NFL Trade Packages to Create the Next Great Offenses
In Super Bowl LV, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers proved a formidable defense could still be a key factor in a championship run. Yet we cannot overlook the fact that nine of the top 10 scoring offenses made the playoffs with the 10th-ranked Las Vegas Raiders as the only exception.
With a defense that plays well on third downs or during stretches late in games, a high-powered offensive attack can at least lead a club to the postseason.
Piggybacking off that thought, let's take a look at teams in position to make aggressive moves for offensive playmakers in the pros and from the incoming draft class.
We've put together five trade packages to create top-level or promising offenses for the upcoming season and beyond. For transactions that involve draft-day moves, the scenarios below are based on Hall of Famer Jimmy Johnson's trade chart, which provides a basis for fair deals using a point system.
Arizona Cardinals Acquire WR Allen Robinson II
Arizona Cardinals Receive: Allen Robinson II
Chicago Bears Receive: 2021 first-round Pick (No. 16), 2021 fifth-round pick (No. 144) and 2022 third-round pick
This deal wouldn't make Chicago Bears fans happy in the long term, but the club doesn't have a clear-cut starting quarterback for the 2021 season.
If Chicago doesn't acquire a veteran signal-caller, general manager Ryan Pace could bundle two top-20 picks to move up for a prospect who would compete with Nick Foles for the starting job.
NFL Network's Tom Pelissero raised the possibility of a tag-and-trade scenario with Allen Robinson II since the Bears haven't talked to him about a long-term deal in months.
"That would certainly seem to bring the [franchise] tag into play," Pelissero noted. "Whether it is the Bears to try to do an extension, whether it is setting up Robinson to play on the tag, or maybe even a tag-and-trade scenario."
The details of this trade would look similar to the transaction between the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings that involved Stefon Diggs last offseason. Robinson is around the same age, but he has a Pro Bowl campaign on his resume.
The Arizona Cardinals could cut 32-year-old cornerback Robert Alford, who hasn't played a down since 2018 because of season-ending leg and pectoral injuries. The move would save the team $7.5 million and allow the front office to sign Robinson on a long-term deal.
Arizona would have one of the best wide receiver tandems in the league, featuring DeAndre Hopkins and Robinson.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will again mull retirement this offseason after he finished with career lows in catches (54), receiving yards (409) and touchdowns (one). Although solid in production, Christian Kirk has recorded fewer than 49 receptions in two of his three campaigns. He's a mid-tier No. 2 receiver at best.
An A-Rob-plus-D-Hop duo has a ring to it and would significantly elevate the Cardinals' 17th-ranked passing attack. Quarterback Kyler Murray wouldn't need a dominant running back with his outside receiving options. If Kirk and Fitzgerald are third and fourth on the depth chart, respectively, Arizona would light up defenses all season.
Detroit Lions Move Up for WR Ja'Marr Chase
Detroit Lions Receive: 2021 first-round pick (No. 5)
Cincinnati Bengals Receive: 2021 first-round pick (No. 7), 2021 third-round pick (No. 89)
Assuming the Detroit Lions' deal with the Los Angeles Rams becomes official in the new league year, Jared Goff will start a fresh chapter in the NFC North with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers atop the division.
In order to compete with the Packers' top-scoring offense, the Lions will need more firepower. They could move up to acquire one of the top two wide receivers in the draft class.
While the move seems bold, Detroit could pair LSU's Ja'Marr Chase with Kenny Golladay, who's prepared to accept the franchise tag, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
"Being honest, I'd rather get a deal done," Golladay said. "But if the franchise tag would come, I wouldn't be able to do anything about it. So yeah, for sure I want to get a long-term deal done."
The Lions should target the No. 5 spot because the Cincinnati Bengals could consider Chase even though wide receiver isn't one of their top needs. ESPN's Ben Baby discussed the possibility of an LSU reunion between quarterback Joe Burrow and Chase if the front office addresses the offensive line in free agency.
Nonetheless, Cincinnati may take a cost-effective approach with a depressed salary cap. Secondly, Trent Williams is arguably the best impending free-agent tackle, and the San Francisco 49ers could re-sign him.
In this trade scenario, the Bengals could slide down two slots and still potentially land Oregon's Penei Sewell if they don't address the position during free agency. Picking at No. 6, the Philadelphia Eagles already have their starting tackles in Andre Dillard and Lane Johnson.
With Golladay possibly having to prove he's worth a long-term deal on the franchise tag, he and Chase could wreak havoc on pass defenses across the league. The latter opted out of the 2020 campaign, but he had a spectacular 2019 season, hauling in 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Toss in Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson and dual-threat running back D'Andre Swift, who will line up in the slot, and you have an explosive young offense primed to score a lot of points.
Dallas Cowboys Move Up for TE Kyle Pitts
Dallas Cowboys Receive: 2021 first-round pick (No. 8 overall)
Carolina Panthers Receive: 2021 first-round pick (No. 10 overall), 2021 fourth-round pick (No. 106), TE Dalton Schultz
Even if Dak Prescott has to play another year with the franchise tag, the Dallas Cowboys would have one of the most high-powered offenses for at least a season with him and the addition of Florida's Kyle Pitts.
The Cowboys wouldn't have to give up a ton of draft capital to almost ensure they acquire the pass-catching tight end, though they would have to jump in front of or make a deal with the Carolina Panthers to turn this scenario into a reality.
Carolina doesn't have a high-end playmaker at the position. Ian Thomas has 72 receptions for 614 yards and four touchdowns through three seasons. If the Panthers don't select a quarterback at No. 8, Pitts seems like a reasonable target in that spot.
The Panthers can still hold a pick within the top 10 and acquire an early Day 3 selection along with a potential starter in Dalton Schultz, who recorded 63 receptions for 615 yards and four touchdowns in 2020.
