As the MLB hot stove takes over the sports world, we are reminded just how many trades take place in that league compared to others, especially the National Football League.
With that said, certain situations arise which makes it possible for some big names to move around the football world. We saw this with Trent Richardson a couple years ago. Though, it must be noted that most NFL trades occur during the offseason. This was prevalent back in the 2013 offseason when both Percy Harvin and Anquan Boldin switched teams.
Here is our in-season look at five NFL players who could be moved when the new league year gets going.
1. Patrick Willis, Linebacker, San Francisco 49ers
As hard as it might be to imagine Willis playing in any other uniform than the red and gold, recent history suggests that this new era of football doesn’t necessarily coexist well with loyalty. We have seen the likes of Brian Urlacher retire after the Bears didn’t offer him a decent contract. We have also seen DeMarcus Ware move on from the Cowboys in a pure salary cap situation.
As with most well run organizations, the 49ers are always looking to the future. Enter into the equation rookie third-round pick Chris Borland, who has played exceptionally well in Willis’ stead since Week 7. During that span, Borland has racked up nearly 100 tackles with two interceptions, a sack and five passes defended. He’s also cheaper and younger than Willis.
And that’s the big story here. A future Hall of Famer, Willis has been the face of the 49ers defense for eight years now. He’s also set to count nearly $8.3 million against the cap in 2015. With upgrades needed in other areas and NaVorro Bowman returning at the other inside linebacker position, San Francisco simply can’t afford to keep Willis around at that tag while Borland collects dust on the bench.
2. Nick Foles, Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles
Whether Philadelphia believes Mark Sanchez, a soon-to-be free agent, is the answer long-term is rather irrelevant. The former Jets signal caller has proven that Foles might not be the solution moving forward, especially considering the Eagles offense (minus its performance against Seattle) has performed well with Sanchez under center.
A fantasy football god more than anything, Foles is overrated based solely on the numbers he has put up since taking over the starting gig last season. Foles’ numbers (241 yards and nearly two touchdowns per game in his career) suggests that he is a top-tier quarterback. His tape, on the other hand, tells us a completely different story. Foles struggles with mechanics in the pocket, consistently fails to step into his throws, and is among the worst deep-ball passers in the NFL.
If the Eagles are not sold on Foles as the long-term guy for Chip Kelly’s offense, they could easily look to move him rather than negotiate an extension in the offseason. And in reality, there will be a ton of teams interested in his services. Still blessed with an above-average skill set, Foles could be a fit in a west coast system. Those are the teams likely to show interest should he be placed on the open market.
3. Adrian Peterson, Running Back, Minnesota Vikings
Let’s ignore the off-field situation that has likely forced Minnesota into considering moving on from the best running back in generations. Instead, the focus here should be on Peterson’s importance to the Vikings moving forward, especially as the franchise attempts to move on with young players.
This is no longer AP’s team.
Rather, the organizational focus needs to be on young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and a great first-year head coach in Mike Zimmer. The NFL is an ever-evolving business, and Peterson’s importance to the Vikings just isn’t what it used to be. This is only magnified further by the performance of Jerick McKinnon prior to going down with a season-ending injury recently. The 2014 third-round pick averaged over five yards per touch as a rookie and is more than capable of shouldering the load.
Unlike Ray Rice, there will be interest in Peterson on the market. He’s still in his prime and isn’t seen as the PR nightmare that Rice is right now. And while the Vikings wouldn’t get a huge bounty for him, I can easily see a team forking over a mid-round and conditional pick to acquire the future Hall of Famer. That’s a move Minnesota will likely have to seriously consider in the offseason.
4. Jay Cutler, Quarterback, Chicago Bears
Is Cutler’s contract untradable? That’s a question Chicago won’t find out an answer to unless it puts him on the block, but the veteran is owed a total of $44 million in base salary over the next three seasons. While that’s doesn’t seem to be too sexy to some teams out there, it’s important to look at the quarterback situation around the NFL. Would Cutler be a significant upgrade with the Jets, Titans, Redskins or Buccaneers? The answer you’re looking for here is a resounding yes.
And to be perfectly honest, Chicago’s best offseason move would be to actually move on from Cutler himself. He’s seen as an enigma around the city and is losing some confidence from an organization that just recently extended him.
5. Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Washington Redskins
If Jay Gruden returns as the Redskins head coach next season, RGIII will not be on the team. That’s a prediction you can take to Vegas and run with. There simply isn’t a way the two can coexist in D.C. So if Gruden does come back, Washington will try like the dickens to trade its former franchise signal caller.
The free-agent market is bare at the quarterback position, which should force some teams into pursuing the trade market. This is only magnified by what promises to be a less-than-stellar draft class at quarterback. These two factors may enable Washington to get more for RGIII than most of us think is possible right now. As it is, we’re likely looking at mid-round and/or conditional draft pick compensation for the struggling former No. 2 overall pick.
Photo: USA Today