7 Trades That Should Happen Before the 2022 NFL Season

Alex KayContributor IMay 10, 2022

7 Trades That Should Happen Before the 2022 NFL Season

0 of 7

    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    We've arrived at a quiet stretch of the NFL offseason, with most notable free agents signed and the draft in the rearview mirror.

    The rumor mill may not be churning out much right now, but that certainly doesn't mean there won't be any trades prior to the start of the 2022 season. Several players are still ideal candidates to be dealt over the next few months.

    Whether these stars are unhappy with their current employer, became replaceable through the draft or are nearing the end of their contract and likely to depart following the campaign, teams may be willing to move on from them sooner than later.

    There are plenty of organizations still looking to plug holes along their rosters, even after acquiring a slew of new talent through the draft.

    With that in mind, let's try to play matchmaker and highlight a handful of trade ideas that would benefit both parties before the 2022 campaign gets underway.

Jimmy Garoppolo to Carolina Panthers

1 of 7

    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Carolina Panthers receive: QB Jimmy Garoppolo

    San Francisco 49ers receive: Carolina's 2023 second-round pick

    The 2022 NFL draft came and went without a conclusion to the San Francisco 49ers' ongoing quarterback drama.

    Despite reports that the Niners have been "continually underwhelmed" by Trey Lance's development, the squad still appears more than ready to move into the Lance era. San Francisco traded three first-round picks and a third-round selection to move up and get him at No. 3 overall last year but still has Jimmy Garoppolo lingering on the roster.

    While Garoppolo's offseason shoulder surgery brought trade talks to a "screeching halt," the veteran QB's uncertain health shouldn't stop the Carolina Panthers from making a play for him this offseason.

    The Panthers have positioned themselves to become a legitimate contender with the right quarterback. The team addressed arguably its biggest weakness by improving the offensive line this offseason, drafting Ikem Ekwonwu and Cade Mays and signing Austin Corbett and Bradley Bozeman to bolster a unit that Sam Monson of PFF ranked No. 31 last season.

    Unfortunately, Carolina doesn't have a suitable signal-caller for its revamped line to protect. Sam Darnold is the only experienced option under contract at this juncture, but the 24-year-old struggled in his first season with the club before suffering a significant shoulder injury.

    The team also picked up Matt Corral in the third round, but the Ole Miss prospect will need some time to hone his craft before becoming ready to start.

    Garoppolo could serve as a bridge quarterback and capable starter who could have the Panthers competing for their first postseason appearance since 2017.

    One hurdle the 49ers need to overcome is Garoppolo's massive salary for the 2022 season. The 30-year-old has a cap hit of nearly $27 million in the final season of his deal. Fortunately, the Panthers can absorb that large contract, with their $30-plus million in projected cap space currently ranking the most in the league.

    Given Garoppolo's experience and proven record of success—he led the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game or deeper in each of his past two healthy seasons—Carolina should be willing to kick over a second-round pick to get this deal done.

Baker Mayfield to Houston Texans

2 of 7

    David Richard/Associated Press

    Houston Texans receive: QB Baker Mayfield

    Cleveland Browns receive: Houston's 2023 seventh-round pick

    The Baker Mayfield saga continued through the NFL draft after the Cleveland Browns failed to find a taker for the quarterback.

    While Mayfield's chances of sticking with the Browns all but officially ended after the franchise traded for and extended Deshaun Watson's contract, the former starter is still occupying a spot on their roster and accounting for a significant chunk of the team's cap space.

    Mayfield has been linked with several squads this offseason, but it seems that few, if any, serious suitors are remaining. The Seattle Seahawks, one of the few teams still desperate for a quality QB, appear to have taken themselves out of the running. Speaking with Sports Radio 93.3 KJR-FM (h/t ESPN's Brady Henderson) last week, head coach Pete Caroll said, "I don't see us making a trade for anybody" at the quarterback position.

    One franchise that Mayfield could still wind up with is the Houston Texans. The club lacks an established veteran after letting Tyrod Taylor walk in free agency. Team brass opted against taking a prospect in the draft, leaving Davis Mills, who went 2-9 in his 11 starts last year, as the projected QB1 in Houston.

    While third-round pick out of Stanford in 2021 flashed some upside last year, he's still a relatively raw prospect who could benefit from more time developing his game without the pressure of starting.

    Mayfield would be an upgrade under center, especially if healthy. In 2020 he led the Browns to their first playoff victory since 1994 after going 11-5 in the regular season and throwing for 3,563 yards and 26 touchdowns against just eight interceptions.

    While the 27-year-old played hurt last year and went just 6-8 in his starts, he still has the upside to emerge as a capable starter. Returning to his home state of Texas to play in a low-stakes environment for this rebuilding franchise could help rehabilitate Mayfield's career.

    The costs would be cheap in terms of draft capital—a late-round pick should get it done—and finances, with Cleveland likely to absorb most of the remaining $18.9 million on Mayfield's contract.

