2021 NFL Trade Block Big Board Entering Week 2

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistSeptember 15, 2021

2021 NFL Trade Block Big Board Entering Week 2

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    The first week of the 2021 NFL season has ended. The Baltimore Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders wrapped the opening slate with an overtime thriller on Monday night. Now, teams are on to their preparation for Week 2.

    For some teams, strengthening the roster will be part of the equation. Many holes were exposed during Week 1, and as always, injuries played a factor. We saw our first major quarterback injury of the season, as Washington Football Team signal-caller Ryan Fitzpatrick landed on injured reserve with a right hip subluxation.

    For those teams looking to make additions, the trade market will remain open until November 2. Each week until then, we'll examine the NFL's top-10 trade targets based on each team's on-field and salary-cap situations, players' roles, any relevant trade buzz and common sense. 

The Selection Process

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    To reach our top-10 list, we have gathered 15 names likely to be on the trade block based on prior reports and logic.

    New to this week's list is Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith, who played only 16 defensive snaps in Thursday's season-opener. Philadelphia Eagles running back Jordan Howard joins the list after spending Week 1 as a protected practice squad player.

    We're also removing Arizona Cardinals pass-rusher Chandler Jones. Though the Cardinals have still not granted him a contract extension, Jones is proving too valuable to be moved. He had five sacks against the Tennessee Titans in Week 1. Cardinals linebacker Jordan Hicks is also coming off the list after he played 95 percent of the defensive snaps on Sunday.

    The updated list is as follows, in no particular order:

    • N'Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots
    • Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
    • Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots
    • Jaylon Smith, LB, Dallas Cowboys
    • David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns
    • O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, G, Kansas City Chiefs
    • Andre Dillard, OT, Philadelphia Eagles
    • James Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
    • CJ Henderson, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts
    • Jordan Howard, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
    • Duane Brown, OT, Seattle Seahawks
    • Nick Foles, QB, Chicago Bears. 

10. Jordan Howard, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Howard isn't the most prolific running back on our list, though he was a Pro Bowler in 2016 and has two 1,000-yard campaigns on his resume. With teams like the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers dealing with running back injuries, Howard could become a viable trade commodity.

    If a team doesn't first poach Howard from Philadelphia's practice squad, Philadelphia could look to elevate him to the active roster and work the trade lines. While the five-year veteran makes for a great insurance policy, the Eagles are happy with the backfield of Miles Sanders, Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell.

    "That group as a whole, very excited about those guys," offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said, per Mike Gregor of Heavy.com.

    Howard was one of four protected players in Week 1, but Philadelphia did not move him to the game-day roster. 

9. O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard made last week's list largely because the Bucs are loaded with playmakers. The 2017 first-round pick isn't one of Tampa's top offensive weapons or even its top tight end.

    Rob Gronkowski remains Tom Brady's favorite tight-end target.

    Thursday's game against the Cowboys did nothing to suggest the Buccaneers are going to find a role for Howard. He played just six offensive snaps, fewer than both Gronkowski and fellow tight end Cameron Brate.

    Howard has shown his potential in the past—in 2018, he caught 34 passes for 565 yards and five touchdowns—and could land a prominent role with a different franchise. If a team comes calling, the Buccaneers will likely make him available. 

8. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

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    As we mentioned last week, New Orleans Saints wideout Michael Thomas is coming out of a very strange offseason. He put off having ankle surgery until June and will miss a significant stretch to start the season because of it.

    According to Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com, Thomas ignored calls from New Orleans while making his decision.

    If the relationship between Thomas and the Saints remains strained, they could look to part ways. New Orleans would erase a $24.7 million cap hit in 2022 by doing so. And there will be no shortage of teams looking to add an elite talent like Thomas if he becomes available.

    However, Thomas falls a few spots this week following New Orleans' blowout win over the Green Bay Packers. The more the Saints look like a legit Super Bowl contender with Jameis Winston at quarterback, the more likely they'll want to hang onto Thomas for at least one more run.

    If the wins start piling up, the likelihood of moving Thomas will decrease. 

7. CJ Henderson, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Like Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback CJ Henderson falls after holding the No. 3 spot last week. He was a significant piece of Jacksonville's defensive game plan on Sunday, playing 100 percent of the snaps and allowing an opposing quarterback rating of only 74.3.

    Henderson's role and his performance may throw a little water on the offseason idea that he could be traded.

    ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported back then that "multiple team execs" believed Henderson was available via trade.

    If rivals believe Henderson can be had the possibility remains that someone will make an offer for him that Jacksonville won't refuse. However, Henderson will continue tumbling down our big board if he continues being a defensive centerpiece—and he may eventually fall off entirely. 

