5 NFL Trade Ideas That Should Happen Before October
The 2021 NFL season is young, but teams may be looking to shake things up with trades.
After an opening slate of games that saw plenty of injuries and other developments, clubs could patch holes in the lineup by swinging deals.
Getting a trade done early can help franchises right the ship after a poor start or get disgruntled players off the roster before they sink morale in the locker room.
With that in mind, these players could be on the move in the next few weeks.
Cameron Dantzler Shores Up San Francisco's Secondary
San Francisco 49ers receive: CB Cameron Dantzler
Minnesota Vikings receive: 2022 fourth-round draft pick
After losing starting cornerback Jason Verrett to a season-ending torn right ACL, the 49ers will be desperate to add another serviceable cornerback to the rotation.
The Niners secured free agent Dre Kirkpatrick on Tuesday, but the veteran is coming off a poor season with the Arizona Cardinals and may be washed up at age 31.
The Athletic's David Lombardi reported the 49ers also reached out to Minnesota brass regarding the availability of Cameron Dantzler, the team's former starting cornerback.
Dantzler was a healthy scratch in Minnesota's overtime loss to the Bengals last week. The 2020 third-round pick seems to be in head coach Mike Zimmer's doghouse following a rookie season in which he started 10 games and saw the field for 56 percent of Minnesota's defensive snaps.
Zimmer said he wants Dantzler to contribute on special teams after he played just eight snaps with the unit last season. It's unknown if he is refusing to contribute on special teams or if something else is keeping him from pitching in.
Even with Kirkpatrick on the roster, the Niners could benefit from another lengthy, athletic defensive back in their secondary. The 6'2", 185-pound Dantzler graded out at 70.9 last season according to Pro Football Focus, recording 46 tackles, four pass deflections, two interceptions and a forced fumble.
San Francisco owns its fourth- and fifth-round picks next year and could use one of those to pry Dantzler from the Vikings.
Raiders and Cowboys Make a Blockbuster Deal
Las Vegas Raiders receive: LB Jaylon Smith
Dallas Cowboys receive: DE Clelin Ferell
The Cowboys are loaded at linebacker, but their preferred defensive scheme makes some of this talent expendable.
Dallas has Micah Parsons, Keanu Neal, Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith under contract, but it almost exclusively utilized nickel packages in the season opener. The defense lined up in a traditional nickel and "heavy nickel" package—featuring three safeties and two cornerbacks—on all but two snaps against the Buccaneers.
Because of this, the Cowboys only deployed Vander Esch for 14 defensive snaps and had Smith on the field for 16.
Smith accounts for $9.8 million against the cap for the 2021 season, too much for a player who logged 25 percent of the defensive snaps in Week 1. Unless the coaching staff plans to get him more involved, it would be more beneficial and financially sensible to trade him.
The Raiders would be an ideal landing spot. Vegas started the season with a victory but gave up 27 points to the Ravens. More concerningly, it allowed 189 rushing yards to a depleted Baltimore backfield.
Denzel Perryman, the strong-side linebacker who joined the Raiders this offseason, tied for the most tackles on the team with 10 but graded out as a middling 54.6 according to PFF. Cory Littleton was even worse, earning a 38.1 grade with his 10-tackle performance at weak-side linebacker. Middle linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski earned the best marks of the Vegas linebacking trio, but his 57.1 grade in a five-tackle outing leaves much to be desired.
Although Smith only played 25 percent of the snaps against the Buccaneers, he recorded four tackles and earned a 68.4 PFF grade.
The 6'2", 245-pound linebacker is just 26 years old as he starts the sixth season of his pro career. He was a Pro Bowler in 2019 and has been productive in each of the last three seasons. He started all 48 games, amassing 417 tackles, eight sacks, five fumble recoveries, four forced fumbles and a pair of interceptions.
The Raiders could dangle defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell. The No. 4 overall pick in 2019 was a healthy scratch in the season opener. While he handled it well publicly, getting a fresh start may be the best option for both parties. Ferrell has a cap hit of $8.6 million in 2021.
Dallas reportedly received plenty of calls about its linebacking corps this summer, so the Raiders will want to get a trade done quickly.
James Washington Adds an Edge to Green Bay's Receiving Corps
Green Bay Packers receive: WR James Washington
Pittsburgh Steelers receive: 2022 fifth-round draft pick
The Steelers have done well to unearth quality receivers in recent drafts, but the club may need to let one go to relieve a logjam.
James Washington has been struggling to find a role in Pittsburgh's passing attack since the emergence of Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool. With JuJu Smith-Schuster's return in free agency, the Steelers have too many mouths to feed when Ben Roethlisberger drops back.
Washington only logged 15 offensive snaps in Week 1, drawing two targets and catching both of them for 10 yards.
