NFL Trade Ideas That Would Change the Super Bowl LVI Race
Six weeks of the 2021 NFL season are done, and we have a good idea of who the real contenders will be. Twelve weeks remain for teams to separate themselves from the pack, but time is running out for trades to be part of the process.
This year's trade deadline is 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, November 2.
We've already seen some notable movement on the trade market. The Carolina Panthers acquired cornerbacks CJ Henderson and Stephon Gilmore, while the Arizona Cardinals traded for tight end Zach Ertz—potentially making the league's last undefeated team even harder to chase.
Here, we'll examine six trade ideas that could shape the race for Super Bowl LVI, as Arizona's trade for Ertz might.
These are hypothetical deals, and we're looking at bold but realistic moves. Factors like cap space and compensation will be considered, and we're not suggesting anything outlandish, like sending Aaron Rodgers to the Cleveland Browns.
Got it? Then, let's open up those trade lines.
Green Bay Packers Acquire Brandin Cooks from Houston
Packers receive WR Brandin Cooks, Texans receive 2022 third-round pick
The Green Bay Packers don't seem to mind that Davante Adams is such a one-man show in the passing game. He's seen 50 more targets from Aaron Rodgers than any other wideout this season, and the Packers are still rolling at 5-1.
Yet, adding a second premier receiver to the offense could put Green Bay's offense in another tier. The Houston Texans might have one available.
Branding Cooks has quietly caught 40 passes for 481 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, he's stuck on a one-win team that is seemingly going nowhere.
"We're an undisciplined team," Cooks said, per Aaron Wilson of SI.com. " ... I'm not surprised as far as why it's been going on. It's been going on since Game 1, and we still haven't fixed it."
Adding Cooks would provide Rodgers with another quality perimeter target alongside Adams and slot specialist Randall Cobb. It might be a luxury move, but the Packers appear to be all-in for what may or may not be Rodgers' last dance.
Green Bay already traded for one Texans receiver when it acquired Cobb, why not make it two?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Acquire Kyle Fuller from Denver
Buccaneers receive CB Kyle Fuller, Broncos receive 2022 third-round pick
Denver Broncos cornerback Kyle Fuller has been drawing interest since before the regular season, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler:
"The Denver Broncos, armed with four good cornerbacks, received calls on Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan in the preseason. What they wanted in return wasn't cheap: roughly a third- or fourth-rounder, multiple teams told me."
A team with a struggling defense like the Kansas City Chiefs would make sense, but there's virtually no way Denver would send Fuller to a divisional rival. Trading him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, though? That might happen.
Tampa has been dealing with injuries in the secondary—Carlton Davis III and Sean Murphy-Bunting are on injured reserve, and recent signing Richard Sherman is also sidelined. As a result, the Buccaneers rank 27th in passing yards allowed and 14th in yards per pass allowed. They've also allowed 14 passing touchdowns, fifth-most in the NFL.
This is a deal that would require a little financial finagling on the part of Tampa, as the Buccaneers have $2.5 million in cap space. However, players like Tom Brady and Mike Evans have shown a willingness in the past to restructure contracts for the good of the team.
Kansas City Chiefs Acquire Marlon Mack from Indianapolis
Chiefs receive RB Marlon Mack, Colts receive 2022 seventh-round pick
According to Fowler, both the Indianapolis Colts and running back Marlon Mack are interested in parting ways. It's not that they don't like each other—at least, that doesn't seem to be the case—but Mack is stuck in a minor role with Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines on the roster.
"The feeling around Indianapolis is the Colts want to do right by running back Marlon Mack, who has requested a trade, but there is not much interest just yet," Fowler wrote.
Per Fowler, the Chiefs have looked into adding Mack. With Clyde Edwards-Helaire on injured reserve with an MCL sprain, the move would make sense.
While Kansas City just climbed back to .500 with a win over the Washington Football Team on Sunday, it's impossible to count them out of the Super Bowl race as long as a healthy Patrick Mahomes is under center. Adding Mack could help Kansas City continue pushing to the postseason.
Addressing Kansas City's 28th-ranked defense may be more critical. But with only $2.4 million in cap space, adding a premier defender like cornerback Xavien Howard or Safety Marcus Maye would take some real financial wizardry.
Chiefs Acquire Marcus Maye from Jets
Chiefs receive S Marcus Maye, Jets receive 2022 third-round pick
If Kansas City is willing and able to generate the cap space, trading for Maye would make a ton of sense. The New York Jets safety was given the franchise tag in the offseason, but "would welcome" a trade to a contender, according to Fowler.
Maye has been sidelined with an ankle injury but could return in Week 7, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN. Last season, he started all 16 games and finished with 88 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and an opposing passer rating of only 80.4.
Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen, meanwhile, has allowed an opposing passer rating of 152.1 this season.
Again, cap constraints would make a move like this one difficult for Kansas City. However, if the Chiefs can make it happen, they should—presumably also locking up Maye long term. Kansas City has allowed the third-most passing yards per attempt (7.8) in the NFL this season.
Adding Maye would give the Chiefs better support on the back end.
Cincinnati Bengals Acquire Xavien Howard from Miami
Bengals receive CB Xavien Howard, Dolphins receive 2022 first-round pick, 2022 fifth-round pick
It's time to start taking the Cincinnati Bengals seriously. While they're not in the Super Bowl conversation yet, they're 4-2, have lost their two games by six combined points and are about to play the Baltimore Ravens for first place in the AFC North.
With another addition or two, Cincinnati could be among the AFC's elite.
While the Bengals are solid on both offense and defense—they rank fifth in points allowed, tied for 10th in scoring—they could stand to bolster a defense ranked 13th in passing yards per game allowed. Adding 2020 All-Pro Xavien Howard, for example, could add even more punch to the back end.
Howard, who amassed 10 interceptions and 20 passes defended last season, is languishing with the one-win Miami Dolphins. He also sought a trade during the offseason before getting a restructured contract out of the deal.
This wouldn't be an inexpensive move for Cincinnati, but if the Bengals manage to knock off Baltimore and stake their claim in the division, they should be willing to go all-in immediately.
Chargers Acquire Myles Jack from Jacksonville
Chargers receive LB Myles Jack, Jaguars receive 2022 third-round pick
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack didn't make the trip to London for the team's first win because of a back injury. However, he wouldn't have been the team's defensive signal-caller if he had, as coach Urban Meyer recently stripped him of that responsibility.
"We have been evaluating that, because Myles plays three positions," Meyer told reporters. "... We just did some research, he plays best when he doesn't have to make the call."
If the Jaguars aren't interested in making Jack the centerpiece of their defense, the Los Angeles Chargers might be. L.A. got blown out by the Ravens in Week 6, which shows what can happen to the 4-2 Chargers when its offense isn't quite clicking.
L.A.'s offense has to be on-point because its defense, particularly against the run, has been suspect. The Chargers rank last in both rushing yards and yards per attempt allowed.
Adding Jack, who can be a signalman and play multiple positions, would at least help address the issue. That would be important, as the Chargers are going to see teams like Baltimore in the postseason.