NFL Teams Most Likely to Blow It Up at the Trade Deadline
With nearly half of the 2021 NFL season in the rearview, many franchises are faced with the reality that the playoffs just aren't in the cards. For these teams, it's time to consider playing for the future instead of the postseason.
As the midpoint of the season approaches, so too does the November 2 trade deadline. For teams that aren't in the thick of the playoff race, trading veterans for draft capital and/or developmental prospects should be on the table.
Here, we'll take a look at seven franchises that should be prepared to blow things up at the trade deadline. These are teams buried in their respective divisions without the talent to make a serious late-season surge. We'll examine where these teams stand and which players could generate interest in the trade market.
Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
Was the Denver Broncos' 3-0 start merely a mirage? After the team was physically dominated by the injury-riddled Cleveland Browns on Thursday, it certainly appears that way.
Denver will have an opportunity to get back on track against the inconsistent Washington Football Team in Week 8, but Denver has lost four straight and resides in the AFC West basement. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater—who, to be fair, is dealing with a foot injury—has cooled off considerably since the team's hot start.
Bridgewater threw four touchdowns and no interceptions during the three-game winning streak. He's since thrown eight touchdowns but has also tossed five picks. Denver's offense came into the weekend ranked 18th in yards and 24th in scoring.
One popular name in the trade rumor mill is cornerback Kyler Fuller. The two-time Pro Bowler didn't play against Cleveland and received trade interest before the start of the season.
"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," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler wrote.
Fuller has fallen out of favor in Denver, playing just two defensive snaps in Week 6 and not appearing in Week 7. He might not be as in-demand as he was before the season, but Denver's asking price has likely dropped as well.
If the Broncos continue stumbling, head coach Vic Fangio will probably be on the hot seat, and Denver could be looking at a full-on rebuild. If the team wants to get a jump on that rebuild, dealing star pass-rusher Von Miller—who is in the final year of his contract—could also become an option.
The Detroit Lions deserve a lot of credit for hanging tough with the Los Angeles Rams through most of Sunday's contest. As has been the case often this season, though, the Lions couldn't find a way to finish strong.
Detroit is the league's only winless team, and it remains the front-runner for the No. 1 pick in next year's draft.
The Lions have shown a lot of heart under new head coach Dan Campbell. However, they're not going to be contenders until 2022 at the earliest. Trading potential offseason departures now would help Detroit accumulate draft capital and/or players who can contribute next season.
The Lions were already on this path during the offseason when they dealt quarterback Matthew Stafford—a player fans got to see again in Sunday's loss. They continued down it when they released linebacker Jamie Collins in-season.
Notable Lions vets scheduled to hit the open market next spring include defensive end Charles Harris, linebacker Alex Anzalone and safety Tracy Walker III. If the Lions sense that they're not going to stick around, they should dangle them on the trade block.
After not having a first-round selection in each of the past two drafts, the Houston Texans may finally be in line for the No. 1 overall pick. Houston won in Week 1 but lost quarterback Tyrod Taylor to a hip injury halfway through Week 2. Since that point, the one-win Texans' season has been a disaster.
Houston came into Week 7 ranked 29th in total offense, 26th in total defense, 31st in scoring and 25th in points allowed. Rookie quarterback Davis Mills has shown glimpses of promise but has rarely done enough to keep the Texans competitive.
It would be a mild shock if the Texans aren't big sellers at the deadline. Quarterback Deshaun Watson, who faces 22 civil lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints from women who have accused him of sexual assault or misconduct, hasn't played this season and remains the biggest name in the trade rumor mill.
According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, "momentum appears to be building" on a Watson trade with "multiple teams" among the possible landing spots.
Oft-traded wide receiver Brandin Cooks would also be an enticing trade chip, as he's been the lone consistent producer (481 yards, 1 TD) on offense since Taylor's departure. The Texans also have experienced veterans like linebacker Christian Kirksey, cornerback Desmond King and running back David Johnson scheduled for free agency in 2022.
Unless Taylor returns and sparks a massive turnaround, Houston should already be playing for next season. There's no real reason to keep veterans around who aren't going to be there a year from now.
The Jacksonville Jaguars won their first game of the season in Week 6, but this season has always been more about developing quarterback and No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence than winning. That has played out, as Lawrence has shown growth, but the Jaguars remain one of the league's least threatening teams.
