The trade deadline in the NFL, even in the best of times, is a tricky proposition. The league is still slow to embrace the process, in general, owners tend to be stuck in their ways and the groupthink about how difficult it is to integrate a new player into such complex and nuanced systems (spare me) still runs rampant.
Throw in the mumbo jumbo about "not wanting to hurt the on-field product" for teams that already stink, and the usual risk aversion that many owners and general managers harbor, and all the false hope teams talk themselves into about that late playoff run they might go on, and it makes for a bleak climate. Add in a pandemic with new challenges to adding players to rosters and longer delays with onboarding players and it's even easier for teams to talk themselves out of what really needs to be done.
But I can't help but wonder, with revenues already down in 2020 and with the 2021 season also far from certain, and with the cap staying flat at best next year, if some owners might embrace saving millions in salary at a time when in most places only a handful of fans, at most, can actually attend games. I wonder if the fact that two GMs have already been fired in-season, with at least five others on some degree of a hot seat, might prompt them to try to preserve their jobs potentially by getting a jump start on a rebulld by the deadline (proving their worth by how much salary they can shed and how many draft picks they can accrue).
Maybe, just maybe, we get a few meaningful transactions at the end of the month, when that deadline comes up the Tuesday after Week 8. If anything, parity is out the window this season with a cluster of teams with four or more wins (13) and another nine who have been hapless (1 win or fewer). So we can always hope for a decent amount of action, and as always expect to see the usual suspects trying to get better before the deadline (Patriots, Eagles, Ravens, 49ers, Seahawks).
Here's a look at some potential trade matches that I would be exploring if my team needed a boost before the deadline:
Ravens – Breshad Perriman/Hayden Hurst
Both are former Ravens first round picks who did not work out. Both are still young and cheap and, more to the point, speedy and athletic. Baltimore has no secondary option in the passing game beyond the Big 2 (tight end Mark Andrews and receiver Hollywood Brown). Jets GM Joe Douglas spent years with the Ravens and they have strong relationships. He badly needs picks and Perriman is on a one-year deal. The Falcons have not got Hurst going much, they fired everyone already and while giving back Hurst for a lot less than you gave up to get him is less than ideal ... well, so is going 2-13 over your first five games each of the last three seasons. I'd inquire about Irv Smith from the Vikings as well.
Seahawks – Yannick Ngakoue
They were sniffing around him and Jadeveon Clowney all off-season but couldn't make anything work. Hard to afford those big one-year salaries with their cap situations. But $6.5M for half a season? Why not. The Vikings are a mess and need to shed salary, fast, and the defense is god awful with this pass rusher there. John Schneider is never afraid to be bold and Ngakoue would be highly motivated as a pending free agent.
Patriots – Brandin Cooks
Yeah, he's already been there and it didn't go great. But familiarity is more vital than ever with the Covid climate the NFL is operating in, they know his warts and know what he does best and they badly need some element of speed in the passing game. The Texans are looking to shed salary and Houston executive Jack Easterby has deep Patriots ties (even if he left on less than ideal terms). Trading a two for Mohamed Sanu a year ago backfired, but the need is still acute.
Eagles – Zach Cunningham
They need a boost at linebacker but expect to get much healthier after their bye at offensive line and wide receiver. The NFC Least is sitting there for the taking and GM Howie Roseman is all about that trade action. Yeah Cummingham just signed a new deal and sure, the Eagles have some cap stuff to sort through, but maybe they sort out a creative means to get it done. Having him able to run around and help in pass coverage would be huge.
49ers – Whitney Mercilus
This just might not be their year with all of the injuries. The offense may be able to survive all it has lost, but no Nick Bosa or Solomon Thomas, after already trading DeForest Buckner is too much to overcome. Having Mercilus off the edge might be just what they need to get back to the playoffs. He isn't as impactful as he once was but a change of scenery and scheme might help do the trick. They went big for Emanuel Sanders a year ago. Maybe Carlos Dunlap would work, too, if the Bengals will actually acknowledge that the trade deadline exists on the NFL calendar this year (and there is a good chance they won't).
Bucs – Geno Atkins
Losing Vita Vea is huge. Massive. He is like a one-man zip code who can do it all. Eat up people in the run game. Collapse the pocket. It's been a while since we've seen that from Atkins, but the pedigree is there and he has had very little around him in recent years in Cincy. Again, I don't think Mike Brown will do this, even for guys who have made it clear they want out, but he definitely should. And the Bucs are in Super Bowl or bust mode with Tom Brady and the defense has been leading the way thus far.