Fresh Landing Spots for NFL's Top Available 2021 Trade Targets

Alex KayContributor IApril 21, 2021

Fresh Landing Spots for NFL's Top Available 2021 Trade Targets

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    The NFL trade rumor mill has slowed down quite a bit after starting out hot this offseason, but it feels like things are going to pick back up soon.

    A flurry of trades always seems to occur in the lead-up to the draft, and that trend isn't likely to change in 2021. Rebuilding teams will be looking to move some veterans for draft capital, while contenders will try to pick up a missing piece or two for positions they failed to address in free agency thus far.

    Although there have not been too many deals actually going down in recent weeks, there have been plenty of whispers about some big-name players.

    Guys like Gardner Minshew II and Zach Ertz seem like locks to be moved before the draft starts April 29 in Cleveland or during the event itself. There are also players like Jimmy Garoppolo and Stephon Gilmore who could stick with their organizations but may end up being dealt if the price is right.

    These players and more are covered below. With that in mind, read on to see some fresh landing spots for the top available trade targets in the NFL right now.     

DaeSean Hamilton to Tennessee Titans

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Denver Broncos get: 2021 sixth-round pick (No. 206)

    Tennessee Titans get: WR DaeSean Hamilton

    The Broncos are reportedly open to the idea of trading wideout DaeSean Hamilton.

    According to the NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, the Broncos, who recently installed George Paton to take over from John Elway as general manager, have a logjam in their receiving corps and are looking to address the situation.  

    Denver is flush with talent at the position after selecting Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler in the first and second round, respectively, last year. They also have an established veteran wideout in Tim Patrick, who was second on the team in receiving yards last year behind Jeudy.

    Because of the Broncos' sheer amount of quality options at the position, Hamilton has become a luxury. He's racked up 81 catches for 833 yards and five scores in three years with Denver, but he hasn't caught more than 30 balls or eclipsed the 300-yard mark in any single campaign.

    Hamilton, a fourth-round pick in 2018, would be worth a late-round pick by a receiver-needy squad like the Titans. The three-year veteran is about to go into the final year of his rookie deal and will account for just a $2.4 million cap hit in 2021. Hamilton still has a good bit of upside at the age of 26 and could develop into a more important player with Tennessee.

    The Titans recently lost Corey Davis, their No. 2 receiver last year, in free agency and have few proven assets at the position aside from A.J. Brown. While Brown has been sensational for the organization since it drafted him two years ago, he'll need more support around him to continue on that trajectory.

    The team acquired Josh Reynolds on the open market last month, but there isn't anyone else at the WR spot whom quarterback Ryan Tannehill can rely on.

    Bringing in Hamilton for a late-round pick is the right move for both sides. Denver would be able clear an extraneous wideout from its roster and recoup some value, while the Titans would get a decent No. 3 WR to develop.      

Deshaun Watson to Philadelphia Eagles

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Houston Texans get: QB Jalen Hurts, 2021 first-round pick (No. 12), 2021 second-round pick (No. 37), conditional 2022 first-round pick.  

    Philadelphia Eagles get: QB Deshaun Watson

    Deshaun Watson's future in the NFL seems uncertain, as 22 women have filed different lawsuits with allegations of sexual assault or inappropriate conduct against the Texans quarterback. According to Defector Media's Kalyn Kahler, the Houston Police Department has two active criminal investigations pertaining "to an incident of a sexual assault."  

    Prior to the lawsuits and complaint, Watson had reportedly asked for a trade after losing faith in the Texans to build a winning roster around him, according to Jayson Jenks, Aaron Reiss and Mike Sando of The Athletic.

    Teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers and others were bandied about as potential suitors.

    The Watson trade rumors have lowered to mere whispers, and some of the franchises that Watson reportedly wanted to land with, like the Miami Dolphins, have made moves that hurt their chances of landing him. The 'Phins swung a pair of blockbuster deals that ultimately saw them trade back to No. 6 while acquiring a slew of draft capital but cost them the highly coveted No. 3 overall selection.

    While Miami isn't out of the running, the Eagles have seemingly become the most likely candidate to secure Watson's services. Although the Eagles have Jalen Hurts, who usurped Carson Wentz as the starter late in 2020, they reportedly aren't sold on the young signal-caller as the future of the franchise.

    Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio noted April 9 that Watson's value is lower than it was a month ago and any trade offers will likely be centered around conditional picks.

    Philadelphia owns 11 selections in the 2021 draft, including four picks—Nos. 12, 37, 70 and 85—in the first three rounds. The team would almost certainly have to include both this year's first-rounder and a future first-rounder to get Houston to agree and sweeten the pot with an early second-round pick.

    The most enticing piece the Eagles can offer isn't a pick, however, but a 22-year-old Hurts. If Philly decides to go for Watson, it would be a mistake to keep the incumbent starter on the roster. Including him in a trade package not only helps get the deal done but also avoids the chance for a quarterback controversy if Watson isn't able to play initially or gets off to a slow start. 

    The Eagles signed Joe Flacco this offseason to be the backup and would be able to deploy him as a spot starter until Watson can suit up. 

Zach Ertz to Buffalo Bills

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    Derik Hamilton/Associated Press

    Philadelphia Eagles get: 2021 first-round pick (No. 30)

    Buffalo Bills get: TE Zach Ertz, 2021 second-round pick (No. 37)

    Trade rumors have been swirling about Philadelphia tight end Zach Ertz ever since the offseason began.

    The cash-strapped Eagles had to make several cost-cutting moves to get cap compliant for 2021, moving on from several veterans, and they traded former starting quarterback Carson Wentz. Ertz's status has been in limbo since.

    The Bills have long been linked with Ertz in a potential deal, and the club would be not only an ideal trade partner for the Eagles but also a perfect landing spot for the tight end.

    Buffalo possesses a decent amount of capital in the upcoming draft. It is holding seven picks, including the Nos. 30 and 61 selections. Given that Philadelphia has just $5.5 million in cap space to work with, it will likely want to acquire financial flexibility and a draft selection.

    The Eagles will not be able to pry away the No. 30 overall pick for just Ertz, however, especially after the tight end had his most unproductive season in 2020. Ertz appeared in 11 games and caught just 36 passes for 335 yards and one touchdown, all career-low marks.

    The unstable situation under center certainly didn't help his cause, however, and Ertz is only a year removed from the last of three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances between 2017 and 2019.

    A tight end-needy club like Buffalo, which hasn't addressed the position in free agency outside of signing Jacob Hollister to a one-year deal, would greatly benefit from kicking the tires on Ertz. At his best, the 30-year-old would be a massive upgrade over both Hollister and Dawson Knox, the incumbent starter who had just 24 receptions for 288 yards and three touchdowns last year.   

    To make this deal a reality, Philadelphia would kick over its No. 37 pick to move up seven spots in the draft. While it’s not a huge leap, it would give the Eagles a pair of first-rounders to build around. Buffalo only has to drop back a bit to get a potential Pro Bowler at one of its weakest offensive positions, making this a win-win for both sides.     

Stephon Gilmore to Arizona Cardinals

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    New England Patriots get: 2021 second-round pick (No. 49)

    Arizona Cardinals get: CB Stephon Gilmore

    It isn't often that a talent just one year removed from winning Defensive Player of the Year honors is on the trading block, but New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore is reportedly available for the right place.

    It's been nearly two months since CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported that GMs around the league "considered it a foregone conclusion" that Gilmore would be dealt this offseason, so it's obvious New England isn't in a rush to move the star corner.

    According to Albert Breer of, Gilmore is "very open" to accepting an extension that would lower his cap hit in order to remain with the Patriots. The cornerback is set to account for $16.2 million against the cap in 2021, a steep price for a player on the wrong side of 30 who suffered a partially torn quad at the tail end of 2020.

    Under head coach Bill Belichick, New England has always tried to move on from a player a year too early rather than too late. Gilmore seems to have plenty left in the tank, but his production did dip last year after an outstanding 2019 outing in which he recorded an NFL-high six interceptions and 20 pass breakups.

    J.C. Jackson also emerged as one of the league's better young corners, recording the second-most interceptions (nine) in the NFL and garnering a respectable 69.5 grade from PFF in 2020. His presence makes Gilmore less of a necessity, as he could easily fill the No. 1 corner role.

    With that in mind, don't sleep on the possibility that the Pats still elect to trade Gilmore. Although nothing concrete has materialized early in the offseason, the veteran defensive back should still garner at least a second-round pick. The Arizona Cardinals, who are putting together a contender and already made a splash signing with J.J. Watt, are an ideal candidate to trade with.

