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Julio Cortez/Associated Press
The first week of the 2020 NFL season is in the rearview, and overreaction is going to run rampant for the next several days. However, while some fanbases may unnecessarily be in panic mode, there are legitimate concerns that will need to be addressed.
Injuries, poor performances and lack of depth have some teams in need of roster help. The Dallas Cowboys, for example, lost both tight end Blake Jarwin and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch to major injuries Sunday night.
Naturally, some of these teams are going to turn to the trade market to find reinforcements. The question is: Who are the top players in that market? That’s what we’ll determine, using factors such as roster makeup, cap space and the likelihood of player movement as a guide.
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Matt Slocum/Associated Press
To get to our top 10, we first rounded up 15 likely trade candidates based on prior speculation and a little bit of common sense. Philadelphia Eagles wideout Alshon Jeffery, for example, was the topic of trade chatter at several points in the offseason.
Though the Eagles haven’t publicly placed Jeffery on the trade block, they’ve been trying to move him since early last season, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Once the top 15 was established, we ranked players on talent level and their likelihood of being dealt.
Coming off the list this week is San Francisco 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon. Finally healthy, McKinnon was a notable piece of San Francisco’s game plan in Week 1—he had five targets, 44 scrimmage yards and a receiving touchdown and returned a kick—and will likely remain part of the offense moving forward. Replacing him is Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., for reasons we’ll get to shortly.
Buffalo Bills cornerback Josh Norman is also off the list after being placed on injured reserve. He is replaced by New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, whom New England considered trading during the offseason. Le’Veon Bell is also off after being placed on injured reserve. Allen Robinson II, who is frustrated with contract talks with the Chicago Bears, takes his place.
The initial list, in no particular order, is as follows:
- O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
- Allen Robinson II, WR, Chicago Bears
- Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns
- Joe Thuney, LG, New England Patriots
- Alshon Jeffery, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
- Ryan Kerrigan, Edge, Washington Football Team
- Jacoby Brissett, QB, Indianapolis Colts
- DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Denver Broncos
- Denzel Perryman, LB, Los Angeles Chargers
- Kenny Stills, WR, Houston Texans
- Haason Reddick, LB, Arizona Cardinals
- Trent Murphy, Edge, Buffalo Bills
- Vic Beasley Jr., Edge, Tennessee Titans
- Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots
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David J. Phillip/Associated Press
Houston Texans receiver Kenny Stills doesn’t quite have the upside of a wideout such as Allen Robinson II. However, he’s far more likely to be available—at least until or unless Robinson begins a holdout and forces Chicago’s hand.
Stills has become an expendable piece of the Texans passing attack—at least, that appears to be the case. He was targeted only twice in Thursday night’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and didn’t log a reception.
With Will Fuller V, Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb ahead of Stills in the pecking order—plus running back Duke Johnson and tight end Jordan Akins also significant pieces of the passing game—the Oklahoma product can likely be had.
Even if Stills earns a bigger role on offense, he’s scheduled to become a free agent in 2021. Houston could be interested in getting something for Stills while it can.
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Steven Senne/Associated Press
In terms of pure talent, Gilmore is at the top of this list. He is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and at 29 years old is still in his playing prime. He’s low on our list, however, because he’s only likely to be available if the Patriots fall out of contention early.
TheMMQB’s Albert Breer reported on NBC Sports Boston that New England discussed trading Gilmore “on at least two separate occasions.”
However, this was when the Patriots were hurting for cap space. The Patriots now have roughly $30 million in cap room and even recently gave Gilmore a raise for this season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
A strong offer still might pry Gilmore from New England, but probably only if the Patriots fall out of the AFC East race before the trade deadline.
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Chris O’Meara/Associated Press
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard also comes in near the bottom because he might not be that available. This wasn’t the case during the offseason, according to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, but Tampa’s asking price was an issue.
“The Buccaneers’ asking price for tight end O.J. Howard has been described as way too high, which explains why he seems to perpetually live on the trading block,” Howe wrote.
Howard is still part of a tight end room that also includes Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate, and he appears to have a fair bit of chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady. The two hooked up four times for 36 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. Gronkowski had two receptions, and Brate went without a catch.
Howard has the most trade value among these three tight ends, so he remains on our big board for now. However, another week as one of Brady’s favorite targets could push him off—with Brate potentially taking his place.
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James P. McCoy/Associated Press
It’s largely a numbers game for Bills edge-rusher Trent Murphy. He has a cap hit of $9.8 million this season and is part of a very deep pass-rushing rotation.
Buffalo added Quinton Jefferson and Mario Addison in free agency and then used a second-round draft pick on Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa.
