Way-Too-Early Bold Predictions for the 2022 NFL Trade Deadline

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMay 6, 2022

Way-Too-Early Bold Predictions for the 2022 NFL Trade Deadline

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    Most of the high drama of the offseason is settled. With the 2022 NFL draft in the books, there are just a few big names left in free agency. 

    While this may be the dawn of way-too-early mock draft season, it's also not too early to take a preliminary look at what the 2023 trade deadline may hold. 

    The offseason is generally a time for resounding optimism. But we all know the honeymoon phase doesn't last long in the NFL. Once the season starts in earnest, the race will be on to find ways to improve through the trade market. 

    It's nearly impossible to predict this far out, but some situations are a little easier to see coming than others. Based on team needs, contract situations and different stages of team building, here are five predictions for deals that could go down during the 2023 season. 

Philadelphia Eagles Trade for Jessie Bates III

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    The Cincinnati Bengals have until July 15 to come to a long-term extension with Jessie Bates III after using the franchise tag on him this offseason. 

    It's an interesting situation to monitor. On one hand, the 25-year-old safety has been instrumental in the culture shift that has taken place in Cincinnati over the past few seasons. In 2020, he was named to PFF's All-Pro team, and while his numbers were down in 2021, he still provided stability and continuity in the secondary. 

    Those positive traits haven't resulted in a contract extension yet, though. The Bengals have broken out the checkbook for Alex Cappa and La'el Collins but have yet to make a commitment to Bates beyond 2022. 

    Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Bates is unlikely to return in 2023 if he plays on the tag this season.

    While the Bengals could let Bates play out the season and wait for the compensatory-pick formula to help them out, it also stands to reason they would listen to trade offers. 

    If that's the case, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Eagles pursue the safety. Philadelphia had been linked to Tyrann Mathieu before he signed with the New Orleans Saints, and it has an obvious need at safety. 

    The Eagles should be competitive in the NFC East, and by the middle of the season they might feel that adding a safety of Bates' caliber would make them a lock for the playoffs. 

Chicago Bears Trade Robert Quinn to a Contender

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    There's no question Robert Quinn is a major part of Chicago's defense. He was second in the league with 18.5 sacks last season and provides high-level play at a valuable position. 

    The problem is the Bears are in the midst of a full-on rebuild. A soon-to-be 32-year-old pass-rusher with cap hits of $17.7 million or more or more in each of the next three seasons doesn't exactly align with the team's timetable for contention. 

    The Bears have already shown they aren't afraid to trade away proven veterans, including Khalil Mack who they dealt to the Los Angeles Chargers in March. They also brought in a pair of edge-rushers this offseason, signing Al-Quadin Muhammad and drafting Dominique Robinson. 

    For what it's worth, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that teams around the league are monitoring the situation, but Chicago is not shopping Quinn.

    That might make sense now when the team is still hopeful about what it can achieve this season. But if Quinn and the Bears get off to a slow start, they might start answering those calls. 

    Any number of contenders would be fortunate to add Quinn to bolster their pass rush. A deal could be especially appealing for the Bears if they could manage to bring back a receiver to help second-year quarterback Justin Fields.

Chargers Pair Saquon Barkley with Austin Ekeler

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Saquon Barkley's time with the New York Giants hasn't gone according to plan. The fourth year of his rookie contract represents a potential turning point for the trajectory of his career. 

    After gaining 2,028 yards from scrimmage as a rookie, Barkley has had diminishing returns for the Giants offense. Things got worse in 2020 when he missed all but two games with a torn ACL. Coming back in 2021, he struggled behind an offensive line that ranked 30th in PFF's final season rankings

    Now, head coach Brian Daboll is starting to install his offense, and GM Joe Schoen has begun shaping the roster in his image. With Barkley in the last year of his rookie contract, the Giants might be interested in moving him even if he bounces back this season. 

    Enter the Chargers. 

    Los Angeles is still in the midst of quarterback Justin Herbert's rookie contract, so now is the time to make big moves. The Chargers clearly understand that after acquiring Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson this offseason. 

    However, they have not had much luck in finding a back to pair with Austin Ekeler, taking a Day 3 running back in three consecutive drafts. This year, they spent a fourth-rounder on Isaiah Spiller in hopes of finding someone who can share the load with the 5'10", 200-pound Ekeler. 

    Barkley would be a huge addition who could make a difference down the stretch, a la Leonard Fournette in 2020 in Tampa Bay. 

Dan Quinn Reunites with Deion Jones

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    Danny Karnik/Associated Press

    Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones experienced his best seasons with Dan Quinn at the helm of the Atlanta Falcons.

    In 2017, Jones posted a PFF grade of 87.3 and was voted to the Pro Bowl as a second-year player. Fast-forward to 2021, and Quinn is now the defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys. Jones, meanwhile, is coming off one of his worst seasons, posting a 34.6 grade with PFF. 

    Jones compiled 137 total tackles but had just two sacks, eight tackles for loss and no interceptions for the first time in his career. 

    As it happens, the Cowboys could stand to add a linebacker to their mix. They re-signed Leighton Vander Esch to a one-year deal and have young options in 2021 pick Jabril Cox and 2022 pick Damone Clark, but Jones could be an upgrade over all three given his success with Quinn. 

    According to Spotrac, the Falcons can trade Jones after June 1 and save $10.7 million against the cap in 2022 with a savings of $13.1 million in 2023. For a rebuilding team like the Falcons, those extra savings could pay major dividends.

Ravens Add Tyler Lockett to Help Lamar Jackson

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    What if the trade speculation this offseason has been focused on the wrong Seahawks receiver?

    DK Metcalf has been involved in trade rumors all offseason. The star receiver is heading into his age-25 season in the final year of his rookie contract, so he could be on the path to a new price tag that might be too big for the rebuilding Seahawks. 

    But getting rid of a cornerstone player in his prime doesn't make sense. Dealing a wide receiver who is entering his age-30 season after spending most of his career on winning teams actually makes more sense. 

    As the Seahawks look to the future and try to free up future cash to pay Metcalf, it's worth seeing if they can trade Lockett. By doing so, they would save $9.7 million against the cap in 2023 while spreading out his guaranteed money over the next four years, per Over the Cap

    Lockett still has tread on his tires as a deep threat. He had a career-high 1,175 yards on 73 receptions in 2021. 

    After watching the Ravens trade away Marquise Brown, Lamar Jackson should be on board with the team moving to add a proven wide receiver. As Jackson heads into a contract year himself, the organization would be smart to entice him to stay by building up the options around him.