12 star players who could be traded during the 2018 NFL Draft

Rob Gronkowski

We’ve already seen a ton more trade action around the NFL this offseason than in previous years. Based on whispers and rumors around the water cooler, that’s not going to change during the annual draft in Dallas next week.

Sure a lot of the focus is going to be on teams potentially looking to trade up for quarterbacks. But there’s more than two handfuls of players that could be moved. That includes an All-Pro safety in Seattle as well as a generational tight end talent in New England. Here’s a look at a dozen players who could be traded during the 2018 NFL Draft.

Earl Thomas, safety, Seattle Seahawks

It’s not a secret that the Dallas Cowboys are interested in Thomas, especially after clearing cap room by releasing Dez Bryant. It’s also not a secret that Seattle has been listening to trade offers for the six-time Pro Bowl safety. With Thomas deciding not to show up to organized team activities in the week leading up to the draft, one has to wonder if his threat of a holdout is real.

All of this leads us to believe that Seattle will eventually move Thomas during the 2018 NFL Draft in Dallas next week. Whether that’s to the Cowboys remains to be seen. But the team has already traded Pro Bowler Michael Bennett and released fellow former Legion of Boom member Richard Sherman this offseason. It’s only logical to believe Thomas will soon follow.

Ryan Tannehill, quarterback, Miami Dolphins

Rumors continue to heat up that Miami is either looking to select a quarterback at No. 11 overall or move up in the first round for a signal caller. The Dolphins have already worked out Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson thus far during the pre-draft process. That’s a clear indication the team is looking at quarterback in the first round.

Coming off torn ACL that saw him miss the entire 2017 season, Tannehill may no longer figure in the Dolphins’ long-term plans. He boasts a cap hit of just $8.7 million for the 2018 season after restructuring his deal. There’s a real chance that another team finds itself in position to nab Tannehill on the cheap should said squad fail to land that quarterback it seeks in the first round. Despite already naming Tannehill the starter for next season, Miami would certainly have to listen.

Josh Gordon, wide receiver, Cleveland Browns 

It matters very little that Gordon signed his exclusive-rights free agent tender with the Browns. They can still very well move on from the embattled but talented wide receiver. After adding Jarvis Landry to the mix in a trade and with five picks in the first two rounds of the draft, Cleveland might look to move the troubled pass catcher for something of substance during the annual event.

Let’s say the Browns are able to add a receiver of their liking in Round 2 to team up with Landry and Corey Coleman. Would they then find a team that’s interested in Gordon to swing a deal for a player that simply can’t be counted on after multiple league-mandated suspensions? It’s a real possibility. But it also depends on just how the first two rounds of the draft plays out for Cleveland.

Mychal Kendricks, linebacker, Philadelphia Eagles

Despite starting 13 games and recording 73 tackles for the defending champs last season, Kendricks has long been on the chopping block. Some of that has to do with the combined $16.2 million he’s set to count against the cap over the next two seasons. Though, it’s more about Kendricks not necessarily being a fit in Jim Schwartz’s defense. That’s why we’re somewhat surprised Kendricks has not yet been released. Obviously, the Eagles are holding out hope that they can trade him.

This could very well come in the form of a draft-day deal to a team that needs someone of Kendrick’s ilk moving forward. Linked to the San Francisco 49ers in the past, they seem to be a reasonable potential landing spot due to the Reuben Foster legal issues. Though, other teams will surely come calling. Look for Kendricks to be moved for a mid-to-late round pick.

Clay Matthews, EDGE, Green Bay Packers

If the Packers were going to release this six-time Pro Bowler, it would likely have already happened. Here’s a team that’s been active in free agency. With the 31-year-old Matthews set to count $11.4 million against the cap in the final year of his deal, a release doesn’t make sense right now. On the other hand, a trade could be in the cards.

Green Bay has numerous needs heading into the 2018 NFL Draft. That includes running back, linebacker and on all levels of the secondary. Should the team be able to add a young EDGE rusher early on, it might make sense for Green Bay to move Matthews. It likely wouldn’t come in the form of anything more than a mid-round pick in return. But with Muhammad Wilkerson in the mix, a more-athletic and younger EDGE pass rusher could make sense here.

Mark Ingram, running back, New Orleans Saints

Just how much trust does New Orleans have in reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara to be a true three-down back moving forward? The former Tennessee star recorded north of 1,500 total yards and 13 touchdowns in his first season with the Saints. He also averaged less than eight rush attempts per game. It’s a major question given that Ingram is entering the final year of his contract and set to count $6.3 million against the cap next season.

