NFL Trade Ideas That Could Shake Up the 2022 Draft
The 2022 NFL draft is a week away, and it's shaping up to be a wild affair. We still don't know who the Jacksonville Jaguars have their eye on at No. 1, and there isn't much clarity surrounding the rest of opening night, either.
Trades could further shake things up at the top of the draft order—and not only ones involving draft picks.
"Teams have gotten really aggressive with trades," one executive told Pro Football Talk's Peter King. "I'm starting to hear teams offering to package picks and players to move up—not just picks. So instead of trying to trade up five spots in the first round, maybe this year you'll see a team offering a one, a three and a player they're down on a little."
That scenario would certainly up the entertainment value. Here, you'll find a list of six hypothetical trades that could rock the draft party.
While these are hypothetical ideas, we're keeping them based in reality. Factors like team needs, expected draft positioning, cap space, contract situations and any relevant recent buzz were all considered.
Carolina Panthers Trade for Baker Mayfield
Panthers Get: QB Baker Mayfield
Browns Get: 137th pick, 2023 third-round pick
The Sam Darnold experiment hasn't worked out for the Carolina Panthers, which also missed out on acquiring Deshaun Watson this offseason. In this hypothetical deal, Carolina turns its attention to the quarterback selected two spots ahead of Darnold in the 2018 draft.
According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks are both in play for Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who became expendable after the team acquired Watson.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, Carolina has the "inside track" to land Mayfield. Joe Person of The Athletic reported that Mayfield is "not the only guy" on the Panthers' list but he is an option. It's an option they can afford to take, as they have $30.9 million in cap space.
Mayfield is set to carry a cap hit of $18.9 million in 2022. Cleveland may still have to eat some of that money to facilitate a trade.
By acquiring Mayfield, the Panthers will fall out of the quarterback mix at No. 6, which could have a domino effect on the rest of the QB market in Round 1.
While the return for Cleveland isn't overwhelming, the Browns cannot expect much. They have no leverage with Watson on the roster. They're not keeping Mayfield as a $19 million backup when he doesn't want to be there, and the 27-year-old is coming off an injury-plagued season. His value is as low as it's been since he was drafted as the top selection, and the Browns should be happy to get a pair of middle-round picks for Mayfield.
Carolina Panthers Move Up to No. 1 Overall
Panthers Get: No. 1 pick
Jaguars Get: No. 6 pick, 137th pick, 2023 first-round pick, 2023 third-round pick
If the Panthers aren't sold on Mayfield, they could turn to this year's quarterback class headlined by Liberty's Malik Willis and Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett. If Carolina is sold on only one of those two, it may consider trading up to secure him.
The Detroit Lions are a potential threat to take a quarterback at No. 2. The Houston Texans could take one at No. 3. And the New York Jets and New York Giants could be open for business with the fourth and fifth overall picks, respectively.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, seem to be eyeing a trade as an option at No. 1.
"Multiple rival executives raised to me that Baalke is also sensitive to a perception problem he and his team have right now, and that he, and the team, will get roasted if they do anything other than take Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson or get a king's ransom for the pick," Breer wrote.
Now, this hypothetical deal hinges on Carolina believing that there's a legitimate All-Pro quarterback lurking in the 2022 draft. If that's indeed the case, though, trading a pair of first-round picks and a couple of middle-rounders would be worth making the move to No. 1, potentially setting off a quarterback run in the process.
Jacksonville, meanwhile, would get a load of valuable capital and still have a shot at an elite prospect five spots down the board.
New Orleans Saints Trade into the Top 10
Saints Get: No. 7 pick
Giants Get: No. 16 pick and No. 19 pick
The New Orleans Saints have already made one noteworthy 2022 draft trade. They sent the 18th pick, a 2023 first-rounder, a 2024 second-rounder and third- and seventh-round picks in this year's draft to the Philadelphia Eagles for the 16th and 19th overall selections and a sixth-rounder.
Could New Orleans be looking to package those two first-rounders to move up even further? It's possible.
Here, New Orleans sends the 16th and 19th picks to the Giants for the seventh overall selection. New York has two first-rounders (Nos. 5 and 7) and turns them into three. The Saints, meanwhile, get the opportunity to draft one of the top players on their board.
The target could be a quarterback like Willis or Pickett, but it could be another elite prospect like USC wideout Drake London or NC State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu. The general consensus is that this draft is deep in talent but only features a few true blue-chip prospects.
"This draft, in terms of high-quality players, kind of drops off the cliff after about 10 picks. But the depth of make-it players who will contribute is very good," one coach told King.
