This year's trading deadline was highly anticipated because of the expected movement. But the lack of activity in the hours leading up to Tuesday's deadline disappointed.
There was only one deal, which was essentially a salary dump. The Rams sent injured cornerback Aqib Talib and a 2020 fifth-round pick to the Dolphins for a 2022 seventh round pick. By getting rid of Talib, who has an $8 million base salary this season, the Rams free up just under $4.25 million of the salary cap space. The extra cap room could come in handy for signing cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who was acquired from the Jaguars a couple of weeks ago for a 2020 first-round pick, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2021 fourth- round pick, to a long term deal.
Here are five trades that should have been made before the deadline, and the financial ramifications of such hypothetical moves. An acquiring team would have needed enough salary cap room to absorb the remainder of the player's current salary. Since the trades would have occurred after Week 8's games, the acquiring team would have been responsible for 9/17th of a player's 2019 base salary and any other applicable salary components in his contract.
With the deadline past, trades can't be executed again until the 2020 league year begins next March 18 at 4 p.m. ET.
1. Redskins OT Trent Williams to Browns
- Trade Compensation: 2021 first-round pick for Williams
- Remaining 2019 salary: $5,869,118 (Redskins' 2019 cap savings)
- Browns' current salary cap room: $32.9 million
- Redskins' 2020 dead money: $2 million ($12.75 million cap savings)
The Redskins didn't consider moving the disgruntled Williams until the last couple of days of the trading period. Williams ended his season-long holdout just before the trading deadline but reportedly doesn't plan on playing for the Redskins this season.
Multiple reports had the Redskins asking for a first-round pick and/or a playmaker, such as Browns cornerback Denzel Ward, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie last year. The Redskins stood a better chance of getting a big haul for their seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle during this past offseason or preseason. Regardless of the timing, the Redskins weren't going to get something close to what the Dolphins received from the Texans for Laremy Tunsil. The price for Tunsil was essentially two first-round picks and a second round pick. At 25, Tunsil is six years younger than Williams.
Left tackle has been in disarray for the Browns ever since future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas retired following the 2017 season. The Browns not wanting to part with a 2020 first-round pick is understandable considering that pick is currently projected to be in the top 10. Cleveland is one of the NFL's most disappointing teams this season. A trendy preseason pick to win the AFC North, the Browns have a 2-5 record.
- Trade Compensation: 2020 first-round pick for Green
- Remaining 2019 salary: $6,340,235 (Bengals' 2019 cap savings: $1,340,235)
- Saints' current cap room: $2.035 million
- Bengals' 2020 dead money: None (expiring contract)
The Bengals weren't open for business at the trading deadline, but an 0-8 record and benching quarterback Andy Dalton to get a look at 2019 fourth-round pick Ryan Finley suggests Cincinnati should have been.
The Saints are in win-now mode with 40-year-old quarterback Drew Brees taking a year-to-year approach towards the rest of his career. Another wide receiver to take pressure off All-Pro Michael Thomas is desperately needed. Saints wideouts have caught 102 balls this season, and Thomas has 71.6 percent of those catches. The Saints are more dependent on Thomas than last year when he was responsible for 61.3 percent of the catches by wide receivers. Thomas currently leads the NFL in receptions by a considerable margin with 73. He is on pace for 146 receptions, which would beat Marvin Harrison's NFL single season record by three catches.
Green is one of the NFL's best wide receivers when healthy. He hasn't played this season because of an ankle injury suffered in training camp that required surgery. Green is aiming to make his 2019 debut in Week 10 after Cincinnati's bye.
The only way a trade strictly for draft capital would have worked is with the Bengals eating salary because of New Orleans' tight salary cap. Cincinnati converting a significant portion Green's remaining salary into signing bonus (around $5 million) prior to the trade would have been necessary so New Orleans only would have been responsible for paying Green approximately $1.5 million for the rest of the season. Taking on salary would have helped justify the first-round pick compensation for New Orleans likely having Green for just the remainder of this season.
3. Broncos CB Chris Harris to Eagles
- Trade compensation: 2020 conditional third-round pick for Harris
- Remaining 2019 salary: $5,188,235 (Broncos' 2019 cap savings)
- Eagles' current cap room: $21.66 million
- Broncos' 2020 dead money: None (expiring contract)
The Broncos, who have a 2-6 record, were willing to part with Harris for a second-round pick, according to Denver7's Troy Renck. The price was too high for the multiple teams that reportedly inquired about Harris.
The Eagles have a glaring weakness in the secondary that Harris would have helped address. Harris has been one of the NFL's premier slot cornerbacks for several years and can also play effectively on the outside. Six different wide receivers (Davante Adams, Amari Cooper, Stefon Diggs, Marvin Jones, Julio Jones and Terry McLaurin) have had 100-yard games against the Eagles. The six are practically averaging six catches for 114 yards and a touchdown in those contests. Four of the six games have been Philadelphia losses.
