Trades are not as prevalent around the NFL as they are in other sports. We simply don’t see blockbuster trades come down the pike too often. This is primarily due to the league boasting a hard cap and the value teams place on draft picks.
Though, there’s definitely been a few exceptions to this rule in the recent past. The defending champion New England Patriots are a prime example of this. Over the course of the past calendar year alone, New England has acquired tight end Martellus Bennett in a trade while sending the likes of Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins packing in separate deals. It’s an MO that has come to define the Patriots and is something other teams might want to pick up on.
We can surely expect an uptick in action on the trade market when March comes calling. There’s a talent vacuum at quarterback around the NFL, which will put some teams that remain in good standing at that position out there to acquire solid assets in return. We’re talking about the Dallas Cowboys with Tony Romo and the aforementioned Patriots with backup Jimmy Garoppolo.
On the other side of the ball, it wouldn’t necessarily be a surprise to see the New York Jets move on from Sheldon Richardson and the Chicago Bears end the Kyle Fuller experiment.
These are among the 10 NFL players that could be traded this offseason.
1. Brandon Marshall, wide receiver, New York Jets
It’s not a secret that Marshall’s future with the Jets is up in the air. Along with the rest of the team, the veteran is coming off a disappointing 2016 performance. He put up just 59 receptions for 788 yards and three touchdowns en route to his worst statistical outing since his rookie season.
Marshall, 32, is also set to count $7.5 million against the cap in 2017. It’s not a tremendously high number for someone of his ilk, but it sure doesn’t mesh well with what we saw from the declining receiver last season. Despite this, Marshall considers himself underpaid by the Jets. Just imagine how that whole thing is playing out within New York’s front office.
While there’s definitely a scenario in play here that suggests the Jets will release Marshall outright, look for an attempt by the team to get something in return. One year removed from a 1,500-yard, 14-touchdown performance, there could be some interest. That’s only magnified by the above-mentioned cap hit for 2017.
2. Jamaal Charles, running back, Kansas City Chiefs
Consider this: Kansas City averaged nearly 110 rushing yards per game this past season. That’s a solid overall performance from the team’s underrated plethora of running backs. Now add in the fact that Charles attempted a total of 12 rushes in three games while dealing with injuries, and that’s an even more amazing accomplishment.
We already know that the Chiefs rely on a short passing game and a solid rushing attack. We also know that their scheme makes it an almost certainty they don’t need to pay an injury-plagued Charles the $6.2 million he’s owed next season. That’s only magnified by the fact that Spencer Ware — earning all of $1.2 million next season — tallied nearly 1,400 total yards in 2016.
As with Marshall, there’s a scenario in play here that suggests Charles will be released outright. The problem with this is that Kansas City has a $5 million dead cap hit if it were to release him. This leads us to believe the team will put him on the trade block.
While the market for a 30-year-old back that has played a total of eight games over the past two seasons isn’t tremendous, there’s still some value here. When healthy, Charles has proven himself to be dynamic dual threat out of the backfield.
There’s surely going to be a team show interest, especially with his relatively low cap hit and the likelihood that acquiring him wouldn’t be terribly expensive.
It looks like the Chiefs want Charles to return. As a veteran of that club, it would be hard for the team to move on. But as we already know, the NFL is a business. If Kansas City can get something in return here, it most likely will look into it.
3. Sheldon Richardson, defensive line, New York Jets
With the Jets having committed $86 million over five seasons to fellow defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, it is going to be pretty darn difficult for the team to dole out top-end money to Richardson while improving the rest of a talent-stricken and aging roster.
Richardson, a first-round pick of the team back in 2013, has played himself into a huge contract. He’s also been bandied about as trade bait in the recent past. With an $8 million cap hit for 2017 and no dead money, the Jets are in a prime position to get something of substance for the former Pro Bowler.
What makes Richardson such an attractive option on the trade market is that he’s not scheme-dependent. Here’s a guy that can play on the outside in a 3-4 while moving inside in a 4-3. This means that every defensive line-needy team could use him. He’s not limited. That’s huge, especially when it comes to what the Jets will need in return to move him.
Richardson put up 62 tackles and just 1.5 sacks this past season. Though, he remains one of the top run-stuffing defensive linemen in the game. In fact, the 26-year-old has to be considered one of the primary reasons New York’s defense finished in the top 10 against the run this past season.
