San Francisco 49ers have question marks at cornerback. Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon and Jason Verrett could hit the free-agent market. Emmanuel Moseley will become an exclusive-rights free agent, per Spotrac. The front office can use a one-year tender to keep him for the league minimum.
In 2020, Sherman missed 11 contests with a calf injury and seemed to lose a step in coverage on the perimeter. He doesn't expect to re-sign in 2021. Verrett played well through the 2020 campaign, but he has a long injury history.
Gilmore can serve as a short-term fix in the secondary for a team with playoff aspirations.
WR Julio Jones to the Baltimore Ravens
Atlanta Falcons Receive: First-Round Pick
The Atlanta Falcons fired head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff during the 2020 season, and the new regime will have the option to initiate a full-blown rebuild, per The Athletic's Jeff Schultz and Tori McElhaney:
"Falcons president Rich McKay said Tuesday he does not believe he will be an obstacle to the team's ability to hire a quality general manager and said whoever gets the job will be empowered to part with quarterback Matt Ryan and/or wide receiver Julio Jones as part of a rebuilding project if the candidate can show that the plan will get 'us to Ws.'"
If the Falcons select a quarterback with the No. 4 overall pick, they should keep Matt Ryan and allow that young signal-caller to learn behind him. Atlanta could compete in the present while rostering their signal-caller-in-waiting.
Julio Jones seems like a moveable piece. Turning 32 in February, he's an aging star who missed seven games because of a nagging hamstring injury this season. Without him for nearly half of the campaign, Ryan's passing numbers remained steady. He matched his touchdown total from last season (26) and led the league in completions for the second consecutive term. Atlanta's aerial attack ranked fifth leaguewide.
The Falcons could move forward with Ryan, wideout Calvin Ridley and tight end Hayden Hurst as key pieces to the passing attack and exchange Jones for a first-rounder in a reboot.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson doesn't have a dominant lead wide receiver. In 2020, Marquise Brown tied tight end Mark Andrews for a team-leading 58 receptions and led the club with 769 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
With Brown as the No. 2 or 3 receiving option behind Jones and Andrews, the Ravens passing offense could finish as a top-10 unit.
DE J.J. Watt to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Houston Texans Receive: Third-Round Pick
The Houston Texans could go down the pathway toward a rebuild next season. The team fired head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien after Week 4 of the 2020 campaign. With the changes above him, J.J. Watt publicly discussed the uncertainty of his future (h/t Aaron Reiss of The Athletic).
"There's a whole lot of unknowns, so we'll see what happens," Watt said. "I don't have any guarantees left in my contract, so something's gotta happen one way or another."
At 31 years old, Watt isn't a top-notch game-changer anymore, but he's still a solid playmaker. For the second time in five years, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year suited up for all 16 games, logging 52 tackles, 14 for loss, five sacks, seven pass breakups and an interception.
Watt's double-digit-sack seasons are probably behind him, but he can still generate a fair amount of pocket pressure and strengthen a team's run defense.
Quarterback Tom Brady has another year left on his deal, which means the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Super Bowl window will remain open for at least another season. The front office should look to fill roster holes with veterans who can contribute right away.
The Buccaneers may lose defensive end Ndamukong Suh, who's set to become a free agent. If they don't re-sign him, Watt could move into an interior spot as a plug-and-play component. He has the ability to maintain the aggressive nature of a defense that ranked second in quarterback pressures (184) in 2020.
Tampa Bay can sign Watt to a new short-term contract to minimize his $17.5 million 2021 cap hit.
QB Carson Wentz to the Denver Broncos
Philadelphia Eagles Receive: First-Round Pick
The Philadelphia Eagles' 2020 season started with Carson Wentz under center and ended with Jalen Hurts as the starter. With that said, general manager Howie Roseman isn't interested in trading the former, per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.
Roseman may have to change his tune in the offseason. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, head coach Doug Pederson and Wentz have a relationship that's "fractured beyond repair." Per the report, the Pro Bowl quarterback will request a trade.
Yet according to Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press, there is hope within the organization that Wentz can reconcile his relationship with the team, but he'll need time to contemplate his future.
If Wentz tries to force his way out of Philadelphia, Roseman should at least listen to offers for a quarterback who can fetch premium draft capital.
Before an abysmal 2020 campaign, Wentz helped lead the Eagles to three playoff berths as a rising star in the league. At 28 years old, he can change a franchise's long-term outlook.
The Denver Broncos have struggled to find a long-term answer at quarterback since Peyton Manning's four-year run with the team.
Then-acting general manager John Elway selected Drew Lock in the second round of the 2019 draft. He's shown inconsistencies in the two years since and ironically threw for the same number of touchdowns (16) and interceptions (15) as Wentz in 2020.
"… Elway is no longer in charge of the team's roster. The GM he helps hires to be his successor will have final say. Lock may still the favorite to become the Broncos' opening day quarterback in 2021. But there is a chance the new GM, and head coach Vic Fangio, may look through free agency or trade for a veteran quarterback with significant starting experience."
The new general manager may want to call the Eagles about their disgruntled quarterback who's started 68 games in five seasons.
Denver can release cornerback A.J. Bouye and defensive end Jurrell Casey to clear approximately $25.2 million in cap space for Wentz's incoming contract. Bouye will miss the first two contests of the 2021 campaign while serving a six-game performance-enhancing drug suspension. Casey missed 13 games with a torn biceps in 2020.
NFL team draft picks courtesy of Tankathon.com.