    While most teams are staying away from Mayfield, the Texans should capitalize on a chance to secure the No. 1 overall pick in 2018 at a bargain-bin price.

Saquon Barkley to Los Angeles Rams

3 of 7

    Rich Schultz/Associated Press

    Los Angeles Rams receive: RB Saquon Barkley

    New York Giants receive: RB Darrell Henderson Jr., Los Angeles' 2023 third-round pick

    The New York Giants are heading into a new era with head coach Brian Daboll and GM Joe Schoen.

    One major holdover from the previous regime is Saquon Barkley, the polarizing running back who took the league by storm early in his career but has been hurt and ineffective for the past two seasons.

    While Schoen said in March that he hadn't been actively attempting to trade Barkley, he would be receptive to offers for the running back.

    Barkley is preparing to enter the final year of his rookie deal after the Giants picked up his $7.2 million fifth-year option. It would be a relatively high cost to absorb after Barkley rushed for just 627 yards and two touchdowns on 181 totes in 15 games over the past two seasons, but the upside is undeniable.

    The Penn State product amassed 2,310 yards and 17 scores on the ground while adding 1,159 yards and six touchdowns through the air during his first two seasons. The No. 2 overall pick in 2018 is still just 25 years old and could return to form in the right situation.

    The Los Angeles Rams could represent that ideal fit. The reigning Super Bowl champions helped rehabilitate the career of another former Big Blue star in Odell Beckham Jr. last year and could get a similar surge in production out of Barkley.

    L.A. already has one of the NFL's more exciting young backs in Cam Akers, but the 22-year-old has only played in 14 of a possible 33 games to start his career. And while Akers remarkably took just under six months to recover from a torn Achilles, he was unsurprisingly rusty in four playoff games, averaging 2.6 YPC on 67 carries.

    Darrell Henderson Jr. is also on the roster, although he is heading into the final year of his rookie deal and could be packaged up to help the G-Men replace Barkley.

    A one-two punch of Akers and Barkley would immediately give the Rams one of the league's most intriguing backfields. The two versatile and powerful backs would keep each fresh while also opening up the playbook for head coach Sean McVay to show off his creativity.

    With Barkley's time with the Giants potentially coming to an end one way or another, the G-Men would be wise to recoup some value in the form of a late Day 2 draft pick while also getting an effective back in Henderson as part of their return.

Deebo Samuel to Atlanta Falcons

4 of 7

    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Atlanta Falcons receive: WR Deebo Samuel

    San Francisco 49ers receive: Atlanta's 2023 first-round pick, 2023 third-round pick, 2024 first-round pick

    Jimmy Garoppolo isn't the only starter from the San Francisco 49ers' NFC Championship Game run who could be on his way out before the season begins.

    Deebo Samuel still has a chance to be dealt despite the team standing pat during the draft. The team has yet to extend the star wideout, and his trade request is still standing, making this a situation to watch in the coming weeks.

    While the odds of a trade dropped following Day 1 of the draft, there could still be a blockbuster in the works if the Niners can't come to terms on a long-term extension for the 26-year-old.

    One team that should make a play on Samuel is the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons have been working relentlessly to overhaul an offense that ranked as the league's fourth-worst last year and could add a cornerstone playmaker to the mix by dealing for the disgruntled San Francisco star.

    Atlanta's offense already received a major injection of talent when the club drafted Drake London at No. 8 overall. The USC product will join forces with a rising star in tight end Kyle Pitts, the No. 4 overall pick last year.

    The team still needs more weapons, however, especially with the loss of Calvin Ridley to a one-year gambling suspension and leading Russell Gage—Atlanta's top wideout last year—signing with the rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    While Cordarrelle Patterson could potentially play more wide receiver after being utilized heavily as a running back last year, the squad still needs a versatile and proven star like Samuel to take a leap.

    Samuel's presence would make life much easier for the Falcons next starting quarterback, whether it's Marcus Mariota or rookie Desmond Ridder, after Matt Ryan was traded to the Indianapolis Colts early in the offseason.

    It will likely take a massive offer to pry Samuel from the Niners, but Atlanta should be willing to part with a pair of No. 1's and a late Day 2 pick to get a transcendent talent for its offense.

Kareem Hunt to Cincinnati Bengals

5 of 7

    David Richard/Associated Press

    Cincinnati Bengals receive: RB Kareem Hunt

    Cleveland Browns receive: Cincinnati's 2023 third-round pick, 2023 fifth-round pick

    The Cleveland Browns already had one of the league's top running back platoons last year, with Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and D'Ernest Johnson all proving to be standout talents. The club now looks even deeper at the position following the selection of Jerome Ford in the 2022 draft.

    While it's possible Cleveland carries four backs for the upcoming campaign, it may benefit the organization more to trade away one of its proven veterans.

    Hunt is the most sensible of the bunch to move on from, given his production, contract situation and projected trade value.

