Now that the 2021 NFL Draft has come and gone, the next major transaction deadline to look forward to in pro football is June 1, because that’s when even the seemingly wildest trade scenarios become possible.
Teams have filled out their depth charts with their draft classes, and once that aforementioned ultimatum hits next month, dead money salary cap hits in prospective blockbuster trades can be spread over multiple years. Thus, even superstars with gigantic contracts are far easier to move.
Here’s a look at five epic NFL trade scenarios we’d love to see as the offseason continues to unfold.
Aaron Rodgers to Las Vegas Raiders
- TRADE: Green Bay Packers send QB Aaron Rodgers to Raiders for QB Derek Carr, two first-round picks, 2022 second-round pick
First of all, Rodgers wants out of Green Bay. Second, there’s rumored to be an overhaul in the Raiders’ front office in the works. Third, Las Vegas is seemingly allergic to fully committing to Carr. Fourth, oddsmakers list the Denver Broncos and Raiders as favorites to acquire Rodgers in a trade.
So if Las Vegas’ power structure is indeed changing soon, what better way for the new leadership to make its mark than to swing an amazing, franchise-altering trade like this?
Parting with so much draft capital when there’s still lots to improve on the defense will hurt the Raiders. However, Rodgers’ presence is going to make Las Vegas a far more attractive destination right away, and paying a higher price in draft picks is the cost of keeping an electric core of pass-catchers led by tight end Darren Waller and speedster Henry Ruggs.
Not only would Richard Sherman probably come running to the Raiders to help their secondary if this Rodgers trade gets done, but Las Vegas has a projected $80 million in cap space in 2022. Rodgers would probably sign a new deal or restructure so he doesn’t cut into that too much, as long as the Raiders give him the commitment that Green Bay refuses to.
Julio Jones to New York Jets
- TRADE: Atlanta Falcons send WR Julio Jones to Jets for 2022 second-round pick, 2023 third-round pick
Atlanta doesn’t have a lot of leverage here. Finding a suitor who’ll take on Jones’ contract at this stage of his career is hard enough. Never mind that everyone knows Calvin Ridley hits free agency next offseason, and that the Falcons’ salary cap situation is among the NFL’s worst.
Acquiring high draft picks for Jones in a post-June 1 trade while saving $15.3 million in cap space would be a best-case scenario, and the Jets should be an appealing team for Atlanta to do business with. Since New York is still rebuilding, its draft choices are probably going to be higher up than if the Falcons traded him to a surefire contender.
On the other hand, this should be a tantalizing landing spot for Jones, too. He gets to play with a supremely gifted young QB in Zach Wilson, is in a huge media market, and joins a receiving corps that already has promising players in Corey Davis, Denzel Mims and rookie Elijah Moore. This deal would also give the Jets flexibility to cut loose an overpaid veteran in Jamison Crowder.
Getting a receiving corps that legitimately runs four-deep would position Wilson for massive success as a rookie. If new Jets coach Robert Saleh can give that defense a boost, maybe with Jones in the fold, Gang Green could shock the football world in 2021.
Russell Wilson to Miami Dolphins
- TRADE: Seattle Seahawks send QB Russell Wilson to Dolphins for QB Tua Tagovailoa, CB Xavien Howard, 2022 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick
Some sort of trade in this vein has been floated by yours truly for a while, and it still makes lots of sense even at this juncture of the offseason.
We haven’t heard much out of Wilson’s camp of late, but in a prospective trade, he’d go to a big market, in a state with no income tax, and be in a great situation with a strong defense and talented skill players flanking him.
Meanwhile, on the Seahawks’ side of this deal, they’d get Tagovailoa, who’d be more than happy to execute the run-centric offense Seattle coach Pete Carroll perpetually longs for. Plus, acquiring a top-flight cornerback in Xavien Howard, plus multiple top picks in next year’s draft, makes this trade a huge win despite the pain of parting with Wilson.
Few teams are going to be able to put forth this kind of offer. Both sides get what they really want. Wilson has the chance for an epic second act in his career, and Tagovailoa gets to throw to Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf.
Odell Beckham Jr. to New England Patriots
- TRADE: Cleveland Browns send WR Odell Beckham Jr. to Patriots for 2022 first-round pick
The Browns have Jarvis Landry as their No. 1 receiver, and the lesser-known Rashard Higgins has far better chemistry with QB Baker Mayfield than Beckham ever has.
Since Cleveland is so deep at tight end, and has a couple young, promising wideouts in Donovan Peoples-Jones and world-class sprinting rookie Anthony Schwartz, Beckham is a luxury the Browns can’t afford.
To clarify: Yes, the team can afford to have Beckham for 2021, but they have extensions for Mayfield, Denzel Ward, Nick Chubb and Wyatt Teller looming. There’s no guarantee Beckham will be right after a major knee injury, either.
Rolling the dice and waiting till the trade deadline could jack up Cleveland’s chemistry on offense, and Beckham would be in a tough spot of learning a new playbook on the fly.
The Patriots are desperate for a legitimate go-to receiver. Beckham can be that guy for Cam Newton or Mac Jones in New England. Even if it costs a first-round pick, trading for Beckham would redeem a lot of the misfires Bill Belichick has had in evaluating the position, which is partially why Tom Brady skipped town.
Stephon Gilmore to Arizona Cardinals
- TRADE: New England Patriots send CB Stephon Gilmore to Cardinals for 2022 fourth-round pick, 2023 second-round pick
After losing Patrick Peterson in free agency, the Cardinals opted to load up the front seven with J.J. Watt and first-round pick Zaven Collins rather than truly address the defensive backfield. Gilmore is the perfect fit to fill in what Arizona’s defense is sorely missing.
Coming off a down season, Gilmore can be had at a relative bargain. Belichick is famous for parting with veteran players at the right time for all involved, and while he got burned by Brady, it’s rare that The Hoodie is wrong. He’d be down to snag a couple picks from the Cards in this hypothetical scenario.
Remember, these sides once did business when the Patriots baffled everyone by trading stud pass-rusher Chandler Jones to the desert. There’s a history to suggest these teams could deal again.
Put Gilmore in Arizona’s cornerback room with slot specialist Byron Murphy and ex-Patriot Malcolm Butler on the opposite side of the field, and that’s a stellar trio that can help the Cardinals take that next step toward the playoffs, and maybe even an NFC West title.
Read More: Ranking the 5 best 2021 NFL Draft classes