With less than three weeks to go before the NFL trade deadline on Oct. 30, there’s been a ton of rumors suggesting that some big-name players could be on the move. That includes Pro Bowl running backs LeSean McCoy and Le’Veon Bell.
It makes a ton of sense. In recent years, the NFL trade deadline has not been irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. In fact, last year saw a plethora of noticeable trades around the league. We can expect pretty much the same this October.
Whether it’s last-place teams looking to add future draft capital or unsustainable contract situations, this year’s trade deadline will likely be more active than ever before.
Le’Veon Bell’s situation with the Pittsburgh Steelers comes to mind first. Set to be a free agent following the 2018 season, Bell’s agent has already made it clear that his client is unlikely to remain with the team long term. He’s held out through the first five games of the season, and the relationship between Bell and his organization is seemingly at an all-time low.
Sure moving on from the best all-around running back in the game would be questionable. That’s until we realize second-year back James Conner has filled in tremendously for Bell over the first five games. If Pittsburgh can get anything of substance for a back that will likely leave for nothing this coming March, why not do it? That’s the question GM Kevin Colbert and Co. will be asking themselves in the coming weeks.
Among the teams reportedly interested in Bell, the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles have cleared enough cap room to take on the remainder of his contract and potentially sign him to a long-term deal before free agency opens. And while the team has leaked that it’s not interested in Bell, Philadelphia’s on-field situation tells us otherwise.
Starting running back Jay Ajayi was just placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL. At 2-3 on the season, Doug Pederson’s squad needs to step it up here soon. Adding Bell to the mix at the cost of future draft capital would be the ultimate win-now move for a team that still boasts expectations of repeating.
The narrative out there is that teams might be hesitant to trade for Bell because they can’t guarantee a long-term deal until after the season is over. This is somewhat of a surface-based point with no real logic.
Depending on what Pittsburgh might be demanding in a deal, giving up draft capital for a half season of Bell and an ability to negotiate with him before free agency could be worth the risk. That’s where teams likes the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets and above-mentioned Eagles come into play.
Speaking of Philadelphia, it has reportedly already called the Buffalo Bills about six-time Pro Bowl back LeSean McCoy. A deal of this ilk would reunite McCoy with the team that originally drafted him. It’s seemingly more likely than Philadelphia taking a chance on Bell.
Despite his struggles through the first five games and some off-field issues, McCoy would be a valuable commodity on the trade market. He’s proven capable of being a dynamic back and could help a contending team over the short term. Again, that’s where both the Eagles and Packers come into play. How likely is it that McCoy will in fact be traded? Bills head coach Sean McDermott didn’t necessarily shoot down that possibility this week.
Outside of running back and these two specific situations, multiple teams are in the midst of lost seasons. Why wouldn’t they decide to add future draft capital as a way to build up otherwise young rosters?
There are six teams that currently have one win. Only seven teams that started 1-4 since 1978 have earned a trip to the playoffs. This is a clear indication that Indianapolis, Oakland, San Francisco, Arizona, Atlanta and the New York Giants are not going to be playing meaningful January football. It also means each of these teams could look to move veterans.
The Oakland Raiders are the most interesting of this group in that head coach and de facto general manager Jon Gruden has not been afraid to make his mark on the team’s roster. Trading Khalil Mack and releasing Marquette King are two recent examples of this. What’s to stop Gruden from continuing his rebuild by moving a combination of Marshawn Lynch, Amari Cooper and Bruce Irvin? All three would net something on the trade market, enabling Gruden to continue building the Raiders’ roster in his mold.
In Arizona, former top picks, Haason Reddick and Deone Bucannon, seem to be on the trade block. Neither represent a fit in Steve Wilks’ defensive scheme. But both could be valuable to teams that would utilize them in a correct manner. Heck, maybe a team even decides to trade for quarterback insurance in that of Sam Bradford, who was relegated to third-string duties after being benched for rookie Josh Rosen earlier in the season.
San Francisco is also an interesting case study here. While reportedly interested in Bell, that would be an outlier of sorts for GM John Lynch and Co. It’s comparable to the 49ers trading for Jimmy Garoppolo last October. The idea would be to bring Bell into the mix with the expectation that he would be a long-term fit with Garoppolo moving forward.
Now that Garoppolo himself is lost for the season to a torn ACL, the 49ers’ expectations of playoffs have turned into complete irrelevance. And even if the team were to make a move for a player like Bell, that wouldn’t stop it from trading a plethora of veterans as a way to continue its rebuild. That includes former first-round picks Arik Armstead, Josh Garnett and Jimmie Ward. It could also include veteran wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who would help a contending team.
As the next couple weeks of football actually play out on the field, we have to anticipate a volatile and active trade market leading up to Oct. 30. For the teams mentioned above, that would at least add some drama to an otherwise horrible start to the season.
For contending teams, an active trade market seems to be assured. Even those who are currently undefeated in Kansas City and Los Angeles have some issues to deal with. Despite their record-breaking pace on offense, the Chiefs’ defense has been a complete disaster. Meanwhile, the Rams are dealing with a plethora of injuries in the secondary.
In a season that’s been defined by imperfect teams and struggles from those with Super Bowl expectations, it just makes too much sense for the trade market not to be active.