Most trades leading up to or during the NFL draft, which this year is April 28-30, are for current or future draft choices instead of veteran players. Draft picks are the most cost effective players in the NFL. Their salaries are determined by a rookie wage scale that doesn't pay productive ones anything close to their true worth.
NFL teams are beginning to take a more enlightened approach to trading veterans similar to the NBA, where signability is more of a primary consideration with moves involving players in a contract year. There are differences in NBA and NFL free agency rules. Compensatory draft picks for lost free agents do not exist in the NBA.
Here are three veteran players that NFL teams should seriously consider trading in the final days leading up or during the NFL draft.
Trade Compensation: 2022 first-round pick (10th overall), 2022 third-round pick (69th overall pick) and 2023 second-round pick
49ers general manager John Lynch called Samuel a foundational piece shortly after the 49ers lost the NFC Championship Game to the Rams. San Francisco has been interested a negotiating a contract extension, but Samuel reportedly hasn't been willing to engage in contract discussions. He has requested a trade.
Samuel hasn't specified his reasons for wanting out of San Francisco. He reportedly doesn't want to continue in the dual role as a wide receiver and running back he took on last season.
2021 was Samuel's breakout season. He earned first team All-Pro honors while emerging as one of the NFL's most dangerous offensive weapons. Samuel led the league with 18.2 yards per catch. He caught 77 passes for 1,405 yards with six touchdowns. Samuel was also a threat out of the backfield. He performed at a Pro Bowl level as a running back when the 49ers started utilizing him in that capacity because of injuries. Samuel rushed for 365 yards on 59 carries (6.2 yards per carry) and scored eight touchdowns on the ground. His 1,770 yards from scrimmage (combined rushing and receiving yards) were third in the NFL last season.
The Jets have been pursuing a number one wide receiver in the trade market. Two 2022 second round picks (35th and 38th overall) and a 2022 third round pick (69th overall) were offered to the Chiefs before Tyreek Hill was dealt to the Dolphins. It's probably going to take more than 10th overall pick that was reportedly offered to the Seahawks for wide receiver DK Metcalf to obtain Samuel because the 49ers would be looking to replenish some of the draft capital used last year to move up to the third overall pick to select quarterback Trey Lance. The 49ers gave the Dolphins 2022 and 2023 first round picks and a 2022 third round pick to jump nine spots from 12th in the 2021 draft.
The two big wide receiver trades this year could also be used as guide in acquiring Samuel. The Raiders sent the Packers 2022 first and second round picks (22nd and 53rd overall) for Davante Adams, who was designated as a franchise player. Hill was dealt to the Dolphins for five draft picks: 2022 first, second and fourth round picks (29th, 50th and 121st overall) as well as 2023 fourth and sixth round picks. In 2020, the Bills gave the Vikings a 2020 first round pick (22nd overall), a 2020 fifth round pick, a 2020 sixth round and a 2021 fourth round pick to get Stefon Diggs and a 2020 seventh round pick.
Samuel would have a seamless transition into the Jets offense. Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur was the 49ers passing coordinator when Samuel was selected in 2019's second round.
Samuel would become one of the NFL's highest paid wide receivers in the process. The latest two data points in wide receiver market are Hill's deal with the Dolphins and Diggs' extension with the Bills. Hill was given a four-year, $120 million extension with $72.2 million in guarantees by Miami. $52.535 million was fully guaranteed at signing. Realistically, it's a three-year extension for $75 million because of $45 million in 2026, the final contract year. Diggs received a four-year, $96 million extension with $70 million in guarantees where $47.985 million was fully guaranteed at signing. Incentives reportedly make the deal worth up to $104 million.
Why Trade Won't Happen: The 49ers' refuse to part with a game-changing offensive playmaker although Samuel wants out. The Jets don't blow the 49ers away with a trade offer, which is probably necessary for a deal to be considered.
