NFL Trade Ideas That Can Reshape the League in 2022
The next few months could be one of the most intriguing and action-packed offseasons in NFL history.
Not only are a slew of head coaching hires, front-office changes and free-agency signings on the horizon, but several high-profile trades appear likely to go down. If they do, these deals will reshape the NFL landscape.
Several of these potential trades involve veteran quarterbacks who are unhappy with their current situation and are looking to explore new options for the 2022 campaign.
There are also some top-tier skill-position players who could find themselves in a new uniform next year for various reasons. They could end up being missing pieces who push their next team into contention.
With that in mind, here's a look at five trades that could shake up the NFL this offseason.
Aaron Rodgers to Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos Receive: QB Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay Packers Receive: 2022 DEN first-round pick (No. 9 overall), 2022 DEN second-round pick (No. 40 overall), 2023 DEN first-round pick
Aaron Rodgers has remained mum on his future with the Packers in the immediate aftermath of another crushing playoff defeat.
During his regular Tuesday appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, the quarterback acknowledged that his decision will be coming soon and could be heavily influenced by star receiver Davante Adams. The 38-year-old also admitted that he has no desire to play out the twilight of his career in a rebuilding situation.
If the Packers can't find a way to bring back Adams—they are already projected to be more than $45 million over the 2022 salary cap—it's almost impossible to imagine Rodgers sticking around. Should both parties agree to move on, Green Bay should be able to receive a few first-rounders in exchange for the future Hall of Famer.
One ideal landing spot would be Denver, getting Rodgers out of the NFC and over to a team that has the draft capital to craft a contending roster. The Broncos have plenty of potential due to their elite defense and intriguing supporting cast, but they have been sorely missing an elite signal-caller.
At least two Packers beat reporters believe the Broncos are the most credible trading partner for Rodgers right now. Denver is reportedly "finalizing a deal" to hire Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as their new head coach, per Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network. This could be the first step towards a Rodgers courtship.
Denver has an estimated $45 million in cap space going into the offseason. That type of financial flexibility would allow the franchise to not only absorb Rodgers' remaining contract, but also make a serious play for Adams on the open market or even through a tag-and-trade deal.
With both Rodgers and Adams in the fold, the Broncos would become one of the NFL's most dangerous teams in 2022.
Calvin Ridley to New England Patriots
New England Patriots Receive: Calvin Ridley
Atlanta Falcons Receive: 2022 NE first-round pick (No. 21 overall)
The Patriots got off to a surprisingly strong start in Year 1 of the Mac Jones era. They won 10 games and made it back to the playoffs after missing out in 2020 for just the third time in the last two decades.
While Jones had a phenomenal rookie year—he earned an impressive 80.4 PFF grade, over 16 points higher than any other first-year signal-caller—he still has plenty of room for growth in 2022.
The 23-year-old proved to be a highly competent game manager, throwing for 3,801 yards and 22 touchdowns while completing 67.6 percent of his passes, but he had only two 300-yard performances and only two games with more than two touchdown throws.
For Jones to start putting up bigger numbers, the Patriots need to provide him with some extra firepower. Considering how poorly head coach Bill Belichick has fared when it comes to drafting wide receivers, it would be best for the organization to swing a trade for a top-notch wideout this offseason.
One player who could be available is Calvin Ridley. The Falcons receiver stepped away midway through the 2021 campaign to focus on his mental health, but he may be returning to the field in 2022.
NFL Network's Steve Wyche said Atlanta and Ridley might be headed for a breakup, with a "fresh start" perhaps the best option for both sides. One scout told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler that the cash-strapped Falcons might want to shed Ridley's $11.1 million cap hit from their books in exchange for draft capital.
If the Patriots are willing to pony up their first-rounder, it might net them a player who is only one year removed from a 90-catch, 1,374-yard, nine-touchdown season. That move alone may not make New England a Super Bowl contender, but it would be a huge step in the right direction for the up-and-coming squad.
Deshaun Watson to New York Giants
New York Giants Receive: QB Deshaun Watson
Houston Texans Receive: CB James Bradberry, RB Saquon Barkley, 2022 first-round pick (from CHI), 2023 first-round pick (from NYG)
The Deshaun Watson saga is heading into its second offseason. In mid-January, The Daily Beast's Marlow Stern leaked a purported settlement offer sent by the Texans quarterback to one of the 22 women whom Watson hired to perform massages to have accused him of sexual misconduct or sexual assault in civil lawsuits.
If Watson is able to settle with the women, it could increase his chances of being available to play next season. There are, however, 10 active criminal complaints, two of which are from women who haven't filed lawsuits against Watson.