Look for a solid market to play out here before the upcoming draft. Should that happen, the Jets may be willing to swap Richardson for either a late first or early second-round pick. If so, multiple teams will come calling.
4. Jason Peters, offensive tackle, Philadelphia Eagles
Despite his recent 10-game ban for PED use, former first-round pick Lane Johnson is the Eagles’ future at left tackle. Should he remain clean off the field, Johnson will act as Carson Wentz’s blindside protector over the long term. This makes Peters’ presence in Philadelphia pretty much unnecessary.
At age 35, there might not be a huge market for Peters’ services in a potential trade. That’s only magnified by the fact that he’s set to count $11.2 million against the cap next season. In reality, and as has been reported recently, releasing Peters might be the likelier end result here.
With that said, he’s earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in each of the nine seasons in which he’s played and remains one of the best pass-protecting tackles in the NFL. These elite-level performers simply don’t grow on trees. Should Peters agree to restructure his deal on a new team, there’s a scenario in play here where he could be dealt for a mid-to-late round pick. We definitely wouldn’t rule that out.
5. Kirk Cousins, quarterback, Washington Redskins
Will he be franchised or won’t he? That’s the $20 million question Washington will be answering here in the not-so-distant future. Initial indications were that Cousins might hold out if he were given the dreaded tag a second consecutive season. Now, it looks like he’s accepted it. With this, the Redskins almost certainly will place the tag on Cousins before March.
In no way does this mean Cousins is a guarantee to return to Washington. As long as the team places the non-exclusive tag on its Pro Bowl quarterback, another squad could come in and pony up two first-round picks for Cousins. While that seems highly unlikely, it has already been bandied about in San Francisco (more on that here).
There’s also another scenario in play here. Cousins could ink the franchise tender with the knowledge that he would then be traded. In return, the Redskins would get something less than two first rounders as a bounty in a potential deal. With obvious connections to new 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, this might not be an unrealistic possibility.
Either way, Cousins will be a wanted man once the new league years starts next month. He’s coming off a 2016 campaign that saw him put up nearly 5,000 passing yards with 29 total touchdowns and 12 interceptions. It was Cousins second consecutive stellar performance for the Redskins.
Surely it looks like Cousins is a franchise quarterback. Despite this, there seems to be an indication from the brass in D.C. that it doesn’t want to dole out a long-term contract to the signal caller. Should things spiral out of control here, a trade becomes a strong possibility.
6. Kyle Fuller, cornerback, Chicago Bears
There’s a train of thought out there that Fuller does not want to remain with the Bears. Whether it’s a rift with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, an issue with the scheme or something completely different, reports form the Windy City regarding the former first-round pick are not good.
Issues arose about Fuller’s willingness to actually return to the field following knee surgery during the summer. Some close to the Bears’ organization claimed that he wasn’t committed to playing for what had ended up being a losing team. It was a major sticking point between the Bears an their first-round pick from just back in 2014 (via the Chicago Tribune).
But remember, Fuller was selected by former general manager Phil Emery. The Bears’ new front office has no built-in relationship with him. If there’s indeed a feeling that he’s not committed, it’s more likely than not he will be sent packing.
From a talent standpoint, Fuller would be a tremendous asset for pretty much every team in the NFL. He didn’t play at all this past season due to the above-mentioned injury, but the Virginia Tech product was a Pro Bowl-caliber player in each of his first two years in the NFL. You don’t magically lose that talent overnight.
Should Chicago place Fuller on the block, there’s no reason to believe it can’t get a Day 2 pick for the youngster. And in reality, that might be the best move. After all, the Bears did finish a surprising seventh against the pass with him sidelined this past season.
7. Joe Thomas, offensive tackle, Cleveland Browns
There’s been rumors on top of rumors surrounding Thomas’ future in Cleveland. Does he want to be traded? Is he okay with another lengthy rebuild? Will the Browns look to turn the future Hall of Famer into more draft assets? That all pretty much took a backseat this past season when Thomas earned his 10th consecutive Pro Bowl to start his career.
As dominating as any offensive tackle in NFL history, Thomas did his best to help Cleveland overcome the losses of mainstays Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz along the offensive line. While it might have been a futile effort for Brown, who had to go through a one-win season, his performance and drive can’t be questioned.
