NFL Vets Who Should Seek a Trade Before 2021 Season

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 27, 2021

NFL Vets Who Should Seek a Trade Before 2021 Season

0 of 5

    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    The NFL has gone the NBA route more and more in recent years with a bevy of blockbuster trades. 

    This offseason, we saw players like Orlando Brown Jr. sent to a new team, never mind the big speculation around names like Julio Jones, Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers

    With the Jones rumors hitting a fever pitch thanks to the perfect marriage of a partnership that has run its course and a team desperate for cap space while rebuilding, now seems like a good time to pull back and seek out similar situations. 

    The following veterans, whether they have had past trade speculation around them or not, should go the Jones route in requesting a trade before the 2021 season starts. 

David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns

1 of 5

    David Richard/Associated Press

    Just get it over with, right? 

    David Njoku has been a staple of trade speculation for a long time now, in large part because's Mary Kay Cabot reported last October that he has asked the Cleveland Browns for a trade multiple times. 

    Part of the drama here has always been usage. Njoku, a first-round pick in 2017, only received 29 targets last year, and that was with guys like Odell Beckham Jr. missing chunks of time in a high-octane passing offense. 

    To date, Njoku has never reached the 700-yard mark or scored more than four times in a season. Now, he's in the final year of his rookie deal, and he doesn't have the opportunity to put up huge numbers, thus making his case for a sizable second contract. 

    Njoku might be better off leaning into a trade request again in the hopes of going somewhere that will use him more, and the Browns might as well get something for his eventual departure while relying on Austin Hooper and 2020 fourth-rounder Harrison Bryant. 

Hayden Hurst, TE, Atlanta Falcons

2 of 5

    Kevin Sabitus/Associated Press

    Julio Jones isn't the only one in Atlanta who should think about jumping ship. 

    Like Njoku, Hayden Hurst had never really seen a big chunk of the action over two years in Baltimore. A pass-heavy Falcons attack led by Matt Ryan did help him set career-highs last year with 88 targets, 571 yards and six touchdowns, though. 

    Then the Falcons drafted Florida tight end Kyle Pitts fourth overall. 

    One can't really blame the Falcons for taking the best player available, of course. But Pitts is the type of player who can likely inhale most of the targets vacated by both Jones and Hurst. 

    Hurst, a first-round pick in 2018, just had his fifth-year option declined by the Falcons in conjunction with the drafting of Pitts. While going to a third team in four years makes for a rocky start in the pros, finding the right landing spot, producing noteworthy numbers and landing a big second contract sure would beat sitting behind Pitts and being the third or fourth option at best. 

Stephon Gilmore, DB, New England Patriots

3 of 5

    Doug Murray/Associated Press

    Security should be the thing that drives Stephon Gilmore to leave Foxborough. 

    The 2019 Defensive Player of the Year heads into his age-31 season on the final year of his contract and coming off a season-ending quad injury suffered in December. 

    But before that, ESPN's Dianna Russini reported teams had called the Patriots about a trade for Gilmore. A move would make financial sense for the Patriots considering Gilmore represents a $16.2 million cap hit. The team could use that space to make another blockbuster move, such as trading for Julio Jones, which would match the uber-aggressive stance of the franchise this offseason. 

    This one comes down to vibes between the two parties. If Gilmore gets the sense the Patriots won't give him an extension to assure his long-term outlook, he's should request a trade. He experienced a decline last year, posting a 61.0 Pro Football Focus grade compared to an 82.8 in 2019, but one can easily argue injuries and testing positive for COVID-19 derailed his typically elite play. 

    The Patriots might be more accepting of a trade than one would think, too, as the risk with Gilmore now that he's over the age of 30 might not be something they're willing to take on. Avoiding summer drama and dealing a contract-year player who could leave in free agency would make sense. 

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers

4 of 5

    Scott Eklund/Associated Press

    For now, the San Francisco 49ers continue to posture as if Jimmy Garoppolo will be the starting quarterback. 

    Garoppolo should know better, of course. He's a veteran who hasn't been able to stay healthy during his time in San Francisco. His five-year deal worth $137.5 million has a $26.4 million cap hit this year but just $2.8 million in dead money if he's moved. 

    Oh, and his team traded up from No. 12 to No. 3 to draft Trey Lance. 

    While the 49ers could always cross their fingers that Garoppolo can get in more than six games for just the second time in five seasons in San Francisco and reproduce that 2019 anomaly (3,978 yards, 27 touchdowns), the team drafting Lance says quite a bit. 

    It doesn't help that The Athletic's Matt Barrows suggests the 49ers could add Lance to the offense in the same way the New Orleans Saints have used Taysom Hill in past years. If Garoppolo isn't outright losing his job to a rookie, he could have all momentum derailed on a per-drive basis if that rookie enters the game and he heads to the sideline. 

    With most of the quarterback dominoes settled now, Garoppolo could always force his way somewhere like Denver or Washington and essentially be a clear-cut starter. Ditto for Houston, depending what happens there. While he might have to trade a chance at contention for guaranteed playing time, Garoppolo would be wise to take his future into his own hands.

Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

5 of 5

    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    Has Russell Wilson already requested a trade from the Seattle Seahawks? 

    Maybe, but it definitely deserves a closer look. Not too long ago, Wilson was publicly frustrated with the direction of the franchise, particularly in how it protected him. 

    And while one might suggest that accidentally went public or should have been kept behind closed doors, it was a way to generate pressure on the franchise to do things better. Adding an exclamation point to that, Wilson's agent, Mark Rodgers, then just so happened to list four teams the elite quarterback would accept a trade to, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    That's not really a trade request, but Wilson should just get on with it. Sure, playing with receiver D.K. Metcalf is fun, but Wilson has been sacked 47 or more times in each of the last three seasons. He's suffered 40 or more in every season of his career save for his 2012 rookie year. While one could argue that comes with Wilson's playing style, it's also a product of the front office doing a bad job of putting talent around him and asking him to freestyle his way to MVP contention and the postseason on his own. 

    In a continuation of the trend, Seattle's only major improvement to the offensive line in front of Wilson this offseason was a trade for Gabe Jackson, a move that only required a fifth-round pick to get a guard who hasn't posted better than a 63.7 PFF grade since 2018. 

    It smacks of Andrew Luck's final days in Indianapolis. There's an out in Wilson's contract after this season anyway, and almost any team in the league would take him as a starter. Going to a bigger market with a team more interested in protecting one of the league's best players would make sense—and it would be hard to blame Wilson.