Watson is set to be deposed in the civil lawsuits in February. If he becomes available, however, the New York Giants could end up making a play for the 26-year-old.
Big Blue is undergoing a major overhaul following the retirement of general manager Dave Gettleman and the firing of head coach Joe Judge following some of the most unsuccessful years in franchise history. A quarterback change could be the next domino to fall in the Big Apple.
According to Jordan Schultz, Watson has reportedly "expressed a strong desire internally to play for the Giants" and has been linked to Brian Flores, one of the head coaching candidates whom the G-Men are strongly considering for their vacancy. Watson and Flores are reportedly hoping to land with the same team this offseason, per Schultz.
On Wednesday, Giants owner John Mara told reporters that the franchise is not trading for Watson. But if Big Blue reverses course and decides to make a run at Watson, it won't come cheap.
The Giants will likely have to give up at least a few first-rounders to get the three-time Pro Bowler. New York could also use the trade as an opportunity to ship off players with difficult financial decisions pending.
Star running back Saquon Barkley is going into the final year of his rookie deal and will be seeking a long-term contract following the 2022 campaign. Meanwhile, cornerback James Bradberry is finishing out his three-year deal and will hit the open market next spring.
The Giants could send both to the rebuilding Texans, who have strong needs at both positions and enough cap space to easily fit new contracts in.
No other move would change New York's trajectory more than this, as Watson represents a massive upgrade over incumbent starter Daniel Jones. With Jones in line for a whopping $21.369 million if his fifth-year option for 2023 is picked up, the Giants can't afford to put that kind of cash out for a player who has largely underwhelmed in his first three seasons.
Christian McCaffrey to Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins Receives: RB Christian McCaffrey
Carolina Panthers Receive: 2022 SF first-round pick
Christian McCaffrey has missed 23 games since the start of the 2020 season, recording 1,159 yards and eight touchdowns on 212 touches in the 10 games that he has played. That's a far cry from the 2,392 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns that he put up in 2019 alone.
With lingering ankle injuries and other ailments plaguing the 25-year-old, it could be time for him and Carolina to part ways.
While Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer was adamant that he hasn't shopped McCaffrey around, he did admit he would consider a deal for the right price (via SI.com's Schuyler Callihan): "I would love for him to be here but I would never not take a call. If somebody calls and offers something crazy, yeah, you would look at it but there is no intentions right now of trading Christian McCaffrey."
If Miami offers up a first-rounder, it may entice the Panthers to move on from their oft-injured star.
The Dolphins narrowly missed out on a playoff appearance this season for the second straight year. They must improve their backfield to finally break through in 2022.
Myles Gaskin led Miami's rushers with a pedestrian 612 yards and three touchdowns on 173 carries. Duke Johnson Jr. was the team's most efficient rusher, amassing 330 yards and a trio of scores while playing in only five games down the stretch of the regular season.
There is a clear lack of talent in this platoon, which Miami could rectify with a splashy trade for McCaffrey. Putting the first-round pick that the club received from the 49ers on the table just might get a deal done.
Russell Wilson to Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears Receive: QB Russell Wilson
Seattle Seahawks Receive: LB Roquan Smith, QB Justin Fields, 2022 CHI second-round pick (No. 39 overall), 2023 CHI first-round pick, 2023 CHI second-round pick
Major changes may be in the pipeline after the Seahawks slumped through their worst season in the Pete Carroll era. Russell Wilson is reportedly exploring his options after Seattle missed the playoffs for just the third time since 2010.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Wilson hasn't officially requested a trade, but he wants to "investigate other destinations to see if those would put him in a better position to win another championship and create the legacy he sees for himself."
The 33-year-old might decide that a change of scenery would be his best choice. There would be no shortage of interest from competing franchises, with so many desperate for a signal-caller of Wilson's caliber.
Former Bears general manager Ryan Pace reportedly offered three first-round picks, a third-rounder and two starters for Wilson last offseason, according to Jason Lieser of the Chicago Sun Times, before having to settle for signing Andy Dalton and drafting Justin Fields. Both Dalton and Fields proved to be ineffective, resulting in the Bears missing the postseason with a disappointing 6-11 record.
Although the Bears struggled with those quarterbacks, Wilson could instantly transform them into a contender. Chicago has $34.3 million in projected cap room this offseason, so it wouldn't take much finagling to squeeze in Wilson's $37.0 million cap hit.
New Bears GM Ryan Poles would likely need to make a massive offer to get a deal done, but it would bring real hope to the Windy City for the first time in years. Meanwhile, the Seahawks would get to kick the tires on Fields and a linebacker for the foreseeable future in Roquan Smith.
Those players, coupled with a handful of draft picks, would jump-start a rebuild in the Pacific Northwest.