We're into Week 5 of the 2022 NFL season, which means we're one step closer to this year's trade deadline. Not a single team will admit to itself that the playoffs are out of the question at this juncture (OK, maybe the Texans), but a few more wins or losses will go a long way to shaping the postseason picture. And when the deadline actually nears, falling on Nov. 1, the Tuesday after Week 8, there will assuredly be some clubs ready to sell, and others ready to buy.
With that in mind, here's an early look at some notable names who could be available for an in-season deal:
Don't listen to whatever the Panthers say publicly or privately about this; if you're a sinking ship with a reset inevitable at quarterback and/or head coach, you take offers for anyone -- even the guy you're paying big bucks to play a mostly replaceable position. Yes, they're a better team with McCaffrey as a safety valve out of the backfield, but they also have bigger holes that his departure could help fill. Even with an increasingly worrisome medical track record, McCaffrey could still fetch a decent haul as a two-time All-Pro who just turned 26. The Panthers, meanwhile, would save at least $35 million from 2023-2025 by parting ways.
If not for rookie Brian Robinson Jr. literally being shot during the summer, Gibson might be riding the bench right now. The former third-rounder lost starting reps over the summer, and since Robinson landed on injured reserve to rehab, he's averaged just over three yards per carry for an offense that's mercurial at best. But at 24, a year removed from a 1,000-yard rushing campaign, Gibson could draw a look from a contender intrigued by his combo of size and versatility. He's also signed through 2023 for cheap.
Running backs are a dime a dozen, as evidenced by Johnson's own standing: even after exploding as an injury replacement in 2021, and despite Cleveland's heavy dependence on the run, he's been relegated to anonymous bench duties behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The Browns have other options at the spot and could use any draft picks they can get following the massive Deshaun Watson deal, whereas another club might be intrigued by Johnson's fresh legs down the stretch.
Believe it or not, Agholor is on pace for a career high in receiving yards this year, offering occasional explosiveness on the outside. But New England has Jakobi Meyers approaching free agency, big money invested in two tight ends, and who knows what else could be on the horizon as they endure QB injuries. Dealing Agholor would save them an instant $9.8M, while another team desperate for proven speed might be interested in renting him ahead of his own foray into the 2023 market.
At this point, Thomas' name is much bigger than what he can reliably offer on the field; for all his past stardom as a possession monster, he simply hasn't stayed healthy for three years and counting. New Orleans is also increasingly desperate for draft capital, having already dealt its 2023 first-rounder away. Perhaps they'll finally be willing to sell low to someone willing to take a flyer on Thomas' size and skills, which remain intact. Moving him would save the Saints at least $35M+ from 2023-2024.
Panthers WR Robbie Anderson
He may enjoy playing for Matt Rhule, but how much longer is Rhule even gonna be around? Anderson hasn't fully clicked in Carolina for two years now; he's always been something of a one-trick pony, but it's been downhill since his 1,000-yard Panthers debut in 2020. After locking up D.J. Moore, and likely preparing for yet another QB reset, the Panthers can afford to auction the deep threat to a better team that can utilize him more like a true WR2/3. They'd save $12M next year by doing so.
Bears OT Riley Reiff
His days of holding down a long-term starting job are over, and while Chicago could justify retaining him as insurance for the line protecting Justin Fields, the Bears don't seem all that interested in developing their QB anyway, with eyes on a potential 2023 spending spree. As a swing tackle who played fine, not great, for the AFC champion Bengals just a year ago, he could have value for a team looking for plug-and-play spot starters or late-season depth.
Saints DE Cameron Jordan
Yes, he's a franchise great, destined to retire a Saint. But as New Orleans slides into a future top-five pick they've already traded away, why wouldn't they entertain offers for a 33-year-old edge rusher due almost $26M in 2023? Jordan remains a rock for their stingy front, but he's got just one more year left on his restructured deal, and the Saints also have Marcus Davenport, 26, to pay long-term. The biggest holdup here will be defensive coach Dennis Allen surrendering such a proven asset midseason, no matter how badly New Orleans' record becomes.
Bears OLB Robert Quinn
A year removed from a surprise 18.5-sack showcase, the 32-year-old Quinn already publicly entertained the idea of a relocation over the summer. New coach Matt Eberflus would surely miss his presence off the edge after already dealing Khalil Mack in the offseason, but the Bears are -- or should be -- playing the long game. Dealing Quinn, who has positional versatility having played in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes, would save Chicago roughly $12M.
He's got a starring role in the Colts' feisty front, which just owned Russell Wilson, so as long as Indy stays afloat in the AFC South race, he's probably safe. But Ngakoue is a known in-season traveler, notably moving from the Jaguars to the Vikings to the Ravens in a span of three months in 2020. Now on his fifth team in four years, the former Pro Bowler would be a top-end reinforcement for a contender's pass rush, while saving the Colts approximately $13M by departing via trade.
Bears LB Roquan Smith
The heart of Chicago's "D," Smith's desire for a change of scenery is well documented: he all but demanded a move this summer, but has been playing good soldier since the games began. A heat-seeking tackling machine who's still just 25, the hard-hitter seems destined to test the market after this season, so it'd behoove the Bears to at least field offers. Linebackers don't necessarily deserve record paydays in today's NFL, but Smith has proven he belongs among the game's best.
Commanders CB Kendall Fuller
Fuller's running mate in the porous Washington secondary, ex-Bengals starter William Jackson III, is just as worthy a candidate, but considering he's almost three years older, this felt like the more intriguing trade chip, if you wanna call it that. There was a time Fuller, on his second stint in D.C., looked like a real building block for Ron Rivera's "D." It is past. With Benjamin St-Juste the superior option in coverage, maybe the Commanders can pitch Fuller's 65 career starts in an effort to offload his $8M salary.