Tight end Blake Jarwin, who signed a three-year extension with the Cowboys last offseason, could take his time on the mend from a torn ACL. Dallas would still field an elite pass-catching group featuring wideouts Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb along with Pitts.
At 6'6", 246 pounds, Pitts has the body of a tight end with the hands of a wide receiver. He's a fluid pass-catcher who can also line up in the slot and exploit matchups against linebackers and safeties. The Cowboys could move him around the pre-snap formation to cause all sorts of issues for defenses.
In 2020, Dallas' passing attack ranked eighth in yards despite operating without Prescott for 11 games because of his ankle injury, which required surgery. Assuming he makes a full recovery, the two-time Pro Bowler would force opposing defenses to pick their poisons with a bevy of high-quality playmakers on the perimeter.
Denver Broncos Acquire QB Deshaun Watson
Denver Broncos Receive: Deshaun Watson
Houston Texans Receive: 2021 first-round pick (No. 9), 2021 second-round pick (No. 40), 2022 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick, S Justin Simmons, DL Dre'Mont Jones
This blockbuster deal would shake up the NFL with multiple moving parts.
While the standoff may linger for months, the Denver Broncos could offer an enticing package. According to Troy Renck of Denver7, they will pursue Watson if the Texans change their approach and consider proposals.
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported Watson is "intrigued by" the San Francisco 49ers and Broncos as potential trade destinations. That's important because the three-time Pro Bowler has leverage with his no-trade clause.
John McClain of the Houston Chronicle laid out what the Texans would want if they open their communication lines on a transaction.
"The Rams-Lions trade will have nothing to do with a Watson trade if the Texans do it. They'll want 2 ones, 2 twos and 2 young defensive starters, at the least. Watson, 25, under contract, great QB, team leader, beloved by fans, pillar of the community. Start with the Jets," he tweeted.
McClain (via Stadium) also said the Texans would want a chance to select the second-best quarterback in the draft. The only way to ensure that is to move into the No. 2 spot because the New York Jets may pivot from Sam Darnold and take a signal-caller after Trevor Lawrence, the presumptive No. 1 overall pick, goes to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Circling back to the importance of Watson's no-trade clause, he's reportedly not interested in playing for the Jets, per Fowler.
To get around this, Houston could use a draft haul from Denver and offer its acquired premium picks to New York for the second overall selection. That could work if Gang Green is open to building around Darnold. Watson would go to a club that intrigues him, and the Texans could take the No. 2 quarterback on their draft board.
Denver has the draft picks and players to pull off the first part of this scenario.
First, the Broncos could franchise-tag safety Justin Simmons, a top-tier impending free agent. They could then send him and defensive lineman Dre'Mont Jones, who logged 41 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and 16 quarterback pressures this past season, with two first-rounders and a pair of second-rounders.
If the Texans accept this deal, Watson would join an offense with a high-quality trio of wide receivers in Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick. Rising sophomore second-rounder KJ Hamler could develop into a solid slot receiver who also beats defenders on gadget plays because of his blazing speed.
Dual-threat running back Melvin Gordon III provides balance out of the backfield. Most importantly, Watson would have a solid offensive line, assuming right tackle Ja'Wuan James returns to action after opting out of the 2020 term. Left tackle Garett Bolles earned a second-team All-Pro honor this past season.
With Watson, the Broncos would have a top-10 offense, giving the rest of the AFC West nightmares twice a year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Move Up for RB Najee Harris
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Receive: 2021 first-round pick (No. 22)
Tennessee Titans Receive: 2021 first-round pick (No. 32), 2021 third-round pick (No. 96), 2021 fourth-round pick (No. 128)
Coming off a Super Bowl victory, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will try to keep the core of their roster intact. That means quarterback Tom Brady could have tight end Rob Gronkowski along with wideouts Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown back for the 2021 season.
General manager Jason Licht thinks he has the financial capital to keep the band together (h/t Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith). However, running back Leonard Fournette, who had a key role in the Buccaneers' playoff run, didn't sound sure about his future in Tampa Bay. During an ESPN interview, he left his options open (h/t Pro Football Talk's Josh Alper).
"We'll see," Fournette said. "Right now, I'm just enjoying the process right now with this W with this organization and my team. You never know what the future holds for me right now. ... I'd love to be back. We'll have to talk to my agent and see what they're talking about."
According to head coach Bruce Arians, the Buccaneers almost cut Fournette when he griped about his limited role behind Ronald Jones II in the offense.
At just 26 years old and coming off a strong playoff stretch, Fournette will likely sign with another team where he can play a bigger role.
With their Super Bowl window open, giving them a shot to repeat as champions, the Buccaneers should go all-in on the short term. We don't often see moves to trade up for running backs because of the high turnover and short career span of the position, but Tampa Bay would have a clear void behind Jones if Fournette leaves in free agency.
Alabama's Najee Harris could share the primary duties to bolster Tampa Bay's ground attack, which ranked 28th in yards this past season.
In 2020, Harris posted monster numbers, rushing for 1,466 yards and 26 touchdowns. Over the last two years, he made strides as a receiver, catching 70 passes for 729 yards and 11 touchdowns. The 6'2", 230-pound ball-carrier can finish drives at the goal line and move the chains in short-yardage situations.
With the ability to do everything Fournette did out of the backfield, Harris' fresh legs could make the Buccaneers offense an even bigger juggernaut with more balance.
Tampa Bay would have to slip in front of the Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 24) and New York Jets (No. 23), both of whom need lead running backs. While over the salary-cap limit by $26.1 million, the Steelers will likely lose James Conner. Perhaps the Tennessee Titans would bite on an offer for two additional middle-round picks.