    The 26-year-old is owed just over $1.3 million in the final year of his current deal and has a cap hit of $6.25 million with zero dead money attached.

    Despite the cheap contract, Hunt has been a major contributor during his stint with the Browns. He's amassed 2,169 yards and 19 touchdowns on 416 offensive touches across 32 games since joining the club in 2019.

    While injuries limited him to just eight games last year, the sixth-year veteran showed he could still play a valuable role in a rotation.

    The Cincinnati Bengals would benefit from adding a change-of-pace option like Hunt. The team has an immense talent in Joe Mixon but has little depth behind the starting RB.

    Mixon was the only Bengals back to eclipse 55 carries last year, tallying 292 totes for 1,205 yards and 13 TDs. He was also the team's top receiving option out of the backfield, posting 42 catches for 314 yards and a trio of scores.

    Samaje Perine was an underwhelming backup for the reigning AFC Champions, notching just 442 yards and two touchdowns on 82 touches across 16 games last season.

    Hunt was nearly as productive as Perine despite playing less than half the season. He racked up 386 yards and five touchdowns on the ground and recorded 174 yards on 22 receptions. Perine posted a 62.2 PFF grade in 2022, putting him a noticeable way off from the 74.4 PFF grade Hunt earned this past year.

    If the Bengals wish to improve the backfield and extend Mixon's career by lightening his burden, they should consider kicking over a Day 2 pick plus a later selection to snag Hunt away from a divisional rival.

Jessie Bates III to Philadelphia Eagles

6 of 7

    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    Philadelphia Eagles receive: S Jessie Bates III

    Cincinnati Bengals receive: Philadelphia's 2023 second-round pick

    The Cincinnati Bengals are running out of time to get a deal done with star safety Jessie Bates III.

    While Cincinnati's 2018 second-round pick is locked in for the upcoming campaign after getting franchise-tagged earlier this offseason, it's looking like 2022 will be his final season with the club if a long-term extension isn't reached.

    Cincinnati.com's Kelsey Conway reported that "it's unlikely [Bates will] play in Cincinnati after this year" if he remains on the franchise tag past July 15, the final day the two parties have to come to terms on a multi-year deal.

    Teammates have been lobbying for the 2020 second-team All-Pro safety to get a new contract, but the Bengals should try to trade Bates before losing him next offseason and getting a conditional pick at best in return should negotiations stall.

    If it comes to that point, the Philadelphia Eagles should immediately get Cincinnati's brass on the horn.

    The Eagles addressed several holes on their roster during the draft and free agency, but safety remains a concern. The team retained a proven veteran in Anthony Harris at a bargain price but still has concerns at the other starting spot, one that would likely go to Marcus Epps if the season began today.

    Epps isn't an ideal option for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. He's started just eight games and has logged less than 1,000 career snaps since getting drafted in the sixth round in 2019.

    While Epps has been a decent depth option for Philadelphia, Bates represents a proven option that can be relied on to lead the secondary. Philly can shore up this critical position by flipping the Bengals a decent pick for Bates' services and immediately extending his contract.

Robert Quinn to Los Angeles Rams

7 of 7

    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    Los Angeles Rams receive: Edge Robert Quinn

    Chicago Bears receive: Los Angeles' 2023 second-round draft pick

    Despite hiring a new head coach and general manager this offseason, the Chicago Bears could still be rebuilding for a few more years.

    The team should be cognizant of this and willing to trade away veterans to acquire more draft capital ahead of the 2022 season. One player that could net the Bears a hefty return is Robert Quinn, the soon-to-be 32-year-old edge-rusher coming off a Pro Bowl campaign.

    Quinn was one of the few bright spots for a Chicago squad that went just 6-11 to begin the Justin Fields era. He recorded the second-most sacks in the league with a whopping 18.5, along with 49 tackles—17 of which were for a loss—22 quarterback hits and four forced fumbles.

    It was a resurgent campaign for the 11-year veteran who had just two sacks in 15 games last season. Quinn is on a reasonable contract as well, earning a shade under $13 million this season while having a total of just $39.6 million owed over the next three years in total.

    Because of this production and cost, contending teams should be willing to dish out an early pick or two for Quinn's services.

    The Los Angeles Rams would be a great landing spot, bolstering their already elite defense by bringing this dangerous pass-rusher aboard.

    The squad needs another player to attack the quarterback after losing Von Miller in free agency. Plus, Quinn should have a level of comfortability returning to the franchise that drafted him in 2011.

    GM Les Snead has shown he clearly isn't reticent to cash in draft picks for veterans, and the strategy paid off in a big way last year. The team finally broke through and won a Super Bowl for the first time in over two decades and has a great shot at defending that title in 2022.

    Adding Quinn into the fold would only further L.A.'s chances of successfully doing so, making him an ideal target for the Rams to go after while bolstering Chicago's chances of contending down the line with a Day 2 pick.