5 Bold Predictions for the 2021 NFL Trade Deadline
Less than a week away from the Nov. 2 NFL trade deadline, general managers must assess the status of their teams. Is it time to buy in an attempt at a playoff run or sell for 2022 draft capital?
While the phone lines heat up over the next few days, some players should prepare to suit up elsewhere. Others may receive the news as a surprise. Either way, expect some movement as front offices make moves for the short- and long-term future.
Before last year's deadline, three notable pass-rushers, Yannick Ngakoue, Carlos Dunlap and Everson Griffen, had to clear out their lockers and report to new teams, though we didn't see any blockbuster deals.
For a more lively discussion about trades, let's go through some bold predictions for the 2021 deadline. What high-profile names should we keep an eye on, and where's the next stop for them?
Bears Deal WR Allen Robinson to the Patriots
Justin Fields hasn't clicked with Allen Robinson. Since the rookie quarterback took over the starting job in Week 3, the star wideout hasn't scored a touchdown or caught more than four passes in a single game.
Fields has developed a stronger rapport with Darnell Mooney, who hauled in five passes for 125 yards in Week 4 and caught a touchdown pass in Week 6.
Through seven weeks, Robinson has posted modest numbers, which indicates his connection or the lack thereof with Fields isn't the only issue. The eighth-year veteran is averaging 35.7 receiving yards per contest, a career-low when excluding the 2017 season when he only played one game because of a torn ACL.
This past offseason, the Chicago Bears franchise-tagged Robinson, so he doesn't have a stable future with the team. The front office may deal him before he walks in free agency next spring.
Back in March, the New England Patriots signed Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, but neither has produced at the level of a go-to wide receiver. They're averaging 39.3 and 50 yards per game, respectively, with 41 combined receptions.
The Patriots can acquire Robinson with the intent to help their rookie quarterback, Mac Jones, who looks the part of a starter, throwing for 1,779 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions with a 70.4 percent completion rate. New England should offer a second-round pick to see if Chicago bites on a deal.
Browns Trade WR Odell Beckham Jr. to an NFC Contender
The Cleveland Browns have become a playoff contender, though Odell Beckham Jr. hasn't played a major role in their ascension.
Since the Browns acquired Beckham in 2019, he's missed 11 games and recorded a 54.1 percent catch rate, a significant drop from his 62.7 percent rate through five years with the New York Giants.
Sure, Beckham had more time to build a rapport with Eli Manning in New York, but his catch rates have dropped every year in Cleveland. Quarterback Baker Mayfield put the onus on himself to establish an on-field connection with the eighth-year wideout, but the Browns might have other plans.
According to The Athletic's Jeff Howe, the Browns may move Beckham before the 2022 season. If a good offer comes along, Cleveland may part ways with him and develop Donovan Peoples-Jones, who caught four passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns in Week 6. Rookie third-round wideout Anthony Schwartz can also take on a bigger role.
Because of Beckham's age (28) and resume, the Browns may be able to command a third-round pick for him.
Buccaneers Send RB Ronald Jones II to the Ravens
Last December, Leonard Fournette took over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' featured position out of the backfield while Ronald Jones II missed a couple of games on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Since then, the former hasn't relinquished the role.
This season, Fournette has logged 93 carries for 413 yards and four touchdowns compared to 41 carries for 181 yards and a touchdown for Jones.
The Buccaneers also have a solid dual-threat backup running back in Giovani Bernard. Ke'Shawn Vaughn, a 2020 third-rounder with some upside, logged five carries for 27 yards against the Chicago Bears last week.
The Buccaneers can trade Jones and allow Bernard to take over the No. 2 spot in the backfield. He has 6,687 yards and 35 touchdowns from scrimmage through nine seasons.
The Baltimore Ravens should offer a late-round pick for Jones. They already lost running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, who tore their ACLs, along with Justice Hill. To shore up the backfield, the front office signed Latavius Murray, Le'Veon Bell and DeVonta Freeman, three guys well beyond their best years.
The Ravens don't seem to trust second-year running back Ty'Son Williams, who saw his role shrink after three consecutive starts between Weeks 1 and 3. Jones, who's just 24 years old, could lead Baltimore's ground attack and make a strong impression through the remainder of the term.
Dolphins Trade CB Xavien Howard to the Seahawks
At 1-6, the Miami Dolphins should think about selling assets before the trade deadline. Perhaps they can contact teams that had an interest in Xavien Howard a few months ago.
Though the front office restructured Howard's contract, and he's continued to play at a high level, the pass defense has allowed the third-most yards and 15 touchdowns in seven contests. Furthermore, the Dolphins have a second-year cornerback in Noah Igbinoghene, whom they selected in the first round of the 2020 draft.
To avoid another round of negotiations with Howard next offseason, Miami can trade him and command a first- or second-round draft pick while he's still one of the league's best cornerbacks. Igbinoghene can soak up snaps and gain experience on the boundary opposite Byron Jones.
The Seattle Seahawks should aggressively pursue Howard. They don't have a 2022 first-rounder because of their deal with the New York Jets that involved safety Jamal Adams, but general manager John Schneider can package a second-rounder with a player or an early-round selection in 2023.
Seattle needs a boundary defender opposite D.J. Reed to shore up its pass defense, which ranks 27th leaguewide.
Raiders Find a Suitor for DE Clelin Ferrell
Clelin Ferrell isn't a high-performance playmaker or a star in a down season. However, if the Las Vegas Raiders trade him, that deal would generate headlines.
During the 2019 offseason, the Raiders hired general manager Mike Mayock to join forces with now-former head coach Jon Gruden. With their first pick as a tandem, they selected Ferrell as the No. 4 overall pick in the draft.
Typically, top-five picks have a few years to pan out, but Ferrell's production has trended in the wrong direction. In his rookie term, he flashed in spots, logging 38 tackles (24 solo), eight for loss, five pass breakups and 4.5 sacks. After a modest 2020 campaign, the Clemson product now barely sees the field.
This year, Ferrell has recorded just three tackles in six games. He's a non-factor under defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who's in his first season with the team. Per the MMQB's Albert Breer, the Raiders "have had discussions" about moving the third-year defensive end. Packaged with a late-round pick, he could fetch a fifth-round selection at best.
This past offseason, the Raiders signed edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, and along with Maxx Crosby, he's provided a spark to the pass rush. Fellow defensive end Carl Nassib has had some bright moments with 11 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. On the interior, Solomon Thomas, Darius Philon and Damion Square have all had solid games as newcomers at defensive tackle.
Lost in the rotation, Ferrell may not find a pathway back into a consistent role, so a change of scenery may be best for him. Perhaps he reunites with his former defensive coordinator, Paul Guenther, who's an assistant on the Minnesota Vikings' coaching staff.
Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @MoeMoton.