The NFL might be hibernating for another six weeks or so, but soon all 32 teams will wake up cranky, hungry and maybe even ready to wheel and deal.
That’s what happened last summer, when 12 trades were consummated in August and seven more went down in early September.
We might not get another Khalil Mack-level deal, but quality veteran players will almost surely be traded as camps roll on and teams account for injuries as well as shifts in the supply and/or demand at a given position.
With that in mind, here are half a dozen trades we could see between now and that September 5 opener between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.
Yeah, the Cleveland Browns have insisted they won’t trade Duke Johnson Jr., but that could also be an attempt to drive up the asking price for the unhappy running back. And eventually, somebody might bite.
It’d make a lot of sense if those somebodies were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who ranked in the bottom five in terms of rushing yards per game and yards per carry last year and have yet to make notable changes to the offensive backfield.
That’s concerning, considering that second-round pick Ronald Jones averaged an embarrassing 1.9 yards per carry as a rookie last year, and that No. 1 back Peyton Barber also struggled with a 3.7 yards-per-attempt average.
No other backs on the roster figure to be current or future regulars.
Johnson has a solid 4.3 career yards-per-attempt average and has accumulated over 400 receiving yards in all four of his pro seasons. He’d pair well with either Barber or Jones, neither of whom were factors in the passing game last year. And with 2018 second-round pick Nick Chubb on the rise and 2017 rushing champion Kareem Hunt also on the Cleveland roster, the Browns can afford to part with Johnson.
It’s easy to see them doing so in exchange for a Day 2 draft pick, and that might be worth the sacrifice in Tampa.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank has said he wants franchise-tag recipient Grady Jarrett to be a Falcon ” for life,” per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Blank’s team used a first-round pick on defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley two years ago.
Could that leave defensive end Vic Beasley Jr. in peril?
With veteran addition Adrian Clayborn also on board, it wouldn’t be surprising if Atlanta parted ways with a talented pass-rusher who has failed to deliver outside 2016, his second season. Beasley was also a no-show at organized team activities, and in February, head coach Dan Quinn would only say that keeping Beasley was ” the plan right now,” per ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure.
Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders continue to be in desperate need of pass-rushing help. Oakland recorded a league-low 13 sacks last year-17 short of the 31st-ranked team-and with no major free-agent additions, they’re putting a lot on the shoulders of projected top edge-rushers Clelin Ferrell and Arden Key.
If there’s any indication this summer that Ferrell isn’t ready to make a major impact as a rookie and/or Key isn’t ready to break out after a quiet first campaign, the still-cap-rich Raiders should offer Atlanta a Day 2 selection for a 26-year-old pass-rusher who has an All-Pro nod on his resume.
The Raiders could also use help at cornerback, where the jury is still far from in on youngsters Gareon Conley, Nick Nelson and Trayvon Mullen. With veteran Rashaan Melvin gone, there isn’t a lot of experience there, and Jalen Ramsey is a game-changing corner.
Would the Jacksonville Jaguars actually trade a 24-year-old star who’s coming off a Pro Bowl season at a premium position? It’s not out of the question when you consider Jacksonville is projected by Spotrac to be $34 million over the salary cap next offseason, and that Ramsey’s fifth-year option would cost the team $13.7 million.
That number alone isn’t unreasonable for a player of his ilk, but there’s no flexibility without a long-term deal, and the outspoken Ramsey has already voiced his displeasure about his contract situation.
“Next year, especially after I ball, they’re going to come to me, ‘Can’t we get a little discount, 20 percent off?'” Ramsey, who skipped much of the offseason, told Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. “I’m going to tell them last year you could have gotten that discount. This year, I’m going to need all of that.”
The team has already suspended Ramsey after he criticized the media, and he sparred publicly with executive vice president Tom Coughlin over his absence from OTAs this spring.
It’s possible the Jags are growing tired of Ramsey, and that they’ll try to get something substantial for him now instead of potentially letting him walk in a year or two. If so, the Raiders might want to swoop in.
I know, I know. We just told you the Jaguars could be willing to dump one of their best players to save money, and now we’re suggesting they could deal for a potential starter who has an even higher 2019 salary than Ramsey’s.
But wide receiver Nelson Agholor isn’t scheduled to be on the books in 2020, and a Philadelphia Eagles team that is loaded at wide receiver might be willing to deal him at a bargain price ahead of a contract year. That would be ideal for the Jags, who are in win-now mode and could use another weapon for new quarterback Nick Foles.
It just so happens that Foles has tremendous chemistry with Agholor. The two hooked up nine times when Foles was the Super Bowl LII MVP, and four of Foles’ 12 touchdown passes the last two years in Philly were caught by Agholor.
New Jacksonville offensive coordinator John DeFilippo witnessed that up close and personal as the Eagles quarterbacks coach, and with the receiving corps thin and Marqise Lee’s knee still hurt, it would make sense for DeFilippo to lobby the front office to give his former team a call.
The Eagles, who already had Alshon Jeffery before they brought back DeSean Jackson and drafted J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, would be silly not to listen.
Minnesota Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes has been the subject of trade chatter for much of the offseason. Jason La Canforaof CBS Sports reported in February that the Vikings were shopping Waynes, and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported in March that teams have called Minnesota about the 26-year-old 2015 first-round pick.
And that makes sense. Waynes hasn’t lived up to expectations, and in the last six years, the Vikings have drafted three other corners-Xavier Rhodes, Mackensie Alexander and Mike Hughes-with high picks. Rhodes is a two-time Pro Bowler who signed a long-term deal in 2017, while Alexander is coming off a breakout season in the slot.
Hughes is still recovering from the torn ACL that cost him all but six games as a rookie, but as soon as they know their 2018 first-round pick is good to go, the Vikings should consider all of their options with Waynes.
While the aforementioned corner-needy Raiders would make sense as a trading partner, we’ll also propose Oakland’s geographic sibling, the San Francisco 49ers.
Richard Sherman is no longer the player he once was, Ahkello Witherspoon struggled often in his second season and K’Waun Williams might not have the ability to excel outside the slot. And while they did bring in veteran Jason Verrett in free agency, the 2014 first-round pick has played in just five games the last three seasons.
A fresh environment might be just what the doctor ordered for Waynes, and San Francisco could use that talent at corner in a critical season for Kyle Shanahan and Co. You’d think a third-round pick would suffice.
That Rob Gronkowski retirement is looking less and less like a potential prank, and the New England Patriots kinda tipped their hand that they’re looking for tight end help when they traded for Detroit’s Michael Roberts last week. But that deal fell through when Roberts failed his physical, leaving the Pats to further explore the trade market this summer.
One wonders if they might be willing to wait for Tampa Bay Buccaneers veteran Cameron Brate, who underwent hip surgery in January but expects to be healthy in time for training camp, according to Greg Auman of The Athletic.
This one’s simple. The Bucs already have a dude named O.J. Howard on their roster, and Howard should be primed for a breakout third season after he scored four touchdowns in his final six games of 2018. And Brate shouldn’t rot away behind Howard. The guy has scored 20 touchdowns the last three seasons, and he put up borderline star numbers in 2016 (660 yards and eight touchdowns with a 70.4 reception rate).
In New England, he’d be a no-brainer starter ahead of Matt LaCosse and the 38-year-old Benjamin Watson, and Watson won’t be a factor early on as he serves a four-game suspension anyway.
You’d think a middle-round draft pick would do the trick here.
Salary-cap info provided by Spotrac unless otherwise noted.