As the Nov. 3 trade deadline draws ever so close, NFL teams are scrambling to see who they can acquire, and at what price — or who they can send packing for an asset or several. Things are made more complex this season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which forces players to go through testing protocol that usually prevents them from joining their new team quickly. And with those rules in place for 2020, clubs are expected to close deals days ahead of the deadline to allow time for their new players to be tested, practice and be ready for Week 9 — if possible.
One example of this is in how quickly the Detroit Lions struck a deal to land Everson Griffen from the Dallas Cowboys, and another is in how thein exchange for an offensive lineman and a 2021 seventh-round pick. Things aren’t stopping there, not by a long shot, with the and rumors swirling around nearly every team in the league as it pertains to who they’ll gain or give up ahead of next week.
For those still clearly in contention to make a run at a Super Bowl ring in 2020, there are moves that could potentially push them into overdrive. This isn’t a list of each contender and their needs, but rather it identifies some of the more interesting potential moves that could and should happen for a few of them.
In the wise words of Darkwing Duck: “Let’s get dangerous.”
Stephon Gilmore to the Seahawks
Pete Carroll and John Schneider should make one more major move before the trade deadline, especially after getting reminded in prime time just how badly they need to upgrade his passing defense.
Kyler Murray threw 48 times and connected on 34 of those targets for 360 passing yards and three touchdowns with just one interception, en route to a 37-34 overtime win to outduel MVP frontrunner Russell Wilson. Granted, the Seahawks also need help in the pass rush arena, , but their ineptitude at being able to consistently shut down the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver could cost them big in the playoffs. Having not had a shutdown corner since Richard Sherman and the days of the Legion of Boom, calling the New England Patriots and offering something primo for Gilmore is a no-brainer.
After all, Dunlap only cost a 2021 seventh-round pick, so that shouldn’t delete Gilmore as a possibility whatsoever.
The two-time First-Team All-Pro is often an interception machine who would’ve been much more of a challenge for DeAndre Hopkins in Week 7 — who caught 10 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown — and would instantly boost the morale and overall production in the secondary, especially once Jamal Adams returns from injury. Carroll’s crew is currently allowing a league-worst 368.7 passing yards per game and an average QB rating of 92.1 entering the second half of the season. Considering the slate of all-world receivers they might face in January, this simply can’t continue.
Go and get Gilmore — who recently put his house on the market — and make it worth the Patriots’ while, because they have a unique balancing act to work around, which I’ll get to next.
A.J. Green to the Patriots
The Patriots have gone from the cream of the crop to walking a tightrope in 2020.
On one hand, they’re still very much in contention to make noise in the AFC East and the playoffs, because there’s no one in their right mind betting against Bill Belichick. That doesn’t mean we can’t admit they’re also in the middle of a rebuild, because both things are true. So they’ll need to play their usual 4D chess here by being both sellers and buyers ahead of the trade deadline, but in unusual fashion. On one note, the return they can get for potentially moving on from Gilmore will help them land a premium pick or two they could then either flip into another quick trade or, more likely, that they can either package for a trade up in the 2021 NFL Draft to help with the post-Brady reboot (hint: quarterback).
But being a seller on Gilmore doesn’t mean they’re mailing in the current season. Currently sitting at 2-4 in the division, they can still catch the suddenly slowed Buffalo Bills, and are only one game back of the Dolphins. Plus, the biggest problem for the Patriots is the fact their receiving corps strikes fear in the heart of no one. Cam Newton is going to need another weapon in that regard if the team expects him to improve, and Green might be of help. Things are going poorly on what feels like the dusk of his career in Cincinnati but, now healthy, this trade could be in the same vein as when New England grabbed Chad Johnson in 2013.
These two organizations have done business before, and should again in 2020. Green is a free agent in 2021, so if things don’t work out, let him walk with no harm no foul, other than possibly the mid- to late-round pick you gave up to finish your 2020 experiment.
But, if things go well, whomever the QB is next year and beyond has another weapon outside of an aging Julian Edelman.
Alshon Jeffery to the Packers
The relationship between Jeffery and the Philadelphia Eagles needs to finally come to an end.
Despite what either side says publicly, Jeffery is no longer a fit with the organization, one season removed from being the center of controversy stemming from his alleged criticism of Carson Wentz. Since that point, there have been endless rumors of a potential trade, and he’s yet to take the field in 2020 due to injury, although it’s fair to speculate at this point if he’s in a hurry to get back onto the field for a team he’s not a fan of. Enter the Packers, who sure wouldn’t mind getting another weapon for Aaron Rodgers, and one who might consistently do damage underneath while Davante Adams continues to take the top off of opposing defenses.
