We’re not expecting that to change as the NFL prepares for its new league year in March. A number of notable veterans — some Pro Bowlers — have been bandied about as trade bait.
It’s in this that we look at the eight players most likely to be traded around the NFL over the next month or so.
Joe Flacco, quarterback, Baltimore Ravens
Having fallen behind youngster Lamar Jackson on the Ravens’ depth chart, this former Super Bowl champion will be calling another city home next season. That’s pretty much a guarantee at this point. Sure there’s a good chance that Flacco will be outright released. But based on the NFL quarterback situation, we would not be surprised if the Ravens netted something in a trade.
The 34-year-old Flacco remains a viable stopgap option for teams in need of that veteran presence. He’s also set to count $26.5 million against the cap — a number Flacco will have to decrease if he wants to be moved. Among those looking for at least short-term options at quarterback, the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars come to mind first.
Xavien Howard, cornerback, Miami Dolphins
Coming off his first ever Pro Bowl performance (watch here), there’s been murmurs in South Beach that the Dolphins might look to capitalize on Howard’s strong performance as a way to finagle multiple draft picks in an attempt to expedite their rebuild. On the surface, it makes no real sense. Howard is just 25 years old and led the NFL with seven interceptions this past season.
Looking further into it, the Dolphins would be wise to trade Howard now. Paying top dollar for a cornerback on an extension makes little sense for a rebuilding team. Now with just one season remaining on his rookie deal, Howard wants to reset the cornerback market. Why not decide to move on from him for what would amount to as a first-round pick and potential change? We’re sure the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles would be among the teams willing to give up their Day 1 pick in April’s draft.
Antonio Brown, wide receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers
Now that Brown’s request for a trade is public record, there’s a darn good chance he’ll be moved before the start of the new league year on March 13. We already know the backstory here. Brown got into a late-season rift with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It led to him being benched for Pittsburgh’s Week 17 game. Since then, he’s been in the news through his own actions on social media and one seemingly disturbing off-field incident.
What we do know is that Brown has been the game’s most productive receiver over the past six seasons — averaging 114 receptions for 1,524 yards and 11 touchdowns per season during that span. He continues to make awe-inspiring plays. Favored by Vegas to land Brown, the San Francisco 49ers could work out a trade in short order. From Pittsburgh’s perspective, said trade would have to occur before Brown receives his $2.5 million roster bonus on March 17 — making it likely he’ll be moved within the next month.
Leonard Williams, defensive line, New York Jets
New York has said everything right publicly as it relates to retaining Williams long term. At issue here is the team’s willingness to pay $100-plus million to a defensive lineman on a long-term deal as it looks to continue building around young quarterback Sam Darnold. The Jets have already picked up the $14.2 million option on Williams’ contract for the 2019 season. This makes it easier for the team to potentially trade him while adding multiple draft picks in return.
A former top-six pick from USC, the 24-year-old Williams is not scheme specific. He has the ability to play inside in traditional sets while moving outside in 3-4 defenses. This should make his market relatively plentiful should the Jets look to move him. A one-time Pro Bowler, Williams has recorded 85 quarterback hits in four seasons. Not too shabby.
Nick Mullens, quarterback, San Francisco 49ers
Could San Francisco look to take advantage of how Mullens’ performance as a first-time starter last season? We’re not sure what type of trade value the former undrafted free agent might have, but he could be a low-cost alternative to some of the pedestrian veterans set to hit either the trade or free agent market.
Mullens, 23, completed 64.2 percent of his passes for a whopping 2,277 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in eight starts last season. Pure speculation here, but the Denver Broncos might came calling. They just hired former 49ers quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello as their new offensive coordinator. He worked wonders with Mullens in San Francisco last season.
Duke Johnson, running back, Cleveland Browns
After having signed the troubled Kareem Hunt earlier in February, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey would not commit to keeping Johnson around for next season. Once Hunt actually does suit up for Cleveland, Johnson would find himself third on the Browns’ depth chart. He’s too quality of a player for that to happen.
After signing a three-year, $15.6 million extension with the Browns back in June of 2018, Johnson went on to put up the worst statistical performance of his four-year career. However, he’s still averaging about 60 receptions per season. In today’s pass-first NFL, that type of threat out of the backfield is invaluable.
Nick Foles, quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles
Now that the Eagles picked up Foles’ contract option and he bought himself out of it by paying back $2 million, the next logical step is for Philadelphia to trade the former Super Bowl MVP. Though, it’s not necessarily as clear-cut as that. Recent reports suggest that the Eagles can expect a third-round pick back as compensation. Given how watered down the quarterback market will be, that seems like the team selling low on the starter-caliber signal caller.
Either way, A Foles trade should happen here within the next month or so. He’s already been linked to the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars and even the Oakland Raiders. Some team might be willing to hand over a second-round pick for a quarterback that boasts a 10-3 record as a starter over the past two seasons and just comes up clutch.
Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE, Houston Texans
On the surface, this seems absolutely ridiculous. Not only did Houston exhaust the No. 1 overall pick on Clowney back in 2014, it has invested a whole lot of patience in the star pass rusher. Said patience has paid off to the tune of 59 quarterback hits and 24.5 sacks over the past three seasons.
The issue here is the NFL’s salary cap. Houston already has fellow pass rusher J.J. Watt playing under a six-year, $100 million contract. It also has to think about the long-term cap ramifications that will come with extending both Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins. One has to wonder if the Texans would be better off acquiring a ton of draft capital in a blockbuster trade surrounding this soon-to-be 26-year-old elite talent.