Absurd Trade Offers for NFL's Most Untouchable Stars
Never say never in the NFL.
Today's era of the blockbuster trade—perhaps at least partially influenced by the head-turning, consistent movement over in the NBA—continues to wow. Previously "untradable" names like Khalil Mack and DeAndre Hopkins have moved in recent years. Houston Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson could be next.
So that raises the question: What's the asking price on some of the NFL's supposedly untradable stars?
Below, we'll look at some players who would never be traded and outline the hypothetical offer that could get them to a team in need. Note that we're not saying these players should be moved, but it serves as an interesting thought experiment. In some cases, up-and-coming guys who look like the future of a franchise were selected over aging, expensive stars.
Special circumstances have resulted in untradable players moving off these sorts of lists in the past, seemingly with more frequency in recent years.
Panthers Send RB Christian McCaffrey to Dolphins
Miami Dolphins receive: Christian McCaffrey
Carolina Panthers receive: RB Myles Gaskin, 2021 first-round pick (No. 18), 2021 second-round pick (No. 36), 2022 second-round pick
If the rights to Ricky Williams were worth the New Orleans Saints' entire draft class in 1999, what is Carolina Panthers star Christian McCaffrey worth today?
Kidding aside (sort of), McCaffrey is one of the league's most untouchable stars, even at a supposedly devalued position. He's the apex of the ideal modern player at his position and then some. Before last season's injury-plagued campaign, he put up 1,387 rushing yards and 15 scores on a 4.8 yards-per-carry average, plus 1,005 yards and four scores as a receiver over 16 games in 2019.
McCaffrey's talent, his age (24) and the so-so state of the rebuilding Panthers mean the asking price would be steep relative to the position. But the Dolphins have plenty of cap room and assets to make the deal happen, sending first- and second-round picks this year, plus a second-rounder next year, to get the Tua Tagovailoa-led offense rolling.
Steelers Send Edge T.J. Watt to Patriots
New England Patriots receive: Edge T.J. Watt, 2022 third-round pick
Pittsburgh Steelers receive: 2021 first-round pick (No. 15), 2021 second-round pick (No. 46), 2022 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick
In all likelihood, nothing realistic could move the needle enough to convince the Pittsburgh Steelers to trade star pass-rusher T.J. Watt. But keep in mind their cap trouble and the impending rebuild with Ben Roethlisberger 38 years old and declining.
Rest assured 31 other teams would pick up the phone if even a hint of the notion came up.
Any hypothetical Watt trade would look like the Khalil Mack deal, which featured a pair of first-rounders and two other draft picks. Watt is arguably better and worth even more these days. He's put up at least 13 sacks in each of this last three seasons and totaled 158 pressures over that span.
A Watt trade would likely need to coincide with a huge long-term extension, though the New England Patriots, who sit top-five in cap space, wouldn't complain, especially after tallying just 24 sacks last season.
It would be a huge sacrifice for the sake of accelerating a rebuild in Pittsburgh, and it would also be risky to ship Watt to a possible AFC contender. But that's the fun of hypotheticals, right?
Falcons Send WR Calvin Ridley to Washington Football Team
Washington Football Team receives: WR Calvin Ridley
Atlanta Falcons receive: 2021 first-round pick (No. 19), 2021 fifth-round pick, 2022 second-round pick
Of the upstart wideouts standing atop the next generation of players at the position, Atlanta Falcons star Calvin Ridley might be the most interesting.
Ridley just tied for fifth among all players in receiving yards, posting 1,374 with nine touchdowns and averaging 15.3 yards per catch. Of the four players ahead on the yardage leaderboard, only Justin Jefferson (15.9) had a higher per-catch average. That was good for a third-year breakout, and the Alabama product has now scored 26 times in 44 career games.
While the Falcons have plenty of tradable assets, Ridley might be the most untradable right now given the cheapness of his contract and his long-term potential. Were he to be moved, it would probably cost more than it took the Buffalo Bills to grab Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings last year. That price checked in at a first-round pick, plus three other selections over the next two drafts.
The Washington Football Team might be more than willing to part with the necessary assets. Already a contender in a weak NFC East, they're sitting comfortably with a top-10 cap number and need a strong wideout opposite Terry McLaurin.