At this point, the Eagles should look to dump Jeffery and see what they can get for him, which should make for an inexpensive trade price for the Packers. A conditional late-round pick would be reasonable here, especially given the health on Jeffery.
If things don’t work out in 2020 between Jeffery and the Packers, they can cut him and save $7.98 million in cap space. If things do work out, they’ll get several years of control of a Pro Bowl receiver with 6,671 receiving yards and 45 touchdowns on his resume, and in exchange for a 2021 flyer pick. It’s a high-ceiling, low-risk move that will force opposing defenses to account for more than Adams on a weekly basis.
Haason Reddick to the Steelers
The loss of Devin Bush is a huge blow to the Steelers defense, but there’s a remedy.
Reddick joined the Cardinals in disemboweling the Cowboys on their own field at AT&T Stadium in Week 6, delivering five combined tackles and leading the team with two sacks — for good measure — putting his value on full display. He terrorized Andy Dalton and the Cowboys offense, along with Jordan Hicks, Budda Baker and others, and Mike Tomlin sure wouldn’t mind having some of that juice added to his defensive front.
It feels like Reddick could do even more damage in a situation wherein he logs more snaps than he does in Arizona, seeing as he has just 21 starts in 54 games since the Cardinals used the 13th-overall pick on him in 2017. I’m not convinced Reddick is suddenly not good enough to be a starter in the NFL, as much as I point to the fact he’s not Kliff Kingsbury’s guy, considering the latter didn’t take the reins as head coach until 2019. To that point, Reddick went from 12 starts in 2018 to only five last season, despite having delivered four sacks, five pass break ups, a forced fumble and 80 combined tackles in 2018.
The addition of Buddha Baker also factors in — a versatile safety who can line up at linebacker when asked to do so. And considering Baker, as one example, isn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future, maybe it’s time Reddick does.
The Steelers should pick up the phone and see if they can pry Reddick loose.
Desmond King to the Cardinals
Speaking of the Cardinals, adding more firepower to the secondary would be a smart move.
Although they’re enjoying a hard-fought win over the rival Seahawks, one that saw them finally get after Russell Wilson with timely sacks and three interceptions on the evening, the team hasn’t put the rubber to the road yet when it comes to the future of cornerback Patrick Peterson. The former first-round pick has built a Hall of Fame resume with the Cardinals, but admitted this offseason he’ll play out his contract because “all I can do is worry about me.” That’s quite an ominous tone for things to come, or not come, and the Cardinals need to plan ahead if they are going to move on from Peterson.
King would be a perfect add for both the now and the later.
He’d instantly become another impact piece for the Cardinals secondary in 2020, and for pennies on the dollar this season, considering he’s in the final year of his rookie deal. Should the Cardinals choose to part ways with Peterson and instead award King a nice payday, they’d do so knowing the latter is just 26 years old and a two-time All-Pro in his own right, with an extremely bright future ahead of him for years to come. So when it comes to the present, striking a deal to land King would help make the Cardinals that much more dangerous in 2020, but as it applies to the future — he also provides insurance against a Peterson divorce.
Ryan Kerrigan to the Dolphins
This is something that should seriously intrigue head coach Brian Flores.
Being a former linebackers coach, Flores knows how important it is to have guys who can get after the opposing quarterback. The problem for Miami is they don’t have enough players who can actually do in on a play-to-play basis. Kerrigan certainly can, and adding him to the roster would be a strong boost to a pass rush that normally sees only Emmanuel Ogbah putting hands on the opposing signal-caller (five sacks through six games). The Washington Football Team is one of the few clubs who have an embarrassment of riches on arguably the best defensive line in the NFL, having not been ravaged by injury as other teams have.
That allows them the ability to move on from Kerrigan and see what they can land in exchange, and the Dolphins should note he still has plenty of fuel left in his tank, as evidenced by his four sacks on the year with only one start. With the addition of first-overall pick Chase Young, Kerrigan’s reps in Washington have been scaled back in a major way, but that wouldn’t be the case for the 32-year-old if he’s moved to South Florida.
