As NFL teams prepare for the start of training camp, there’s still a lot of unfinished business from the spring and summer. We saw this first-hand with the Le’Veon Bell and Kirk Cousins situations coming to a culmination earlier this week.
In a league that’s more defined by free agency and the draft, we rarely see trades shake up its landscape. Though, this year might be a bit of an exception to the rule. The New York Jets are in full-scale tanking mode and have a solid asset in Sheldon Richardson to move. Meanwhile, the Cousins’ situation in D.C. seems to be growing more worrisome with every passing day.
These are among the six players we as a collective football community would love to see traded during training camp. Some are included in this article simply because a change of scenery is in order. Others are included because contending teams might want to upgrade their rosters. In any event, have fun reading the six names below.
Sheldon Richardson, defensive line, New York Jets
If the Jets are going to tank in 2017, it would make perfect sense for them to move a player in Richardson who will be a free agent following the 2017 campaign and has been on the trade block for some time now. Richardson, 26, is set to earn $8-plus million in 2017. And there’s really no future for him in New York with the likes of Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson already locked up over the long term.
It remains to be seen what New York might be able to get for Richardson. Sure the team didn’t like the offers it received during the draft, but things have surely changed since then. In reality, some contending team should call up the Jets’ brass and see if Richardson is still available. Here’s a guy that remains one of the most versatile defensive linemen in the game. He can play inside in a 4-3 and outside in a 3-4. Heck, Richardson dropped back into coverage as a linebacker last season.
Teams like the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys would be optimal landing spots for Richardson. In reality, it could put both defenses over the top in terms of contending for a Lombardi Trophy in 2017. And while a long-term contract wouldn’t necessarily be in the cards, renting Richardson for one year could make sense.
Jordan Matthews, wide receiver, Philadelphia Eagles
Now that the Eagles have Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith slated to play big roles in 2017, Matthews has been relegated to likely slot duties. This comes after the former second-round pick and fellow youngster Nelson Agholor let then rookie quarterback Carson Wentz down big time this past season. Simply put, the Eagles themselves are obviously not sold on Matthews playing a huge role moving forward. Hence, why he was on the trade block during the spring (more on that here).
Still only 25 years old, Matthews provides a nice amount of upside. Remember, he’s one year removed from putting up nearly 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns in Philadelphia. That’s most definitely nothing to sneeze at. And in reality, a change of scenery could make a ton of sense here.
It’s also important to note that contending teams are not without their issues at receiver. Just look at the Minnesota Vikings as a case study here. The team reached for the troubled Michael Floyd in free agency, only to see him suspended four games by the NFL after violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The desperation there seems to be real in Minnesota, especially after 2016 first-round pick Laquon Treadwell struggled as a rookie.
There’s definitely a market for Matthews. It just remains to be seen if Philadelphia has given up on him completely. If that is indeed the case, we would love to see him moved during training camp. Finding that right spot could help this youngster overcome his recent struggles.
Joe Haden, cornerback, Cleveland Browns
We’re not including Haden in this article because he’s still a Pro Bowl caliber corner. Those days surely have passed. Haden, 28, has dealt with injuries in each of the past two seasons. That’s led directly to a downtick in athleticism and production on the football field.
But let’s be clear here. Cleveland is no way going to compete for a playoff spot next season. Heck, it would be lucky to find its way out of the AFC North cellar. Haden himself simply doesn’t fit into the team’s long-term plans.
In today’s pass-first NFL, the value of experienced corner play has gone up big time. Just look at the contracts A.J. Bouye and Stephon Gilmore received in free agency. They represented the two-largest deals in terms of total value on the free agent market. Neither has Pro Bowl pedigree like Haden boasts.
This seems to indicate that a contending team might send a decent pick to Cleveland in return for Haden. The Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks are all in need of corner help. Why not take a chance that Haden can turn his career around in a new city? It’s definitely worth a look. And as it relates to the Browns, they have been all about stockpiling picks. Why change that MO now?
Jeremy Hill, running back, Cincinnati Bengals
Now that the Bengals exhausted a second-round pick on the troubled Joe Mixon, one of their veterans will likely be the odd-man out this summer. Some might point to Giovani Bernard as the one player Cincinnati might move. Though, that’s unlikely going to be the case considering what Bernard brings to the table in the passing game.
The 25-year-old back has acted as Andy Dalton’s safety valve throughout his young career, putting up 187 receptions in 55 games. He also tallied 1,000-plus total yards in his first three NFL seasons before being limited to injury last year. Bernard would definitely be a solid one-two punch with Mixon.
As it relates to Hill, he’s definitely limited in what he brings to the table. The former LSU standout did average 10 touchdowns in his first three seasons in the NFL. He’s also gained 1,000-plus total yards in two of those seasons. The issue here is that Hill has primarily been used as a short-yardage back, averaging less than four yards per rush in each of the past two years. That’s a role Mixon should be able to fill as a rookie in 2017.
All is not lost for Hill. We really want to see how he might perform in a power-running scheme. A team that might have a need for a two-down back to go with another player that provides more out on the boundaries. That’s where the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs might come into play.
Trumaine Johnson, cornerback, Los Angeles Rams
We already know that Los Angeles placed Johnson on the trade block leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft. Simply put, this Pro Bowl-caliber corner is not a fit in Wade Phillips new defensive scheme. That’s the primary reason many expect Johnson to be moved here in short order. Let’s not even get into the fact that he’s set to play under the $16.7 million franchise tag tender in 2017.
Unfortunately, any potential trade is held up by the fact that Johnson is unable to receive an extension prior to the end of the 2017 season. This means that any team attempting to trade for him would have to absorb that $16.7 million salary. As of now, less than half the teams in the NFL have that capability.
At 27 years old and entering the prime of his career, teams trading for Johnson wouldn’t necessarily be limited to contenders. That’s definitely good news for fans in San Francisco and Chicago — two teams that could use long-term solutions at cornerback. Of the contending teams potentially in play, the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans both have the capability to add Johnson’s salary.
Kirk Cousins, quarterback, Washington Redskins
At this point, things have seemingly gone south between Cousins and the Redskins. It came to a culmination on Monday when Washington itself blamed Cousins for the lack of a long-term deal. This comes following months of speculation that Cousins himself wants out of dodge, primarily suggestions that he would love to play for the San Francisco 49ers.
While San Francisco has a stopgap starter in Brian Hoyer, there’s been increased chatter that the team will make a play for Cousins in free agency next March. Why not expedite what many now see as a foregone conclusion? For the 49ers, it would enable the team to secure its franchise quarterback at well below-market cost for the 2017 season.
As it relates to Washington, here’s an organization that is seemingly headed for a run-in with drama should Cousins play the 2017 season as a lame-duck quarterback. Why not attempt to get something for a player that’s likely to move on for free next March?
We know Redskins owner Daniel Snyder does not like the idea of moving Cousins to San Francisco, especially with former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan calling the shots in Northern California.
So if Washington is unwilling to make that move, what about the Cleveland Browns or Denver Broncos? Sure Cousins could end up becoming a free agent next March, but each team could actually place the franchise tag tender on him once again.
Either way, we definitely don’t like the idea of more drama taking hold in D.C. this upcoming fall. Unfortunately, it seems like that will be the case should Cousins start the season under center.