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NFL rumors: 8 surprise players who could change teams during the offseason

NFL rumors are going to be picking up big time with the 2020 regular season drawing to a conclusion. Most of the initial focus will be on “Black Monday” and head coaching openings.

With that said, we’re headed into an offseason of unknowns due to the economic climate brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. This could lead to a ton of star players changing teams, either via trade or release.

Below, we check in on eight surprise players who could change teams during the 2021 NFL offseason.

Related: Top NFL free agents of 2022 – Davante Adams likely to hit market

NFL rumors: Patriots could trade Stephon Gilmore

NFL rumors: Stephon Gilmore trade?
Sep 15, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore (24) runs back an interception for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year was the subject of trade rumors during the offseason and leading up to the Nov. 3 deadline. While the 30-year-old Gilmore just underwent quad surgery and has not had the same season in 2020 as last year, he’d still be a hot commodity on the trade block.

Related: Patriots QB options for 2021

Gilmore finishes the 2020 campaign having recorded 37 tackles, three passes defended and one interception. Those stats are somewhat muted by the fact that opposing quarterbacks simply avoided the shutdown corner. With the Pats in need of a ton of help on offense as they finish up a disastrous season, moving Gilmore and his $17.17 million cap hit for the 2021 season makes sense.

NFL rumors: Aaron Jones proves to be too expensive for the Packers

NFL rumors: Aaron Jones free agency
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) rushes for 47 yards in the first quarter against the Carolina Panthers on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Apc Packers Vs Panthers 04866 121920 Wag

At this point, it would not be an reach to conclude that Jones is now a top-three all-around running back in the NFL. The former mid-round pick from UTEP has put up 2,932 total yards and a resounding 29 touchdowns while averaging 5.7 yards per touch in his past 29 games. Those are just some absurd numbers.

Despite this, NFL rumors suggest that the Packers might move off him due to what promises to be a sky-high asking price in free agency. Green Bay has a potentially cheaper alternative in that of fellow impeding free agent Jamaal Williams and just selected A.J. Dillon in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Perhaps, the Packers franchise Jones with the hope of netting something in a trade. But right now, don’t expect him to be back with the team in 2021.

NFL rumors: The Steelers, JuJu Smith-Schuster relationship could end in free agency

NFL rumors: JuJu Smith-Schuster, free agent
Oct 7, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) against the Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The emergence of rookie Chase Claypool could potentially make Smith-Schuster expendable for the Steelers once NFL free agency opens. Claypool has recorded 57 receptions for 772 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Meanwhile, another lesser-known receiver in that of Diontae Johnson has hauled in 85 passes for 828 yards for the Super Bowl contenders.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Steelers, check out #Steelers rumors, rankings, and news here

It’s crazy to look at. Just a couple short years ago Smith-Schuster was seen as the heir-apparent to Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh. Now, he could be headed to another city. One of the primary reasons for this is the market dynamic. Smith-Schuster, 24, is averaging just 8.4 yards per catch. This comes on the heels of a down 2019 season. All of that equates to the Steelers refusing to match what will be some expensive offers for the receiver in free agency.

NFL rumors: Vikings, somehow, find a Kirk Cousins trade partner

NFL rumors: Kirk Cousins trade?
Jan 11, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) walks towards the field before the start of the game against the San Francisco 49ers in a NFC Divisional Round playoff football game at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Financially, it might be impossible for the Vikings to trade Cousins. He comes with a $41 million dead cap hit for next season after they made the ridiculous decision to sign the garbage-time superstar to an extension ahead of the 2020 campaign. However, a trade would enable Minnesota to get out from under center contract while saving $20 million over the long-term. After all, Cousins is owed $21 million more in guaranteed cash.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Vikings, check out #SKOL rumors, rankings, and news here.

NFL rumors linking the Vikings to a potential Cousins trade have other caveats, too. Can they find an upgrade over the Pro Bowl signal caller? Which team(s) might view the embattled quarterback as an upgrade over their current situation? The answers to these questions will dictate whether this seemingly unlikely scenario becomes more realistic come March.

NFL rumors: Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew will likely be traded

NFL rumors: a potential Gardner Minshew trade?
Dec 27, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II (15) enters the field prior to a game between the Jaguars and the Chicago Bears at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a lock to go No. 1 overall to these Jaguars once the 2021 NFL Draft comes calling in April. One year after he was seen as a prodigy and the future face of the Jaguars’ franchise, this could lead to the end of Minshew Mania in Duval.

Related: Jaguars’ offseason blueprint

Simply put, the one-win Jaguars could use all the help they can get on both sides of the ball as the team finishes up one of the worst seasons in franchise history. As we saw with Minshew during his rookie campaign in 2019, there’s a ton of upside here. The dude has thrown 37 touchdowns against 11 interceptions in 20 career starts. Some team will come calling, offering up a nice package of picks to take this youngster off Jacksonville’s hands. That’s for sure.

NFL rumors: Julio Jones tenure with Falcons comes to an end

NFL rumors: Potential Julio Jones trade?
Nov 8, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) catches a touchdown pass against the Denver Broncos during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Recent reports coming out of Atlanta suggest that the Falcons’ new yet-to-be-named front office head will be given the green light to trade Jones. This might be the clearest indication yet that Atlanta is heading to a full-scale rebuild as it finishes up shop on yet another lost season.

Related: Ideal Julio Jones trade scenarios

Jones, 31, wouldn’t come without risk for a team looking to acquire his services. The future Hall of Famer has dealt with a nagging hamstring injury all season and will fail to hit the 1,000-yard plateau for the first time since all the way back in 2013. He’s also set to count $23.05 million against the cap in 2021. Even then, we’re talking about one of the most-productive receivers in NFL history and someone who still performs at a high level when on the field. There will be a trade market for Jones come March.

NFL rumors: J.J. Watt forces his way from the Texans

NFL Week 17 point spreads: Texans-Titans
Dec 27, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) waits with teammates to walk onto the field before a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It’s rather clear that Watt is frustrated with the direction of his Texans. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given the whole Bill O’Brien drama and the lack of a real direction for the organization as it finishes up a disastrous season. Sure Watt has been a fixture in the Houston community. Requesting a trade would be hard for the ultimate professional.

Related: J.J. Watt trade scenarios

With that said, Watt is 31 years old and would love to compete for a Super Bowl title before his battered body makes retirement imminent. Houston is not contending any time soon. I could easily envision a scenario where Watt looks to join his younger brother in Pittsburgh. If not, other contending teams will certainly come calling.

NFL rumors: Could the Cowboys trade Dak Prescott?

NFL rumors, Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott: contract: cap space
Oct 11, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) calls a play in the second quarter against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Prescott will be the talk of NFL rumors in Big D once the 2020 season comes to an end. Playing under the franchise tag this year, he suffered a serious ankle injury back in Week 5 and has been out since. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are sending some mixed signals as it relates to their interest in retaining the Pro Bowl quarterback long-term. Owner Jerry Jones has questioned his playing style. Will that make it difficult for the Cowboys to dole out a huge sum in guaranteed cash?

Related: Top 100 players in the NFL

Finances could also play a role here. Dallas has a ton of money committed to a handful of players. Andy Dalton has performed well in Prescott’s stead, leading the Cowboys to playoff contention heading into Week 17. It’s not an impossibility that Dallas attempts to trade Prescott after placing the franchise tag on him this coming spring. Certainly, don’t rule it out.