Hypothetical NFL Trades We Wish Could Happen Before the Playoffs

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistNovember 27, 2021

Hypothetical NFL Trades We Wish Could Happen Before the Playoffs

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    Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

    In a world where the NFL trade deadline doesn't exist, fans might see league-altering moves as the playoffs loom.

    The deadline passed Nov. 2, a quiet period headlined by Von Miller's trade to the Los Angeles Rams. The trade deadline's timing early in the season might explain the lack of blockbuster moves. In a bunched-up AFC this season, rebuilders hadn't come to terms with that fate, and key injuries or needs hadn't emerged for contenders.

    But now? Contenders need help, and rebuilders are thinking about the long term. Some of the speculated trade candidates would make sense in packages, especially for contenders that seek the last piece of the championship puzzle.

    While the following moves can't happen since the deadline has passed, they would make a ton of sense.

Dolphins Send Xavien Howard to Tennessee Titans

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Xavier Howard was a constant in speculation after his trade request in July, but the Miami Dolphins didn't end up moving the star cornerback.

    If they were to do it now, a trade partner like the Tennessee Titans would make loads of sense.

    Miami sits at 4-7, and Howard's contract has an out this offseason. If the Dolphins want to avoid more drama, including a potential extension request after they made Byron Jones the team's highest-paid corner, moving Howard to a contender could be a solid exit plan.

    He is 28 years old and has 31 passes defensed and 12 interceptions over the last two seasons. That would be appealing to a team like the 8-3 Titans, who lost first-round corner Caleb Farley to a torn ACL. Veteran Jackrabbit Jenkins has allowed 41 catches on 59 targets for a 67.7 Pro Football Focus grade, placing him in the "backup" grading range.

    This hypothetical would make the AFC-leading Titans more formidable at a weak spot and help a rebuilding Miami team solve an issue while stockpiling assets.

Broncos Send Kyle Fuller to Buccaneers

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Kyle Fuller has been something of an afterthought for the Denver Broncos after signing a one-year pact worth $9.5 million.

    That's not a bad thing, though. Denver has an embarrassment of riches at cornerback thanks to the emergence of first-round pick Pat Surtain II and notable play from fellow free-agent addition Ronald Darby, never mind the strong presence of safeties Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson.

    Fuller, who has only given up a 55.3 completion percentage over 38 targets and played 73 percent of the defensive snaps, would be a fun addition for a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Starting Buccaneers corners Carlton Davis III and Sean Murphy-Bunting have dealt with injuries, with the former on injured reserve and the latter only just activated and playing in his second game of the season. Richard Sherman, signed to provide relief, has suffered a calf injury and is also on injured reserve. That left a depleted secondary exposed during a two-game skid to 6-3 before a 30-10 rebound in Week 11 over a three-win New York Giants team. The NFC South still isn't a guarantee with two teams at 5-6, including a New Orleans team that beat Tampa Bay in Week 8.

    With the Broncos at 5-5 and tied for last in the AFC West, selling off Fuller and offering to eat some of his salary could produce a notable draft pick. That would offload a player at a strength on the roster, and Tampa Bay would get help to bolster the playoff push.

Eagles Send Fletcher Cox to Bills

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox was a hot name at the deadline, as reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    He'd be arguably even hotter now.

    Teams like the Buffalo Bills were hot on the trails of Von Miller, NFL Network's Peter Schrager reported on Good Morning Football (h/t K.D. Drummond of Cowboys Wire). Those Bills would probably love to add the 30-year-old Cox, who has 10 pressures, five hurries and a sack over 70 percent of his defense's snaps.

    Buffalo is in a heated race with New England in the AFC East with both teams at 7-4, and lack of sacks is a red flag. The unit has just 21, a bottom-12 number. Star Lotulelei is on the reserve/COVID-19 list, Justin Zimmer tore his ACL and Ed Oliver has a 73.7 PFF grade, barely above "backup" range.

    At 5-6, the Eagles aren't out of the playoff hunt, but a competitive wild-card scene will make things tough. Cox's dead-cap charge of $40.9 million in 2022 might be worth offloading, and he would make an AFC contender more threatening.

Bears Send Allen Robinson II to Patriots

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    Perhaps the biggest name involved in trade speculation over the last year or more, Chicago Bears wideout Allen Robinson II would make for an incredible blockbuster.

    Playing on the franchise tag for the 4-7 Bears, Robinson seems to have one foot out the door after repeated failures by the team to get him a long-term deal. A bad offense has targeted him just 50 times, which he's turned into 30 catches for 339 yards and one touchdown.

    Were there no trade deadline, the Bears—with the understanding that playoffs aren't happening and Robinson is likely gone—could offload him for a draft pick. Dealing him to the AFC East-leading New England Patriots would be a brilliant move for both parties.

    The 7-4 Patriots have both the playoffs and the development of first-round passer Mac Jones to consider. Robison would become the No. 1 option on a depth chart that includes Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor. The attention he'd command from defenses would open things up for all involved.

    Robinson is a star wideout with consecutive seasons of 1,100-plus yards. It would be a blast to see him play with a capable passer after years of quarterback purgatory in Jacksonville and Chicago, never mind seeing how Bill Belichick could optimize the upstart offense.

Seahawks Send Russell Wilson to Saints

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Trade drama surrounded the Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson last offseason, and his agent even floated what teams he would accept a trade to, per Schefter.

    Wilson had a role in the hiring of offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, but the Seahawks have been grounded to a 3-7 record, last in the NFC West. While a finger injury held the quarterback out of three games, their 2-5 mark while he was under center speaks to the problems in Seattle.

    Looking at this season, moving Wilson to the New Orleans Saints—one of his four preferred trade destinations—would intensify the playoff picture.

    Those Saints are 5-6 and just behind Tampa Bay in the NFC South. They started 5-2 before dropping four straight and lost starter Jameis Winston for the season with a knee injury. Acquiring Wilson would add a top-10 passer to a passing attack that was overachieving (with Deonte Harris and Marquez Callaway as top targets), backed by a strong defense that gives up 22.6 points per game.

    With Wilson barreling toward an offseason with an out in his contract, a hypothetical trade to a win-now contender is almost too much fun for fans. Wilson could fight with Tom Brady for an NFC South crown and contend for the next five-plus years while Seattle punches the reset button after things have soured.