Trade Compensation: Swap of 2022 draft picks (Seahawks fifth-round pick-153rd overall for Browns sixth-round pick-202nd overall) and conditional 2023 fourth-round pick [third-round pick with 70% or more playtime in 2022 or second-round pick with 70% or more playtime and playoffs in 2022])
Baker Mayfield became expendable after the Browns unexpectedly gave up 2022, 2023 and 2024 first round picks, a 2022 fourth round pick, a 2023 third round pick and a 2024 fourth round pick to the Texans for Deshaun Watson and a 2024 sixth round pick last month. The Seahawks have a glaring need at quarterback after dealing Russell Wilson and a 2022 fourth round pick to the Broncos for multiple players (tight end Noah Fant, defensive lineman Shelby Harris and quarterback Drew Lock), 2022 and 2023 first round picks, 2022 and 2023 second round picks and a 2022 fifth round pick.
Pete Carroll would be the leading candidate for NFL Coach of the Year if Seattle made the playoffs this season with Lock or Geno Smith, who just re-signed a one-year deal reportedly with a base value of $3.5 million and worth up to $7 million through incentives, starting at quarterback. Mayfield would be an nice upgrade over Lock and Smith. The 2018 first overall pick had a disappointing 2021 while playing most of the season with a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder. He didn't do himself any favors by playing through the injury. Mayfield played the best football of his NFL career during the second half of the 2020 season to help the Browns earn a playoff berth for the first time since 2002.
The trade compensation for Mayfield really should be similar to Carolina's deal to acquire 2018 third overall pick Sam Darnold prior to the 2021 draft. The Jets received a 2021 sixth round pick, a 2022 second round pick and a 2022 fourth round pick from the Panthers. Darnold has been underwhelming during his four NFL seasons.
The Browns don't have leverage in dealing Mayfield because of the Watson acquisition. General manager Andrew Berry indicated at last month's league meetings that he didn't feel pressure to rush into a suboptimal trade involving Mayfield.
The biggest obstacle to moving Mayfield is his fully guaranteed $18.858 million fifth year option for 2022. No team will take on Mayfield's entire salary in a trade. The Browns are going to have to eat a significant portion of the $18.858 million to deal Mayfield. In order to facilitate a trade of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the Broncos after acquiring Darnold, the Panthers paid $7,062,500 of his $11.5 million 2021 compensation in a signing bonus prior to completing the move. It represented almost 62% of Bridgewater's 2021 compensation. A similar percentage with Mayfield would have the Browns eating $11.858 million of Mayfield's salary to get him out the door where the Seahawks are responsible for $7 million.
Why Trade Won't Happen: Too many moving parts could prevent a trade. An unwillingness by the Browns to pay a good majority of Mayfield's $18.858 million salary will end any trade discussions. Mayfield would have to be viewed as more than just a one-year rental by the Seahawks. He would need to be considered a potential heir apparent to Wilson. There could also be a comfort level with either Lock or Smith starting at quarterback because Seattle is rebuilding.
Trade Compensation: 2022 third-round pick (103rd overall)
Bradberry followed up a 2020 Pro Bowl season with a career high four interceptions in 2021. The Giants could use the salary cap space created by eliminating Bradberry's $21,863,889 2022 cap number, which is the NFL's second largest for cornerback, from the books. $12,136,111 of cap room would be gained in trade. The Giants would have $9,727,778 in dead money, a salary cap charge for a player no longer on the roster.
Charvarius Ward signing a three-year, $40.5 million deal containing $26.62 million in guarantees with the 49ers in free agency created a hole in the Chiefs' secondary. Bradberry would fill the void created by Ward's departure.
The Saints acquiring cornerback Bradley Roby from the Texans for a 2022 third round pick and a conditional 2023 sixth round pick right before the 2021 regular season started immediately came to mind as a roadmap for a Bradberry trade. The Texans converted $7,580,156 of Roby's $9,442,810 2021 salary into signing bonus prior to the trade.
Why Trade Won't Happen: Bradberry's $13.5 million 2022 salary could limit potential trade partners unless the Giants are willing to take on some part of the money in pre-trade salary conversion. 2022 being Bradberry's contract year could also be problematic for the Giants getting more than Day 3 draft pick (fourth round to seventh round pick) in return.