A former first-round pick himself (2011), Kerrigan has perennially been one of the most dominant pass rushers in Washington, his four Pro Bowl nods and the fact he’s the franchise’s all-time sack leader simply driving home that point. It’s a ready-made pass rush boost for a Dolphins team still in position to shock the world and and take the AFC East, so make this trade happen.
Kenny Stills to the Saints
Still in disbelief at the Texans willingness to trade away DeAndre Hopkins? Of course you are.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t still WR talent to be peeled away from Houston, because there is. Stills is one such talent, and while some could also point at Will Fuller as an option for the Saints, Stills doesn’t carry nearly the same durability issues as his compatriot, and New Orleans is already dealing with availability issues on Michael Thomas. That said, when Thomas does return to the field, Stills provides a dynamic complement that would help Alvin Kamara not be forced to lead the team in receiving yards. I am 100 percent certain Kamara doesn’t mind, but that’s not how the Saints are going to get back to the Super Bowl.
Things haven’t exactly gone swimmingly with Emmanuel Sanders, leaving a void at No. 2 that Stills can instantly fill. This would also be an NFL homecoming for Stills, who was a fifth-round pick of the Saints in 2013 — spending two seasons in Louisiana before heading to the Dolphins and ultimately the Texans. Still, he’s just 28 years old with several years presumably left in him, and the Texans should be looking for a complete reboot around Deshaun Watson.
Offer a late-round pick and get back to helping Drew Brees dominate in the air on a regular basis.
Riley Reiff to the Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are a force on both offense and defense in 2020, but they’re not perfect.
While rookie first-round pick Tristan Wirfs continues to be worth the price of admission at right tackle, there’s something to be said for potentially upgrading Tom Brady’s blindside protection. Donovan Smith, as well-paid as he might be, has also victimized the Bucs with a rash of penalties this season. Tampa Bay has suffered at least five stalled drives in 2020 because of Smith’s penalties, and that’s more than a third of the teams in the entire league, and the most of any player in the league. That simply won’t do for a perfectionist like Brady, and one like Arians, the latter also knowing how important it is to keep his Hall of Fame quarterback upright.
This is where Reiff can be of serious use in Central Florida, and the former first-round pick is not exactly thrilled about his future with the Vikings, although he’s saying all the right things as it relates to being “happy to be here.” In the same breath, he’s taking his future “hour by hour” with the Vikings, after reworking his deal to avoid being released to make room for the addition of the now-traded Yannick Ngakoue and the extension on Dalvin Cook.
With that, Reiff went from someone expected to land a nice re-up in Minny to one who reportedly said goodbye to teammates ahead of the reworked deal. Through the first five games of the season, Reiff was fourth-best in pass-block efficiency grade among tackles — per PFF — and allowed the third-fewest pressures in the league. Additionally, he allowed zero sacks and didn’t commit a single penalty. The Bucs would have to work out the cost issue between carrying both Reiff and Smith, but when there’s a will, there’s a way — as Tampa Bay has proved time and again at the outset of the Brady era.
Reiff is durable and one of the best in the league at keeping his QB clean on the blindside, and in mostly penalty-free fashion.
Duke Johnson to the Bills
You get a Texan and you get a Texan and you get a Texan!
Seriously, the Texans should go full Oprah Winfrey to revamp the team around Watson, and that means doing more than trying to scrape together picks for receivers like Fuller — as noted above. There’s also value to be had in shipping out Duke Johnson, who basically has no role on the team after the now-fired Bill O’Brien made the move to acquire David Johnson in the trade that sent Hopkins to the Cardinals. Johnson is an absolute afterthought in Houston, but could serve the Bills well when considering their need for another talented body that can also catch the ball out of the backfield.
This is why they were a frontrunner in trying to land Le’Veon Bell, and while Johnson is no Bell, he’s proven he can be a yards from scrimmage nightmare for opposing defenses. Just last season, he logged 820 yards from scrimmage for the Texans and he racked up 1,041 scrimmage yards and seven touchdowns in 2017. His career has been primarily driven by his ability to be a receiver as much as a running back, and that type of dual-threat ability would fit nicely with a Bills offense that’s suddenly slowing down.
With the Dolphins breathing on their neck and the Patriots not out of the picture, the Bills can’t afford to do nothing and hope the train stays on the tracks. Johnson can presumably be had for a handshake and a used envelope, having been completely devalued by the Texans, but might end up being quite the reward for Buffalo.
And, although his contract isn’t exactly a bank-breaker, the Texans would do well to offload it for acquisitions at other positions.