6. Jaylon Smith, LB, Dallas Cowboys

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    Smith's lack of playing time indicates a noteworthy issue in Dallas. The Cowboys are essentially paying $9.8 million this season for a backup linebacker. Financially, things will only get worse for the Cowboys from here.

    Smith is under contract through the 2025 season and will carry a cap hit of at least $11.6 million in each of the next four years. Dallas should be looking to move on at some point before the 2022 season begins.

    Teams seeking defensive support will have some interest in Smith, a one-time Pro Bowler who racked up 154 tackles in 2020. However, his contract could be a bit trade-prohibitive. This is why he doesn't rank even higher on this list.

    While Smith can be a major asset on a different roster, teams won't overpay to take on the remainder of his deal. Dallas would have to eat $16.6 million in dead money to move him, too. Moving Smith would not be a slam-dunk decision for either side, though it would make a lot of sense with a fair offer.

5. Andre Dillard, OT, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Eagles offensive tackle Andre Dillard is not a proven commodity—he's only made four career starts—but he does carry the allure of being a former first-round pick. The No. 22 pick in the 2019 draft was supposed to be Philadelphia's new franchise left tackle. However, he fell behind 2018 seventh-round pick Jordan Mailata.

    The Eagles recently made a four-year, $64 million commitment to Mailata as the starter.

    Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer reported before the season that Philadelphia was "taking calls" about trading offensive linemen. Dillard is a logical target for teams willing to take on a project.

    While Philadelphia may want to keep Dillard for depth purposes—depth will be critical during the new 18-week season—it should be willing to flip Dillard for anything of real value. Dillard still has a ton of upside, but he's not going to have an opportunity to reach it with the Eagles.

4. James Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Pittsburgh Steelers wideout James Washington approached the team to request a trade early in the preseason, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. However, he more recently stated he is satisfied with his presence in Pittsburgh.

    "As far as me being happy in Pittsburgh, I love it here," Washington said, per ESPN's Brooke Pryor. "Who wouldn't be happy playing football as their job?"

    The question is whether Washington can remain happy in his role, which isn't significant. Washington caught two passes for just 10 yards on Sunday while playing 26 percent of the offensive snaps.

    With JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson headlining Pittsburgh's receiving corps, Washington is more of an afterthought than a key cog. He may become disgruntled again, while the Steelers could view him as expendable.

    Washington, who had 745 yards and three touchdowns in 2019, would be far more valuable on a different squad.

3, Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts

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    Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack makes a jump this week for a couple of reasons. For one, injuries are already starting to mount around the league at the position—the 49ers just placed Raheem Mostert on injured reserve—which will improve his trade market.

    Secondly, it's becoming even more apparent that the Colts view Mack as expendable.

    Mack suffered a torn Achilles in Week 1 of the 2020 season, but he was a 1,000-yard rusher the previous year. However, he's now buried behind Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins on the depth chart. Mack didn't even appear in the opener against the Seattle Seahawks.

    If Indianapolis doesn't have a role for Mack, another team will find one.

2. Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots

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    New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore retains the No. 2 spot on our board, largely because he remains on the physically unable to perform list.

    The Patriots were "still open to the idea of trading" Gilmore entering the season according to ESPN's Dan Graziano. With Gilmore not seeing the field in Week 1, New England's stance probably hasn't changed.

    The Patriots dropped their opener to the rival Miami Dolphins, but not because Gilmore wasn't headlining the secondary. New England's defense surrendered just 17 points and allowed Tua Tagovailoa to throw for a mere 202 yards. If not for a late fumble by Damien Harris in the red zone, New England likely would have won.

    Until and unless the Patriots defense shows it cannot compete without Gilmore, He will rank high on our board. He is only two years removed from a Defensive Player of the Year campaign and remains the top trade target for cornerback-needy teams.

1. Nick Foles, QB, Chicago Bears

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    Chicago Bears quarterback Nick Foles remains at No. 1 because he plays the game's most important position. With 55 regular-season starts and a Super Bowl MVP on his resume, Foles is the top realistic trade option for quarterback-needy teams.

    One team, Washington, has already lost its starter for a prolonged period. For now, the Football Team appears content to roll with Taylor Heinicke, adding Kyle Shurmur to the practice squad as insurance.

    However, Fitzpatrick will not be the last quarterback to go down this season. The Bears are already open to moving their No. 3 quarterback, though Foles will have some say about his next destination, according to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer.

    Foles should be content taking over for an injured starter on a contender—as he did during the 2017 season en route to that Super Bowl MVP.

    It's only a matter of time before a team needs a savvy veteran like Foles. With Andy Dalton and Justin Fields on the roster, Chicago will deal when the right call comes.

       

    *Contract information via Spotrac. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.

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