    The team is especially desperate to improve its secondary after letting longtime cornerback Patrick Peterson walk in free agency. The team also hasn't yet re-signed Dre Kirkpatrick, its other starting CB last year. While the Cardinals did come to terms on a new deal with Robert Alford, who spent all of last season on injured reserve, they must further address the position before the new season kicks off.

    Sending the No. 49 overall pick to New England should be enough to get it done. The Pats would get a respectable draft pick to add to their arsenal, and Arizona would obtain an elite corner to help it contend in the tough NFC West.         

Gardner Minshew II to Chicago Bears

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    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    Jacksonville Jaguars get: Two 2021 sixth-round picks (Nos. 205 and 229)

    Chicago Bears get: QB Gardner Minshew II

    The Jacksonville Jaguars locked up the No. 1 overall pick after an abysmal campaign, earning the right to take a generational quarterback prospect in Trevor Lawrence. The Clemson signal-caller will be tasked with turning the slumping franchise around, but his presence will render incumbent quarterback Gardner Minshew II expendable.

    Minshew has played well throughout his two seasons in Jacksonville. The Washington State product went 7-13 as a starter, including a 6-6 record as a rookie in 2019, and proved he is able to manage a game and make some impressive throws.

    During his tenure in Jacksonville, Minshew has completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 5,530 yards and 37 touchdowns against a mere 11 interceptions. He had problems with ball security as a rookie, coughing up the rock 13 times, but improved on that in 2020, fumbling just five times.

    Minshew would be a boon for the Chicago Bears, who have failed to swing a trade for a franchise quarterback despite being linked to both Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson this offseason. The team let incumbent starter Mitchell Trubisky walk in free agency and signed veteran Andy Dalton to a one-year deal to fill the void, but Dalton is not a viable long-term solution and may even be a mistake in the short-term.

    Chicago shouldn't need to dangle anything more than a pair of late-round picks to convince the Jaguars to move Minshew to the Windy City. The Bears own four selections in the sixth this year, so giving up their first and last picks in the round will likely be enough to get a deal hammered out.

    With Minshew gone, Lawrence can become the man in Jacksonville right away. The Bears would likely let Minshew and Dalton duke it out for the starting job during training camp, but Minshew offers upside that Dalton doesn't at this point in his career. Minshew's ceiling would be a decent long-term starter, and that alone is worth trading for after striking out on the alternative options this offseason.     

Jimmy Garoppolo to New England Patriots

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    San Francisco 49ers get: QB Cam Newton, 2021 second-round pick (No. 46)

    New England Patriots get: QB Jimmy Garoppolo

    Almost four years after trading Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers, the Patriots may swing a deal to bring the homegrown signal-caller back.

    The 49ers are clearly ready to move on after three-and-a-half seasons. The club recently made a blockbuster trade with the Miami Dolphins to move up to No. 3 in the draft, coughing up the No. 12 pick, first- and third-round selections next year and another first in 2023 to facilitate the deal.

    It is unlikely that the Niners would invest so heavily in moving up if they didn't feel there was going to be a potential franchise quarterback waiting for them at No. 3. Regardless of which prospect the club ends up with, it will almost certainly spell the end of Jimmy G's tenure in the Bay Area.

    With Garoppolo soon to be expendable, the club would be wise to recoup as much value for the 29-year-old as possible. While it's unlikely that a cautious and notoriously stingy organization like the Pats would be willing to part with a first-round pick for Garoppolo at this point, they may be desperate enough for help under center that they kick San Francisco a second-rounder. Interestingly enough, that's what the Niners gave up to acquire Garoppolo before the trade deadline in October 2017.

    This move helps both parties accomplish their goals. San Francisco would clear a path for its prized rookie prospect, while New England would get an upgrade over incumbent QB Cam Newton and someone who is familiar with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' system. With the Patriots spending so heavily in free agency, acquiring talent like pass-rusher Matt Judon, tight end Jonnu Smith and cornerback Jalen Mills, they are in a position to make a postseason run with the right signal-caller.

    The Patriots would also likely include Newton in this deal. The 2015 NFL MVP could serve as a bridge starter if the 49ers feel their No. 3 pick isn't ready to go in Week 1. At worst, Newton would serve as one of the league's better backups for a year before hitting the open market again when his deal is up.