Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is complete and teams have a direct knowledge of how their rosters might look heading into the coming season, there promises to several surprising moves during the summer. Some star players might find themselves released later in the process. Others could very well be traded after younger options were selected during the draft.
From a couple EDGE rushers entering the final year of their rookie contracts to a troubled wide receiver in Cleveland, here’s a look at 15 NFL players who could still be traded before the 2018 season.
Dante Fowler Jr., EDGE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Now that Jacksonville has decided against picking up the fifth-year option on Fowler’s rookie contract, the young pass rusher has been put on notice big time. In fact, the team’s press release in announcing this decision seemingly upped the ante quite a bit. After missing his entire rookie season to injury, the freakish former Florida standout has recorded 12 sacks in part-time duty over the past two seasons. With a whole plethora of front-seven options and what would likely be a strong trade market, we could easily envision Jacksonville attempting to get something solid for this still young 23-year-old defender.
Justin Hardy, wide receiver, Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta surprised quite a few people when it decided to select Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley in the first round of this year’s draft. With Julio Jones still dominating on the outside, it seemed to be a luxury pick. It also creates potentially the most-talented wide receiver tandem in the NFC. That could lead to the Falcons deciding to move on from this former fourth-round pick. Despite catching only 41 passes over the past two seasons, Hardy has hauled in seven touchdowns to go with a splendid 68 percent reception rate. Without a ton of targets to go around, the Falcons could look to move the slot receiver to a squad that would use him more.
Shane Ray, EDGE, Denver Broncos
Seeing Bradley Chubb fall onto their laps with the fifth pick in April’s draft changed the entire dynamic of Denver’s plans moving forward. Instead of picking up the final year of Ray’s rookie contract, the Broncos are going to be banking on Chubb to form the best pass-rush tandem in the NFL with Von Miller. To be clear, that’s not even close to a stretch. So just one year after being seen as the heir apparent to DeMarcus Ware, Ray could very well be on his outs in Denver. A first-round pick back in 2015, Ray recorded eight sacks as a sophomore. Though, a nagging wrist injury limited him to one sack last season. The upside is here. And teams will certainly coming calling about his availability prior to the start of the 2018 season.
Randall Cobb, wide receiver, Green Bay Packers
Having already moved on from Jordy Nelson, it seems illogical to believe the Packers will do the same with Randall Cobb. That’s until we realize he’s set to become a free agent following the 2018 season and comes with a $12-plus million cap hit. Sure Cobb has performed well with Aaron Rodgers under center, but he seems to be more of a product of the Packers’ system more than anything. He’s also limited to a slot role, which could easily force Cobb out of town now that Ty Montgomery might ultimately return to receiver after taking on emergency running back duties the past two seasons. Assuming a team shows interest in Cobb, trading him would be a cost effective move for the Pack.
Mike Gillislee, running back, New England Patriots
We know the entire story surrounding running backs in Bill Belichick’s system with the Pats. Never rely on one for fantasy production. They rarely see true three-down duties with multiple backs being utilized in specific roles. Expect that to change now that New England exhausted a first-round pick on Georgia product Sony Michel. It’s only the second time in his near two decades with the Pats that Belichick has gone running back in Round 1. Now that New England has re-signed Rex Burkhead and signed short-yardage back Jeremy Hill, there doesn’t seem to be any room at running back for Gillislee. Given his ability to catch passes out of the backfield and high touchdown rate (14 scores in 270 touches with New England), Gillislee would draw some solid interest on the trade block.
Reshad Jones, safety, Miami Dolphins
We still haven’t an idea how the Dolphins plan to use rookie-first round pick, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. He could play single-high safety or line up on the outside at corner, much like we see with a similar player in Jalen Ramsey for the Jaguars. No matter how the Dolphins plan to use their talented new defender, it could mark the end of an era for a former Pro Bowler in Jones. Sure the safety signed a five-year, $60 million extension with Miami last year. But based on what we’ve seen from this front office, that means very little. If the Dolphins can get a solid pick in return from a team like the Cowboys who missed out on Earl Thomas, why not consider it?
Mackensie Alexander, cornerback, Minnesota Vikings
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman loves himself some early-round cornerbacks. Since taking over as the Vikes de facto GM back in 2006, the team has exhausted a first or second-round pick on cornerback seven times. That includes three first-round selections over the past six years. Central Florida product Mike Hughes is now the latest of this group. With this type of depth and now that Terence Newman is returning for another season, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for Alexander to see playing time. A second-round pick back in 2016, Alexander has seen very limited playing time thus far in his career. He’s still just 24 years old and boasts a tremendous amount of upside. If the Vikings’ patience is coming to an end here, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the team flip him for something decent.