Cap space isn’t a massive concern, as the Bills still have $5.4 million. However, it could become an issue if the team looks to add to its roster during the regular season. If this happens, Murphy could be shopped ahead of the trade deadline.
Though he has never produced double-digit sacks in a season, Murphy should have plenty of value to teams looking to bolster their pass rushes. He had a sack and two tackles in the season-opener against the New York Jets.
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Butch Dill/Associated Press
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick has been serviceable. However, he hasn’t developed into a difference-maker, and the Cardinals have given some indication they could move on from him sooner than later.
Arizona drafted a similar hybrid linebacker in Isaiah Simmons in the first round and declined Reddick’s fifth-year option.
Reddick is likely available for the right price, though don’t expect the Cardinals to let him go cheaply. Simmons had a rough debut against the 49ers, surrendering two touchdowns in pass coverage, per Anthony Treash of Pro Football Focus.
“He’ll be better for it,” Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said on Bickley and Marotta, per Tyler Drake of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
Arizona may be inclined to hang on to Reddick until Simmons is ready for a more significant workload.
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Bryan Woolston/Associated Press
After missing all of 2019, Cincinnati Bengals receiver A.J. Green made his return Sunday. He caught five passes for 51 yards and showed he is again healthy.
This is significant, as it gives Green trade value that he didn’t have. While he also possesses value to the Bengals and rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, the 32-year-old receiver probably isn’t a big part of Cincinnati’s future.
If Cincinnati falls out of playoff contention early and can get something of value for Green—who is playing on the franchise tag—he could be on the move.
While Green is Cincinnati’s most accomplished receiver, he is far from its only pass-catching weapon. With Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Tee Higgins, Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, the Bengals can afford to part with Green.
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Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
Eagles wideout Alshon Jeffery isn’t an elite receiver, but he’s a fine possession man. The problem is that he’s still recovering from Lisfranc surgery and remains on the PUP list.
Still, once Jeffery returns to the lineup and shows he is healthy, he could be one of the best receivers readily available. As previously mentioned, the Eagles have been interested in dealing Jeffery for some time. A team might be able to grab him simply by taking on his contract.
Jeffery has a cap hit of $15.4 million in 2020 with $26.1 million in dead money.
While he is one of Philadelphia’s few proven wideouts, the Eagles do have other options, including DeSean Jackson, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and rookie first-round pick Jalen Reagor.
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Nick Wass/Associated Press
Odell Beckham Jr. has proved he can be one of the game’s best wideouts when things are clicking.
However, it’s looking more and more likely that things aren’t going to click in Cleveland.
Beckham and quarterback Baker Mayfield are rarely on the same page—as was the case Sunday, when Beckham was targeted 10 times and finished with just three catches and 22 yards.
“We didn’t connect obviously as much as we’d like to,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
As Cabot pointed out, Beckham has had three or fewer catches in 35 percent of his Browns appearances and has had less than 30 yards in 23.5 percent of them. The reality is that the experiment isn’t working out, and Cleveland might be better off trying to recoup some draft capital.
Browns general manager Andrew Berry has no ties to the Beckham acquisition and could be swayed. In a new town and with a new offense, Beckham might return to being one of the game’s best.
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Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers was far from perfect in his 2020 debut—he tossed a pair of interceptions, including a killer in the fourth quarter. However, he did show he can provide a significant spark to the passing attack, finishing with 363 yards and a touchdown.
As long as Rivers can stop throwing to the wrong team, he’s likely to remain the starter. That means backup Jacoby Brissett could be available if a team loses its starter and comes calling.
Brissett has never been a high-level quarterback, but he does have 32 starts on his resume.
Indianapolis would save a significant amount of money by moving Brissett, who is carrying a cap hit of $21.4 million. That’s a lot of money for a backup, even one of the better ones in the NFL. Brissett is scheduled to become a free agent in the offseason, so trading him would at least allow the Colts to get something in return for their investment.
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Daniel Kucin Jr./Associated Press
Washington Football Team pass-rusher Ryan Kerrigan remains one of the top sack artists in the game. He proved it in Sunday’s opener against the Eagles, finishing with two sacks and reaching the No. 1 spot in the Washington record book with 92 in 10 seasons.
“This organization has been around for a really long time, seen a lot of really productive players come through. To be at the top of that list is pretty special for me,” Kerrigan said, per Zach Selby of the team’s official site.
Kerrigan could make an instant impact for teams seeking pass-rushing help. And while he has plenty of value for Washington, he’s also part of a deep defensive front that includes Montez Sweat and rookie No. 2 pick Chase Young.
With Kerrigan scheduled to become a free agent in the offseason, Washington could be inclined to move him if the right offer comes along. Every team looking to add a pass-rusher should be on the phone with Washington between now and the deadline.
Contract and cap information via Spotrac.