Acquiring Ridley would be a win-now move with huge upside.
Rams Send DL Aaron Donald to Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys receive: DL Aaron Donald
Los Angeles Rams receive: 2021 first-round pick (No. 10), 2022 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick
The Los Angeles Rams wouldn't trade the reigning (and three-time) Defensive Player of the Year, right?
But what would trade compensation for Aaron Donald look like if the Dallas Cowboys came calling?
Donald is the NFL's best defender and led the league with 20.5 sacks in 2018. He's put up 85.5 sacks over 110 career games, which is an absurd number for an interior player. One of the best comparisons could be when the San Francisco 49ers shipped DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for the No. 13 pick and some cap wiggle room. Donald, understandably, would eclipse even that asking price.
The Rams could also use some wiggle room once the Matthew Stafford trade becomes official, considering it projects to put them $25 million in the red. Such a deal would also net a premium pick. Otherwise, they won't pick until outside the top 50 on draft day.
The Cowboys are a natural fit after the defense's historic ineptitude last year and given the win-now status of the Jerry Jones-led club, provided it gets Dak Prescott back under contract. Adding Donald would be one way to jump-start a revamp and match the Super Bowl-ready offense.
Seahawks Send QB Russell Wilson to Colts
Indianapolis Colts receive: QB Russell Wilson
Seattle Seahawks receive: 2021 first-round pick (No. 21), 2021 second-round pick (No. 54), 2022 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick, 2023 first-round pick
Want proof nothing is really impossible at this point?
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is the latest quarterback involved in trade speculation thanks to his own words.
On a recent episode of the Dan Patrick Show, Wilson said the following when asked if he was on the trade block (h/t Andrew Perloff): "I'm not sure if I'm available or not. That's a Seahawks question." He also spoke about his frustration with the team's inability to prevent him from taking so many hits.
This isn't to say a trade will or should happen. Wilson is only 32 years old and just completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 4,212 yards and 40 touchdowns against 13 interceptions, once again dragging the Seahawks to contention despite taking 47 sacks.
Were he to become available, almost any team with even a hint of a need at quarterback would pick up the phone. One of those is the Indianapolis Colts, an organization that is usually frugal and ranks near the top in terms of cap space. They also happen to boast plenty of assets to make such a blockbuster happen.
The Seahawks punching the reset button under center seems impossible unless they're able to land Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans. But the Colts surely wouldn't mind, especially after the retirement of Philip Rivers left them heading into the unknown under center.
Chiefs Send QB Patrick Mahomes to Falcons
Atlanta Falcons receive: QB Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs receive: WR Julio Jones, 2021 first-round pick (No. 4), 2021 second-round pick (No. 35), 2022 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick, 2023 first-round pick
Patrick Mahomes is by far the most untradable star in the NFL right now.
The Kansas City Chiefs hit him with the biggest contract in NFL history (10 years, $450 million) last offseason. He's just 25, yet he's won an MVP, a Super Bowl and a Super Bowl MVP and played in two title games already. He's thrown for 114 touchdowns against just 24 interceptions, meaning he has more 300-plus-yard performances (26) than interceptions over 46 regular-season games.
So yes, dreaming up a Mahomes trade scenario is fun (and needs to ignore or get creative with cap logistics given the huge dead-cap numbers on his deal).
Were the Chiefs to trade Mahomes, they probably wouldn't want to see him again unless it's in a Super Bowl. That eliminates the first three teams in this year's draft order and brings us to the Atlanta Falcons.
Those Falcons are heading toward a new era with head coach Arthur Smith, and provided they get creative in restructuring 35-year-old Matt Ryan's contract or by dumping him, they could cobble together a Julio Jones-led trade package to make a competitive offer.
In this scenario, Kansas City would reset with a quarterback prospect at No. 4, take on Jones as one heck of a Sammy Watkins replacement to run with Tyreek Hill and reload with multiple premium assets in the coming years.
Overall, it would require an elite player or two and a treasure trove of assets to make the impossible possible and pull off a trade that might not even fly in a Madden video game.