Big Ben threw 32 passes against the Bills, favoring Johnson (10 targets), Smith-Schuster (eight) and Claypool (five). That pecking order isn't expected to change.
Washington, a second-round pick in 2018, had his best season as a sophomore. He finished the 2019 campaign with 44 receptions for 735 yards and three touchdowns. While he scored five times in 2020, he found himself getting phased out.
His frustration came to a head in the preseason when ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Washington wanted out.
Green Bay would be an ideal place to ply his trade. The Packers have few proven wide receivers behind Davante Adams, which was evident in a disastrous season-opening loss to the Saints.
Adams was the only consistent wideout, reeling in five receptions for 56 yards on his seven targets. Marquez Valdes-Scantling also saw eight passes thrown his way but caught three for 17 yards. Randall Cobb was the club's second-leading receiver with a single catch for 32 yards.
Green Bay needs to shake up the receiving corps and bring in a speedy deep threat like Washington to pair with Adams. The 5'11", 213-pound WR could stretch the field and add another dimension to an offense that struggled to start the year.
It shouldn't take much to pry Washington from Pittsburgh. The Packers hold their fifth-round selection in next year's draft. Offering that to the Steelers might get this deal done.
Washington Gets an Insurance Policy in Nick Foles
Washington Football Team receives: QB Nick Foles
Chicago Bears receive: 2022 sixth-round draft pick
The Bears listened to trade offers for backup quarterback Nick Foles, per Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, but retained the 32-year-old as a third-stringer.
However, injuries could force QB-needy teams to reach out to Chicago about the former Super Bowl MVP's availability.
Washington is a sensible place for Foles to land after Ryan Fitzpatrick landed on injured reserve with a hip injury last week. The team replaced Fitzpatrick in the starting lineup with Taylor Heinicke, who led it to a win over the Giants on Thursday Night Football.
While Heinicke beat the G-Men in Week 2 and has looked respectable in limited action over the last two seasons, Washington has little depth behind the 28-year-old. Kyle Allen is the No. 2, but the backup quarterback has a history of severe injuries.
Considering Washington has hopes of repeating as NFC East champs, the club should be wary of relying on Allen as its insurance policy behind Heinicke. Heinicke also still has a ways to go before proving to be a reliable starter. Acquiring Foles would be a good way for Washington to hedge its bets.
Even if Foles doesn't play, he can provide veteran knowledge in the locker room. If he is thrust into the starting lineup, the veteran has shown he can be a quality game manager.
It helps that Washington is a competitive team, as Chicago will only ship Foles—who does not have a no-trade clause in his contract—to a destination he approves, per Breer.
With a $4 million contract, Foles is too costly for Chicago to keep around. He began Week 1 inactive and likely won't start for the Bears barring injuries to both Andy Dalton and Justin Fields, the two players ahead of him on the depth chart.
It's time to ship Foles off for a late-round pick—Washington has a pair of sixth-rounders in the 2022 draft—helping both teams.
Dallas Goedert Boosts Minnesota's Passing Attack
Minnesota Vikings receive: TE Dallas Goedert
Philadelphia Eagles receive: 2022 third-round draft pick
The Vikings could be active in the trade market, wheeling and dealing to improve this squad after a season-opening loss.
One area where the team could use improvement is at tight end.
Minnesota let veteran Kyle Rudolph walk in free agency and lost projected starter Irv Smith Jr. to a season-ending injury before the campaign kicked off.
That left the Vikings with Tyler Conklin as the top pass-catching tight end. While Conklin caught a respectable four passes for 41 yards in the opener, he primarily served as a blocking TE during his first three years in the league and has little upside.
It wouldn't be a shock for the Vikings to move for a proven playmaker, and Dallas Goedert could be the ideal target.
The No. 49 pick in 2018, Goedert failed to garner an extension from the Eagles this offseason. He's playing out the last year of his rookie deal, and Philadelphia was open to dealing him before the 2021 campaign.
Matt Lombardo of FanSided reported that Minnesota discussed Goedert's availability with Philadelphia, but the Vikings pulled the trigger on a Chris Herndon trade with the Jets instead. Herndon made little impact in Week 1—failing to catch either of his two targets—so the Vikings may want to reopen talks with Philadelphia brass.
Goedert started 2021 on a high note, hauling in four receptions for 42 yards and a score against the Atlanta Falcons. The 6'5", 256-pound tight end would be an ideal target for Kirk Cousins, giving the signal-caller a big body to lean on while augmenting a receiving corps that includes a pair of stars in Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.
Goedert won't come cheap. Since he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, the Eagles would get a compensatory draft pick if he signs elsewhere. The Vikings should offer their fourth-round pick but may need to cough up a third-rounder to complete a trade.