NFL Trade Ideas That Would Shake Up the League in 2021

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJuly 12, 2021

NFL Trade Ideas That Would Shake Up the League in 2021

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    It's hard to believe it's been three years since the then-Oakland Raiders shook up the NFL with a late-summer trade that sent 2016 Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. 

    The Mack-powered Bears went on to win the NFC North that season, while the reloading Raiders went 4-12 in Jon Gruden's first season back on the sideline. 

    Preseason trades have become quite common, but that remains the most notable eleventh-hour blockbuster in recent years. Here are half a dozen potential summertime deals that aren't entirely unrealistic and could send shockwaves throughout the league.  

Denver Broncos Acquire QB Aaron Rodgers from Green Bay Packers

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    Hypothetical deal: Aaron Rodgers for QB Drew Lock, WR KJ Hamler and two first-round picks

    Trade rumors have swirled here ever since ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on draft day that the reigning NFL MVP does not want to return to the Green Bay Packers, and Rodgers has yet to publicly dispute that idea (although he has suggested there could be some clarity later this month). 

    For now, a deal absolutely cannot be ruled out if Rodgers refuses to play in Green Bay, and the Denver Broncos have been a pretty obvious favorite throughout this saga. In fact, KOA Radio's Benjamin Allbright estimated last month that Denver had a 60-40 chance of completing a trade for the 37-year-old. 

    The Broncos have been desperate for a franchise quarterback ever since Peyton Manning retired, and they might not be willing to wait to see if Lock or newcomer Teddy Bridgewater can cut it. The former has been wildly inconsistent and erratic in his first two seasons, while the latter might not have the playmaking ability to carry an NFL offense. 

    It probably goes without saying that Rodgers with key complements Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Garett Bolles and Melvin Gordon would immediately turn the Broncos into a contender in the AFC West (Denver had an above-average defense in 2020 and looks even stronger on that side of the ball now). 

    That could make it a lot harder for Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs to walk through to the Super Bowl in the AFC for the third year in a row, while a Rodgers trade out of the conference would elevate the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North and make the Tampa Bay Buccaneers an even more obvious favorite in the NFC. 

Las Vegas Raiders Acquire WR Davante Adams from Green Bay Packers

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    Hypothetical deal: Davante Adams for WR Henry Ruggs III and a first-round pick

    If the Packers decide to move on from Rodgers, might that spur another move involving the team's All-Pro No. 1 wide receiver? The 28-year-old Adams is entering a $16.7 million contract year, and the team might decide it is better off moving on now and starting fresh around 2020 first-round quarterback Jordan Love (and/or Lock based on the first idea). 

    Adams has suggested his future with the Packers could be cloudy if Rodgers doesn't remain in Green Bay, and he has said "it would be a dream" to play with college teammate/current Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. So this isn't out of the question as part of a domino effect. 

    In this case, I'd watch for the Raiders to go all-in by trading away their 2020 first-round pick (Ruggs) as well as a 2022 first-rounder for one of the sport's most productive offensive players. And if that were to go down, Las Vegas would have a good chance at contending for at least a wild-card spot in the wild AFC West, while the Packers would probably be looking at a rebuilding year in the NFC North. 

Green Bay Packers Acquire WR Odell Beckham Jr. from Cleveland Browns

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    Justin Berl/Associated Press

    Hypothetical deal: Odell Beckham Jr. for a second-round pick

    Alternatively, it's possible the Packers will either entice Rodgers to return or thank him for doing so by adding a veteran star to team up with Adams at that position. After all, Packers fans have been clamoring for the team to add more talent to the receiving corps for years, and Beckham immediately comes to mind here. 

    The Cleveland Browns were remarkably impressive offensively without Beckham down the stretch last year, and they can save $15.8 million by jettisoning him elsewhere now. With the underrated Rashard Higgins back to work with reliable five-time Pro Bowler Jarvis Landry, a team that used two picks in the top four rounds in April's draft on wideouts might decide it is better off pocketing that cash and what I'd project to be a Day 2 pick in a trade. 

    Beckham has been a superstar and could crush it with Adams and Rodgers in Green Bay, especially if he's refreshed in a new setting. His presence would boost Green Bay's chances of unseating the Bucs in the NFC.

    But his durability is a potential concern, and he just hasn't been as effective in Cleveland as he was with the New York Giants earlier in his career. This way, the Browns would at least get him out of the conference and collect some draft capital, and his departure would likely bolster the Packers without severely changing expectations for the Browns. 

Washington Football Team Acquires QB Derek Carr from Las Vegas Raiders

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Hypothetical deal: Derek Carr for a DL Matt Ioannidis, QB Taylor Heinicke and a first-round pick

    This one is a little farther-fetched than any of those Packers trades simply because the Washington Football Team and Las Vegas Raiders both had plenty of time to make something like this happen earlier in the offseason and not a lot has changed. 

    That said, it's possible they'll see this summer that incoming veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't the answer under center and decide to cut their losses by eating his $6 million signing bonus. They'd save nearly $4.5 million by moving on from the 38-year-old journeyman, and it's possible they could entice the Raiders to opt for Marcus Mariota over Carr with a first-round pick, some talent on D (Ioannidis is expendable with so many first-round stars up front) and a quarterback to push and support Mariota. 

    That could even be Fitzpatrick, but the Raiders might prefer the less expensive Heinicke's upside after he performed well in a playoff start against the Buccaneers in January. 

    The key, though, is that Carr would provide Washington a major upgrade coming off back-to-back triple-digit-rated seasons, and that might be the missing piece to the puzzle for a team that should be expected to dominate again on defense in 2021. He or Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers could be just enough to move the WFT into Super Bowl contention, with guys like Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Da'Ron Payne, William Jackson III and Landon Collins leading the way on the other side of the ball. 

    If you're Las Vegas, the move would be a huge gamble for 2021, but could pay off in a major way if Mariota or Heinicke were to excel, or even if they did not and you wound up with fantastic draft capital in 2022. 

Dallas Cowboys Acquire CB Xavien Howard from Miami Dolphins

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    Hypothetical deal: Xavien Howard for OL Connor McGovern and a first-round pick

    Howard wasn't present at the Miami Dolphins' mandatory minicamp last month as a result of an apparent contract dispute. Considering that Miami is already paying more than $16 million a year to Byron Jones at that position, the team could eventually decide to cave and trade the ball-hawking corner this summer. 

    If so, an inter-conference deal with the Dallas Cowboys makes sense. Dallas is hurting at the cornerback position after losing Jones to Miami in free agency last offseason and then seeing Chidobe Awuzie jump to the Cincinnati Bengals this year. That D already ranked in the bottom 10 in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders last year, and they might need to do something bold to support an offense that is ready to win now with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and a top-notch but aging offensive line. 

    Howard's contract wouldn't be easy to move, but Miami could save more than $12 million this year by dealing him, and Dallas could theoretically keep immediate costs low by extending his deal right off the bat. 

    It would be a risk for the Dolphins, who expect to contend now as well and would have to hope Jones and 2020 first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene could hold things down alongside veteran Justin Coleman. But this might be a natural opportunity to make that change, and McGovern could have a chance to start for them inside. It would also be somewhat of an admission that the Dolphins know they need at least another year to truly contend, and the short-term sacrifice would help the rest of the AFC East. 

    As for Dallas, this would be the ultimate gamble that they're just a dynamic defensive player away. Losing a first-round pick and offensive line depth would hurt, but Howard just became the first player in more than a decade to intercept 10 passes in a single season. If he keeps that going the next couple of years, it could put the Cowboys over the top.