Potential Trade Ideas for Former Top-10 Pick CJ Henderson Before 2021 SeasonAugust 10, 2021
It's not often that a top-10 draft pick gets traded after playing only a single season with the club that selected him, but Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback CJ Henderson is surprisingly available just over a year after being taken No. 9 overall.
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler first reported the Jags are open to dealing Henderson on Sunday evening.
The defensive back started all eight games he was available for last year—he missed half the season with a groin injury—recording 36 tackles, six passes defensed, an interception and a forced fumble. PFF graded his 2020 performance out at a 57.9, a mark that leaves a bit to be desired but one that should see improvement with a clean bill of health and more experience.
If Jacksonville brass is sending signs it is willing to move Henderson, there should be no shortage of suitors for the 22-year-old's services. The Florida product is rife with upside and has elite potential as a man-to-man cornerback, making him a valuable asset who could net his current club a hefty return.
Here's a look at a few teams that could end up dealing for Henderson and what they might have to give up to get him.
Cowboys Receive: CB CJ Henderson
Jaguars Receive: TE Dalton Schultz, Dallas' 2022 first-round draft pick
The Cowboys secondary was far from a quality unit during a disappointing 2020 campaign. It doesn't appear their defensive backs will be a strength in 2021 either, especially after losing Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Rhodes in free agency.
While Dallas did add Keanu Neal and Malik Hooker to shore up the safety position and took a cornerback prospect in Kelvin Joseph with a second-round pick, the club would still heavily benefit from acquiring a promising CB like Henderson.
One issue the Cowboys must contend with to acquire any talent right now is salary-cap space. According to Spotrac, the team has just $4.5 million available to spend, giving it less financial flexibility than all but two other organizations.
Fortunately for this cash-strapped squad, Henderson has already been paid the majority of the four-year, $20.5 million rookie deal he signed in 2020. He is due just a shade over $7 million for the next three seasons and has a cap hit of $4.7 million in 2021.
Henderson represents a sizable upgrade over incumbent corner Anthony Brown, who struggled on the outside last year and hasn't been very reliable during his five seasons in Dallas. The Cowboys should be eager to work out a deal that would allow them to relegate Brown to backup duties.
By packaging in a tight end—such as Dalton Schultz, who hauled in 63 receptions for 615 yards and four touchdowns last year—for a Jacksonville team desperate for a viable pass-catcher at the position, Dallas could potentially put the top offer on the table.
New Orleans Saints
Saints Receive: CB CJ Henderson
Jaguars Receive: New Orleans' 2022 first-round draft pick, New Orleans' 2022 third-round draft pick
Like the Cowboys, the Saints don't have all that much money to play with right now. The team has an estimated $10 million in cap room, but it was forced to cut ties with several veteran contributors to free up that cash and become cap compliant at the start of the new league year.
One of those vets who found himself squeezed out in the cap crunch was Janoris Jenkins, the team's No. 2 cornerback last year. Jenkins' release left a gap New Orleans has yet to adequately fill. The team is currently trying to patch the hole by trialing a slew of inconsistent or unproven defensive backs in training camp.
Patrick Robinson is the leading candidate to line up in the position Jenkins vacated. The 33-year-old performed adequately when thrust into a starting role because of injuries last year, grading out at a 61.8 according to PFF. The 2010 first-round pick doesn't have much left in the tank, however, and relying on him to hold up as a 17-game starter isn't a wise idea for a squad that still has postseason aspirations in the post-Drew Brees era.
To make matters worse, there is a chance New Orleans will be forced to go without Marshon Lattimore for a stretch as well. The star cornerback was arrested in March and charged with a fourth-degree felony for possessing a loaded handgun that was believed to be stolen. He could be facing a suspension from the league stemming from that arrest.
While the Saints have a few other options—including veterans in Ken Crawley and Prince Amukamara— they would be wise to acquire a young talent like Henderson. He's not only shown enough to win a starting job right away, but also has the chance to develop into a lockdown corner this defense could build around.
Pairing him with third-round rookie Paulson Adebo would potentially give the Saints one of the most exciting young corner tandems in the league.
Given how thin the roster is, New Orleans probably won't be able to offer much more than draft capital in exchange for Henderson's services. The franchise does hold all of its 2022 draft selections aside from a forfeited sixth-rounder from COVID-19 protocol violations.
Kicking over a 2022 first-rounder and the third-rounder the Saints earned as compensation following Atlanta's hire of Terry Fontenot could be an enticing enough offer to pry Henderson away from Jacksonville.
Cardinals Receive: CB CJ Henderson
Jaguars Receive: Edge Chandler Jones, Arizona's 2022 second-round draft pick
After deploying Patrick Peterson on the outside for the past 10 years—getting eight Pro Bowl and three first-team All-Pro campaigns from the star CB— the veteran and franchise went their separate ways this offseason.
The departures of Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick—the team's other starter on the outside for most of last season—leave Arizona with some big holes to fill in the secondary.
Team brass somewhat addressed the issue by plucking Malcolm Butler out of the free-agency pool, a move that shored up one of those outside cornerback vacancies. There's still a concerning lack of depth here with Robert Alford penciled in as Arizona's No. 2 corner.
Alford hasn't played a single snap for the Cardinals since signing with the franchise prior to the 2019 campaign. He missed the past two years with season-ending injuries and was plagued by inconsistent play and costly pass interference penalties when he was healthy for the Falcons. If the 32-year-old can finally get onto the field this year, he'll be a stopgap solution at best.
With Henderson excelling in man coverage and Arizona's scheme dictating plenty of it, the organization would be wise to float a strong offer in Jacksonville's direction. In return, the playoff-hopeful Cardinals would be getting a potential heir to Peterson who could become a fixture in the cornerback room for years to come.
Arizona is in the relatively unique position of being able to dangle a premier edge-rusher in a trade offer. The team could package Chandler Jones—entering the final season of the five-year, $82.5 million contract he signed in 2017—without hindering its pressure rate much thanks to the acquisition of J.J. Watt earlier in the offseason.
Considering Jacksonville only recorded 18 sacks last year—the second-lowest mark in the NFL—getting a player of Jones' caliber would help the squad immensely. The veteran's skill and wealth of experience would be a major boon for a young squad both on the field and in the locker room. Taking on Jones would give Jacksonville an immediate return on its investment, while Arizona could throw in a Day 2 pick to sweeten the pot.
The short- and long-term value of a package including Jones and a pick would make it difficult for the Jaguars to refuse.