Though, at 32 years old and the window quickly closing in his career, it would not be a surprise to see Thomas ask for a way out of Cleveland. The team is nowhere near contention. It also might owe it to the offensive tackle to move him to a team with a chance to win. That’s where a squad like the New England Patriots might come into play.
Cleveland and New England worked out a deal this past season with Jamie Collins heading to the Browns. They have a relationship when it comes to the teams’ front offices. And the Pats might be looking for an upgrade at offensive tackle. Of course, that’s all conjecture.
Either way we spin it, there’s a good chance Cleveland will move Thomas for some future assets between now and the draft. With pretty much every NFL team looking for an upgrade, the market will be bountiful here. Just ask the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks, both of whom are in need of an upgrade at left tackle.
8. Jimmy Garoppolo, quarterback, New England Patriots
There’s definitely an interesting dynamic to look at here. Over the course of the past several months, New England has dealt away young defenders Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins for future assets. It’s an MO that has defined this organization for some time now. It’s also what has enabled the Patriots to be consistent winners. Despite dealing away these two talented youngsters, the Patriots were able to hoist their fifth Lombardi of the Tom Brady era earlier in February.
With Brady himself seemingly committed to playing another three-to-five years, there’s really no reason for the defending champs to keep Garoppolo. That’s only magnified by what promises to be a strong market for his services — a market that could bring back a first-round pick in return.
Cleveland has already been bandied about as a possibility. And that makes a ton of sense. As mentioned above, the Browns and Patriots have worked on multiple trades in the past. This would also enable Cleveland to avoid going quarterback with the first overall pick.
Replacing Tom Brady for the first two games of the season prior to suffering an injury, this former second-round pick completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 502 yards with four touchdowns and zero picks. He’s proven himself starter-ready and should draw a ton of interest in free agency. If that were to happen, New England would likely move on from him in short order, ultimately relying on 2016 mid-round pick Jacoby Brissett to back Brady up. It just makes too much sense.
9. Jimmy Graham, tight end, Seattle Seahawks
Graham rebounded from a disastrous first season with Seattle to perform at a Pro Bowl level this past year. The veteran ended the 2016 campaign having caught 65 passes for 923 yards with six touchdowns. It was the best performance of Graham’s career since he was an All Pro for the New Orleans Saints back in 2013.
So, why should the Seahawks move a valuable contributor on an otherwise pedestrian offense? The answer to this is two-fold.
First off, Graham is set to count $10 million against the cap in 2017. That’s a lot of dough for a team that’s currently projected to have just $24.4 million in cap room — a total that’s going to have to be used to help bolster one of the league’s worst offensive lines. With a weak class both in terms of free agency and the draft, Seattle could use Graham as bait to acquire a top-end left tackle to protect franchise quarterback Russell Wilson.
The second point here is a bit more complicated. As we mentioned above, Graham had a strong second season in Seattle. He’s also not a tremendous fit in what’s supposed to be a run-heavy offense. Set to become a free agent following the 2017 campaign, Seattle might look to get something in return for him now.
10. Tony Romo, quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
We simply couldn’t end this article without focusing on Romo. He’s more likely to be traded than any other player listed here. With Dak Prescott acting as both the current starting quarterback and the future of the Cowboys’ franchise, Romo’s days in Big D appear numbered.
It was noted in January that the Cowboys’ top priority this offseason is to trade Romo. Considering he has a $19.6 million dead cap hit should he be released, that makes the most sense.
And despite missing the bulk of the past two seasons to injury, there’s going to be some strong interest in Romo on the open market. Said interest might include teams such as the 49ers, who aren’t necessarily in contention. But it’s more likely that Romo will go to a team of his choosing. A team with an opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl over the short term.
Some talk has surrounded the Denver Broncos as a possible landing spot. They are said to be Romo’s preferred destination. But apparently, head coach Vance Joseph and Co. seem okay with their current quarterback situation. This makes the situation even more convoluted, especially with Carson Palmer announcing his return to the Arizona Cardinals.
Of teams with a potential to compete for a title next season, the Houston Texans seem to be favored as a landing spot. Even then, can Houston justify paying Romo $24.7 million with free-agent bust Brock Osweiler on the roster? Outside of that, it’s slim pickings for Romo.
None of this means that Romo won’t find a starting job. It just might not be with a team that already has a championship-caliber roster. That could lead to potential retirement talk. If not, look for him to be traded between now and the end of March.