We’re just two weeks away from this year’s NFL trade deadline, and I’m expecting to see some exciting moves. Trader Bill O’Brien is no longer calling the shots for the Houston Texans, but there are still decision-makers willing to make splash moves. Buyers and sellers just have to find each other.
Today, I’m looking at offensive players who should be pursued via trade before the Nov. 3 deadline, listing potential compensation and possible buyers with my analysis. Let’s get to it.
It seems there are no good answers for the 0-6 New York Jets right now, but all options should be on the table. This includes trading away Sam Darnold, the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Darnold is just 11-19 in his career with the Jets, but he has proven he’s a talented passer who can elevate an NFL offense. I think the Jets could get a Day 2 pick (Rounds 2-3) for Darnold or possibly even a first-rounder. Who are the teams that should be considering such a move? Step right up New England, Minnesota and San Francisco. In New England, Cam Newton is due to become a free agent after this season and if the Patriots don’t re-sign him, it’d be worth trying Darnold out for the remainder of his rookie deal (runs through 2021 with a fifth-year option for 2022) to see if he can jumpstart his career.
The Vikings are in a world of hurt financially when it comes to their rapidly declining quarterback. Kirk Cousins signed a two-year, $66 million contract extension in March, but it seems highly unlikely that the team would part ways with him this offseason given that doing so would result in $41 million in dead money counting against Minnesota’s salary cap in 2021, according to Over the Cap. Might the Vikings trade for a QB with a high ceiling who’s still playing on his rookie contract? They’re going to have to do something because Cousins isn’t getting it done, and backup Sean Mannion hardly seems like the answer.
As for the 49ers, I can envision a scenario in which John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan move on from Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason. Garoppolo is under contract through 2022 but the 49ers would eat just $2.8 million in dead money in 2021 and $1.4 million in 2022 if they moved on without him next year, which is a lot more manageable than the figures the Vikings are facing with Cousins. To me, Darnold is a much better quarterback than Garoppolo and would make the 49ers’ offense even more difficult to defend. Lynch and Shanahan aren’t afraid to make bold moves, and I’d love to see Darnold get a fresh start on the West Coast in an offense that would get the best out of the young QB.
The decision to bench Dwayne Haskins for Kyle Allen after Week 4 was a clear indication of how Washington feels about its 2019 first-round draft pick. Given his struggles as a pro thus far (3-8 as a starter), he might draw just a fourth- or fifth-round pick in a trade. Ideally, Haskins would be dealt to a team that’s willing to take the time to groom him for a starting job. There’s potential for him to grow in the right system, with the right coach and quarterback to learn from. That’s why Seattle is the perfect landing spot for Haskins, whose playing style is comparable to Russell Wilson‘s. It’d be great for Haskins to reset and learn a boatload from the MVP front-runner.
Todd Gurley is playing on a one-year deal with the Falcons and after a 1-5 start to the season, trading him away for a draft pick shouldn’t be out of the question for Atlanta. Gurley has shown enough in Dirk Koetter’s pass-first offense to draw inquiries from other teams. With five rush TDs this season, Gurley has a lot of value in the red zone and could provide a backfield with a major boost as the weather changes. The Colts and Bears — two teams that have lost one of their top backs to injury this season (Marlon Mack and Tarik Cohen) — should consider making an offer. He’d likely cost a middle-to-late-round pick.
Evan Engram is one of the more intriguing tight ends in the league. He’s not quite a Travis Kelce or Darren Waller, but he’s a capable blocker and exceptional route runner. If I’m the Giants, I’m not overly eager to trade my best healthy offensive player right now, but there’s always a price worth considering. There are several teams that should be in the market for a tight end, including the Chicago Bears, New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers. I could see any one of them offering up a second-round pick for the versatile tight end, who is signed through next season. I know rookie Cole Kmet is coming along, but I’m not convinced Jimmy Graham is the answer in Chicago. The Patriots are getting minimal production from the position. Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers’ offense would continue to climb with another receiving threat and willing blocker for Christian McCaffrey (when he returns from injury) in tow.
The Atlanta Falcons have two No. 1 receivers in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Jones, who’s missed two games with a hamstring injury, had his biggest game of the year in Week 6 (eight catches for 137 yards and two TDs), but I view Ridley as the team’s WR1 after watching the film. If the Falcons (1-5) feel like the best thing to do is to start to rebuild for the next regime, I’d put Jones on the block. He would be the ultimate gift for an offense that’s one player away, and there are a number of teams in that situation.
The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, the NFC North’s top two teams, would be perfect landing spots for the veteran receiver. Perhaps these two division foes could get into a bidding war for him. The Falcons should get at least one first-round pick in return for Jones. Pairing Julio with Davante Adams would nearly sign, seal and deliver the Packers a playoff spot, maybe even a first-round bye. The Bears, led by their defense, need another reliable target for Nick Foles. Allen Robinson has been the guy in Chicago, but Julio would take the offense to the next level — exactly what the Bears need to capture the division crown.
Want one more option for Jones? How about New England? The passing game isn’t quite up to snuff with Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry off to quiet starts as the team’s top two receivers, but adding Julio to the mix would create nightmares for defenses. They would have to double-team Julio, putting Edelman and Harry in advantageous one-on-one situations. It would also keep defenses from putting an extra defender in the box to stop the Patriots’ top-five ground attack. Simply put: Julio Jones would make New England an instant Super Bowl contender.
A.J. Green‘s comeback season hasn’t been quite what we thought (or hoped) it would be. The 32-year-old veteran has just 22 catches on 45 targets for 215 yards and zero TDs. His 9.8 yards per catch and 48.9 percent catch rate are both career lows. Green is far from his prime, when he was a Randy Moss type who would run by and jump over defenders at will, but he’s still a good receiver who has the advantage over a majority of cornerbacks. Last week, Green acknowledged his frustration but said he wants to remain in Cincinnati. There’s no doubt Green has done a lot for the organization, but if I’m the Bengals, I view this as the perfect time to part ways with the seven-time Pro Bowler, who is playing on the franchise tag in 2020, and get some draft capital in return (most likely a third-round pick) to continue the rebuild.
John Ross‘ trade request shouldn’t affect trade scenarios for Green, as the Bengals have good depth at wide receiver. Green would fit into a lot of the same scenarios as Julio in terms of potential trade partners. While Green isn’t as tough a matchup for defenses as Julio, he could still be a difference maker for a team with playoff aspirations. The aforementioned Bears, Packers and Patriots should be interested, but the Eagles and Colts could really use some receiving help, too.
The Jaguars are rebuilding, but they have pretty good depth at the wide receiver position. Why not utilize it? It looks like D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault Jr. are set in stone as the future at the position, but any number of these three wideouts could bring in some much-needed draft capital. I believe Keelan Cole, Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook — who have contracts that will expire this offseason — each would likely draw anywhere from a third- to fifth-round pick in a trade. Each player would provide a new team with a viable WR2 or WR3 option. The Baltimore Ravens could use a boost in their pass game, while the Philadelphia Eagles need more healthy targets for Carson Wentz.
Top 15 Offensive Players
Each week in the 2020 campaign, former No. 1 overall pick and NFL Network analyst David Carr will take a look at all offensive players and rank his top 15. Rankings are based solely on this season’s efforts. Now, let’s get to it — the Week 7 pecking order is below.
NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from last week’s rankings.
DROPPED OUT: Aaron Jones, RB, Packers (previously No. 9); Josh Allen, QB, Bills (No. 10); Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings (No. 13).
Follow David Carr on Twitter @DCarr8
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