Jacksonville entered its Week 7 bye ranked 26th in scoring and 25th in points allowed.
While this is a transition year, coach Urban Meyer believes many of the veterans are still buying in.
"I believe players will want to be here, especially when we build this place up the way we want to build it," Meyer said, per Mark Long of the Associated Press.
Even if players do want to stay in Jacksonville, the Jaguars can and should be interested in unloading veteran talent at the deadline. Several notable names are scheduled to hit the open market next offseason—including wideout DJ Chark Jr., defensive tackle Taven Bryan, cornerback Tre Herndon and left tackle Cam Robinson.
The jury is still out on Meyer, who raised concerns earlier this season when he chose not to return with his players on the team flight. However, the future should still be bright with Lawrence under center. Moving an impending free agent or two could yield draft capital that could be used to build that future.
The Miami Dolphins came close to winning their second game of the season Sunday. However, the Atlanta Falcons drove late, and kicker Younghoe Koo delivered the game-winning field goal on the game's final play.
The Dolphins have now lost six straight, and about the best thing that can be said is quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has shown some signs of progress. The second-year quarterback passed for 291 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions against Atlanta.
However, there continues to be buzz about the Dolphins trading for Deshaun Watson.
"One source with knowledge of the dynamics of the Dolphins organization says the position on trading for Watson is not unanimous. Ultimately, however, oligarchs tend to get what oligarchs want," Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wrote.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wants to acquire Watson. If he doesn't get his way, however, Miami could look to replace Tagovailoa in the 2022 draft. Trading players now could help Miami secure a high draft position next spring—either by increasing its draft capital or ensuring that losses continue to mount.
All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard, who requested a trade in the offseason, is probably Miami's biggest potential trade chip. Pass-rusher Emmanuel Ogbah could also generate a lot of interest. He's in the final year of his contract and had 2.5 sacks and 12 quarterback pressures coming into Sunday.
Tight end Mike Gesicki and wide receiver Will Fuller V—who has missed three games with a broken finger—are also scheduled to hit free agency in 2022.
New York Jets
Expectations weren't particularly high for the New York Jets coming into the 2021 season, but New York has still managed to disappoint. The Jets have won just one game, while quarterback Zach Wilson has looked every bit the rookie.
Wilson came into Week 7 with 1,117 passing yards four touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 62.9 rating. He was 6-of-10 for 51 yards Sunday before leaving the game with an injury.
"Wilson will have an MRI on his knee, but sources say the initial belief is he suffered an injury to his PCL," NFL Media's Ian Rapoport tweeted. "He'll likely miss time, but the tests will determine how much."
New York got thumped 54-13 by the New England Patriots, and it continues to be clear that the Jets just aren't ready to compete. With Wilson set to miss time, there's virtually no chance the Jets will turn this flight around.
New York's Week 4 overtime win against the Tennessee Titans now looks like one of the biggest anomalies of the early season.
Building for a future centered around Wilson and head coach Robert Saleh should be the goal from here on out. Parting with impending free agents like inside linebacker Jarrad Davis, wideout Jamison Crowder and safety Marcus Maye could help increase New York's draft capital as it continues to embark on a new era.
Washington Football Team
The Washington Football Team fell to 2-5 on Sunday, and a repeat as NFC East champion is looking more and more unlikely.
A Week 1 hip injury to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick set the tone for what has been a very disappointing season thus far. However, backup Taylor Heinicke has been far from Washington's biggest problem.
Heinicke came into Week 7 with 1,390 passing yards, nine touchdowns, six interceptions and a passer rating of 86.9. He was 25-of-37 for 268 yards with a touchdown and an interception against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
A bigger issue has been Washington's defense, which came into the week ranked 31st in yards and 32nd in points allowed. A year ago, Washington ranked second and fourth, respectively, in these categories. Washington did hold Green Bay to 24 points, and coach Ron Rivera likes the direction in which the defense is headed.
"Rivera said he saw the growth that he was looking for from the defense. He said pass rush and coverage was coordinated," Matthew Paras of the Washington Times tweeted.
Unfortunately, growth alone isn't going to put Washington back in the divisional mix, and it's time to think about parting with veteran talent. Impending free agents who could net Washington assets include guard Brandon Scherff, left tackle Charles Leno Jr. and inside linebacker Jon Bostic.