Still only 28 years old and having put up a combined 2,902 total yards over the past two seasons, Ingram still holds reasonable value on the trade block. If the Saints have faith in Kamara and can turn Ingram into help in other areas, a trade might be quick to develop come next weekend.

Ezekiel Ansah, EDGE, Detroit Lions

Ansah finally signed the $17.1 million franchise tag tender Detroit placed on him back in March. It’s rather clear he’s not excited about being given the tag after putting up a 12-sack performance last season. If the indication is that he might remain a malcontent, it’s more than plausible that Detroit looks in a cheaper and younger direction come the first round of next week’s draft. This could include the Lions selecting an EDGE guy with the 20th pick.

It’s not much different than what the Miami Dolphins did with Jarvis Landry. They signed him with the intent of getting something in return. Much like Landry, they’ll be a decent market for Ansah’s services. The idea would be another team willing to give him the long-term contract it’s readily apparent the Lions don’t think he’s worth.

Giovani Bernard, running back, Cincinnati Bengals

Pretty much the perfect example of a change-of-pace back we have in today’s NFL, Bernard put up 1,000-plus total yards in each of his first three NFL seasons prior to missing six games to injury back in 2016. He responded by putting up 847 yards while catching 43 of 60 targets last season. It’s this type of production in both aspects of the game that might draw interest on the open market.

For the Bengals’ part, they now have a true three-down back in the form of Joe Mixon and might be looking to go in another direction when it comes to a pass-catcher at that position. Acquiring a mid-round pick in exchange for someone that didn’t seem to be a fit in Bill Lazor’s offensive system in 2017 would work well.

Randall Cobb, wide receiver, Green Bay Packers

Having already moved on from Jordy Nelson there’s a decent chance these Packers look to continue their rebuild at wide receiver in the coming draft. The recently-extended Davante Adams figures into the team’s long-term plans but there’s nothing to guarantee that Cobb will be in Green Bay beyond the 2018 campaign. He’s a slot receiver extraordinaire and someone that rarely has success on the outside. It’s a role Ty Montgomery could fill moving forward.

From a Packers perspective, the idea here would be to move on from Cobb’s $12.7 million cap hit next season while finding a complement to Adams on the outside. If that’s the case, Green Bay could make the decision to trade Cobb and replace him in the pecking order with a rookie in a draft class that’s going to see some strong value at wide receiver after Day 1.

Odell Beckham Jr., wide receiver, New York Giants

Until OBJ and the Giants come to terms on an extension, rumors will continue to swirl regarding a potential trade. That’s still going to be the case when this year’s draft kicks of next Thursday. Teams might view New York’s asking price as too high. The Giants might not be in a hurry to trade Beckham. That’s all fine. But if a trade is going to happen prior to the 2018 season, it’s more than likely going to be during the draft.

Let’s say the Giants lower their asking price to a first-round pick and change. What’s stopping a team like San Francisco from calling? It makes too much sense for both sides, especially given that New York might be able to pick up a top-10 pick in the process. Other teams will also came calling. Though, it’s all pretty much up to the Giants. If they hold firm in demanding two first-round picks, the 2018 NFL Draft will come and go without OBJ being moved. It’s that simple.

Nick Foles, quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles

Nick Foles catches a touchdown in Super Bowl LII on the play called Philly Special

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson recently indicated that it’s safe to assume Foles will be back with the team next season. In turn, the reigning Super Bowl MVP has noted that he wants to find a starting job somewhere. Is this split between the two going to be deep enough for Philadelphia to move on from its Carson Wentz’ insurance policy? We have no idea.

It is possible, however, that a quarterback-needy team misses out on its target in the first round and comes calling. That could increase the bounty Philadelphia receives in return, eventually culminating in what would be a shocking draft-day trade. Things of this ilk tend to work out. In this case, everything would have to find a way to work in the direction of Philadelphia moving on from the man primarily responsible for its first ever Super Bowl title.

Rob Gronkowski, tight end, New England Patriots

Gronkowski has yet to commit to playing next season. We know how well Bill Belichick is taking to that perception behind the scenes. It’s not good. Either you’re in or you’re out. There’s no in between for a coach that has proven to have success with a cutthroat philosophy in the past. If Gronkowski is not committed to the Patriots, there’s nothing about the history of this franchise that tells us New England won’t look to trade him.

To be clear: We’re not projecting that Gronkowski will be traded during the draft. Instead, the idea of him being dealt can’t be cast aside as some sort of ridiculous NFL rumor. The leaves are blowing in the direction of Gronkowski being a malcontent in New England. And if that’s the case, Bill and Co. aren’t going to sit back and get nothing in return. This could be an intriguing under-the-radar story once the draft opens up in Dallas next week.