If the Saints believe they can't land an instant-impact starter outside of the top 10, trading up makes a lot of sense. They were close to making the playoffs last year at 9-8 and will want a successful start to the Dennis Allen era.
Pittsburgh Steelers Trade into Top 15
Steelers Get: No. 12 pick
Vikings Get: No. 20 pick, 138th pick, 2023 first-round pick
While there's no quarterback who's considered a sure thing in this year's class, it's looking increasingly likely that multiple signal-callers will go in Round 1. Pickett and Willis appear to be locks, and Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder could join them in the top half of the first round.
"There is legitimate buzz about him going in the top 15. He has wowed decision-makers with his interviews dating back to the Senior Bowl, and he put on a show with his 4.52-second 40 at the combine," ESPN's Matt Miller wrote.
In this scenario, the Pittsburgh Steelers swing a deal with the Minnesota Vikings to move up for Ridder—or whoever of those top three is still available. The Steelers need a long-term successor to Ben Roethlisberger, who retired, and while they took a flier on Mitchell Trubisky this offseason, there's no guarantee that he'll be better than he was with the Chicago Bears. In other words, not good enough to earn an extension.
The Vikings, meanwhile, have Kirk Cousins under contract for another two years and have 2021 third-round pick Kellen Mond developing under him. They shouldn't be in the mix for a signal-caller in this year's draft. Instead, they may capitalize on the market by allowing Pittsburgh to jump potential quarterback suitors in the Texans and Saints.
The Steelers could wait until next year to target a quarterback prospect, but they should be thinking playoffs in 2022 and therefore not planning on holding a high 2023 selection.
Seattle Seahawks Trade Back into Round 1
Seattle Gets: No. 31 pick
Cincinnati Gets: 40th, 41st and 153rd picks
If Seattle doesn't go for Mayfield, it could target a quarterback with the ninth overall pick acquired from the Denver Broncos in the Russell Wilson trade. If the Seahawks aren't sold on a quarterback that high or don't value their available options, they could consider trading back into the first round.
Doing so for a prospect like Mississippi's Matt Corral or North Carolina's Sam Howell would make sense because it would give Seattle the fifth-year option. The move could happen even if Seattle isn't targeting a quarterback.
Because of the way draft rooms are split, a top target could still be there at the end of the first round.
"I've heard this from a couple of draft rooms: Because of wide variety of opinions on board-stacking throughout the league, some team drafting in the 50s could see its 12th-rated player still alive at 30 and be motivated to jump up there," King wrote.
The Seahawks, armed with the 40th and 41st picks, are perfectly positioned to make the jump back into Day 1. The Cincinnati Bengals, meanwhile, are the perfect trade partner.
They already have a Super Bowl-caliber roster, and if there is indeed more depth than top-end talent, they should value a pair of second-rounders and a fifth-round throw-in more than a late first-rounder.
Houston Texans Trade for Kyler Murray
Texans Get: QB Kyler Murray, Cardinals Get: No. 13 pick, 37th pick, 80th pick, Cleveland's 2023 first-round pick
This is admittedly the least likely scenario on this list for a couple of reasons. For one, the Texans—at least publicly—appear comfortable going into 2022 with quarterback Davis Mills. Secondly, the Arizona Cardinals don't have to trade Pro Bowl quarterback Kyler Murray. However, this isn't an outlandish hypothetical trade by any stretch.
According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, Murray—who is entering the fourth year of his rookie deal—isn't expected to play in 2022 unless he gets a new contract. Some believe that Murray won't get his next contract from the Cardinals.
"I think Kyler Murray is out of here," NFL Network analyst James Jones said on Total Access. "I think Kyler Murray is not going to be in Arizona going into this season."
This brings us back to the Texans. They have multiple first-round picks in the 2022, 2023 and 2024 drafts after dealing Watson—who still faces 22 civil lawsuits from women who have accused him of sexual assault or misconduct—to the Browns. The Texans also have $22.3 million in cap space and could conceivably give Murray the new deal he wants.
Mills showed flashes of promise as a rookie in 2021, but Murray is a more proven option. He has yet to deliver a playoff win but has two Pro Bowls and the 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year on his resume.
Murray could help the Texans quickly return to relevance in the AFC South, while Arizona gets enough draft capital in the deal to find its next quarterback this year or next. Houston would suddenly fall out of the mix for a quarterback in Round 1, while Arizona jumps into it.
*Cap and contract information via Spotrac.