Giovani Bernard, running back, Cincinnati Bengals
Last year’s second-round pick, Joe Mixon, figures to be a three-down back for the Bengals this coming season. It’s one of the reasons Marvin Lewis and Co. decided to let Jeremy Hill depart in free agency. Cincinnati also selected a talented Mark Walton in the fourth round of April’s draft. That’s a clear indication that the team plans on him playing a vital role on offense. It also means that Bernard is likely on his way out of Cincy. In today’s NFL, a running back of Bernard’s ilk brings a ton more value given that he’s among the best receiving backs in the game. Here’s a guy that’s averaging 46 receptions with a 75 percent catch rate in five NFL seasons. Teams are in need of that type of production and will certainly be willing to give Cincinnati a mid-round pick for his services.
Breshad Perriman, wide receiver, Baltimore Ravens
If the Ravens’ offseason has shown us anything it’s that the team has absolutely no faith in Perriman moving forward. In fact, Baltimore has added the likes of veterans Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John Brown in free agency. It also made a strong push for Dez Bryant. There’s no real belief within Baltimore’s front office that Perriman will overcome a three-year start to his career that saw the former first-round pick put up 43 combined receptions. Selling him off for even a late-round pick seems to make a ton of sense in this situation. If so, another squad might take a chance on Perriman’s upside without having to risk much.
Noah Spence, defensive end, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Spence was seen as an absolute steal after being selected in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft following a myriad of off-field issues in college. A high-upside EDGE rusher with the athleticism to dominate, Spence has yet to turn that into production at the NFL level. He’s recorded just 6.5 sacks in two seasons. This forced the Buccaneers to exhaust a third-round pick in a trade for veteran Jason Pierre-Paul earlier in the offseason. The team also added Vinny Curry in free agency. Could this lead to Tampa Bay deciding to move on from the Spence project after two seasons? We certainly wouldn’t put it past the team. At 24 years old, another pass-rush needy squad would definitely come calling.
Jack Mewhort, guard, Indianapolis Colts
By adding guards with their first two selections in April’s draft, the Colts addressed a major need in front of injured quarterback Andrew Luck. The selections of Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith will also raise questions about Mewhort’s future in Indianapolis. A second-round pick back in 2014, Mewhort has spent time at both guard and tackle during his career. Outside of kicking back outside following an injury-plagued 2017 campaign, it’s reasonable to believe the Colts will consider moving the Ohio State product. Having re-signed with Indy on a one-year, $1.5 million contract earlier in the spring, his contract wouldn’t be a sticking point for team potentially looking to trade for the plus-level interior lineman.
Chris Thompson, running back, Washington Redskins
If the Redskins aren’t going to use Thompson properly, we’re pretty darn sure another team might do just that. After putting up north of 800 total yards in 10 games prior to a season-ending injury, there’s little doubting the impact Thompson has on an offense. The issue here is that he averaged a whopping 10 touches per game. Come on, Jay Gruden. Now that Washington spent a second-round pick on Derrius Guice and seems to be smitten with Rob Kelley, there’s a decent chance this squad looks to trade the 27-year-old Thompson. If so, multiple teams will coming calling.
Jimmie Ward, defensive back, San Francisco 49ers
Despite picking up the final year of Ward’s rookie contract, there’s a decent chance San Francisco looks to trade him prior to the 2018 season. We’ve learned that GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan are not afraid to move on from players acquired by the team’s prior regime. While he has proven to be a plus-level defensive back, Ward could very well be the next to go. He’s missed 14 games to injury over the past two seasons and there’s no real set role in the 49ers’ improved secondary for the former first-round pick. With a cap hit of $8.5 million, it might be hard to get anything of substance for Ward. But San Francisco could very well be looking at Ward as someone who is stunting the growth of other young defensive backs.
Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback, New York Jets
Reports came out around draft time that Bridgewater was not guaranteed a roster spot after signing with the team back in March. Given that the Jets then exhausted the No. 3 overall pick on quarterback Sam Darnold, it’s now nowhere near a certainty that Teddy will actually ever suit up in Jersey. The former Vikings first-round pick was given just $1 million guaranteed at the time of signing. His deal calls for a $5 million base salary next season. Assuming he’s healthy, this would make Bridgewater a highly-coveted figure on the trade block. After all, some of the league’s backup quarterbacks are downright atrocious.
Josh Gordon, wide receiver, Cleveland Browns
Having added Jarvis Landry during free agency and talented youngster Antonio Callaway in the draft, could Cleveland finally decide to move on from the Gordon project? The team might have committed a lot of resources in helping get Gordon right off the field, but GM John Dorsey has no built-in relationship with this former NFL leading receiver. Is Dorsey really willing to give Gordon a mentor role for another troubled receiver in the form of Callaway? We’re not too sure. What we do know is that Gordon would draw a ton of interest on the trade block should Cleveland go in that direction.