Executive vice-president/general manager Howie Roseman may have been reluctant to give up significant draft capital for another potential short-term rental after dealing a 2019 third-round pick for wide receiver Golden Tate as last year's trading deadline was nearing. Cornerback Ronald Darby, who just returned from a hamstring injury that kept him out of four games, will be expected to provide the secondary a boost.
The Eagles are 4-4 at the halfway mark and currently trailing the Cowboys by a half-game in the standings for the NFC East lead. Unless both the Eagles and Cowboys get hot during the second half of the season, only the NFC East champion will make the playoffs.
The Eagles getting to the Super Bowl with Harris playing at least 70 percent of the remaining defensive snaps in the regular season or having a minimum of 70 percent defensive playtime in the Super Bowl would elevate Denver's acquired pick to the second round. The conditions being met in this hypothetical deal would also trigger Philadelphia getting a 2020 sixth-round pick from Denver.
4. Falcons TE Austin Hooper to Seahawks
- Trade compensation: 2021 second-round pick for Hooper and 2020 seventh-round pick
- Remaining 2019 salary: $1,072,059 (Falcons' 2019 cap savings)
- Seahawks' current cap room: $6.246 million
- Falcons' 2020 dead money: None (expiring contract)
Hooper wasn't on the trading block, but maybe he should have been, for a variety of reasons. The Falcons are on the road to nowhere at 1-7. The cost of keeping Hooper beyond this season is dramatically increasing, as he's playing his best football in his contract year.
Hooper leads NFL tight ends with 52 receptions and is tied for the most touchdown catches at the position with five. His 591 receiving yards are second among tight ends. Hooper is only the third tight end in NFL history to have at least 50 receptions, 500 receiving yards and five touchdown catches in the first half of a season. This feat was previously accomplished by Ben Coates (Patriots) and Shannon Sharpe (Broncos) in 1994 and 1996, respectively.
Presumably, the Falcons touched base with Steve Caric, Hooper's agent, prior to the trading deadline to get a sense of his asking price. It would be a major surprise if Caric wasn't looking to reset a stagnant tight end market with Hooper's deal. Jimmy Graham became the NFL's first $10 million per year tight end in 2014 with the Saints. He's still the league's only $10 million per year tight end on a different deal. Graham signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Packers in 2018 free agency.
The Falcons have one of the NFL's more challenging salary cap situations for next year. There are $205.19 million of 2020 cap commitments, which is third most in the NFL, with 40 players under contract. The top 51 cap numbers matter under offseason cap accounting rules. The Falcons have $5.12 million of existing cap space, which can be carried over to next year. The 2020 salary cap will be in the $200 million neighborhood with a similar increase as in recent years.
Designating Hooper as a franchise player would ensure that he stays in Atlanta next year. The non-exclusive tight end number projects to be $10.7 million in 2020. However, it will take some salary cap gymnastics for Atlanta to comfortably accommodate a Hooper franchise tag.
Once franchised, agents will typically use the average of two designations as a guide for the value of a long-term deal. A second franchise tag for Hooper in 2021 at a CBA-mandated 20 percent increase should be slightly more than $12.75 million. In Hooper's case, this puts a long-term deal in the $11.75 million per year range.
The Seahawks have a void at tight end because of Willy Dissly's season-ending Achilles tear, although 10-year veteran Ed Dickson is scheduled to return from injured reserve this week. Dickson's best season in 2011 (54 receptions, 528 yards, five TDs) is comparable to Hooper's production so far this season.
Making the playoffs will require some work despite a 6-2 record. The defending NFC champion Rams would be on the outside looking in if the playoffs started right now, while Seattle would have a wild card berth. Both wild card spots going to NFC West teams doesn't seem likely with the Packers and Vikings playing well in the NFC North.
The Seahawks don't currently have a third-round pick next year thanks to the Jadeveon Clowney trade. Any draft choice compensation would have likely needed to be more than Atlanta could get as a compensatory pick in 2021 for losing Hooper this offseason in free agency for a trade to make sense from their standpoint. A 2021 third-round pick would be the top compensation.
5. Jets S Jamal Adams to Cowboys
- Trade compensation: 2020 first-round, 2020 third-round, 2021 fifth-round picks for Adams
- Remaining 2019 salary: $341,470 (Jets' 2019 cap savings)
- Cowboys' current cap room: $21.517 million
- Jets' 2020 dead money: $3,582,056 ($3,500,292 cap savings)
It was a surprise that Adams' name surfaced as a potential trade possibility on the final day of the trading period. Jets general manager Joe Douglas reportedly wasn't actively shopping Adams but did listen to offers from other teams. According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport and Jane Slater, the Jets wanted a first-round pick and two second-round picks, while the Cowboys were willing to give up a first-round pick and a Day 3 pick.
Something between the compensation necessary to acquire cornerback Jalen Ramsey and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick probably would have been appropriate for 2017's sixth overall pick. The Jaguars got two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick for Ramsey, while the Dolphins dealt Fitzpatrick along with a 2020 fourth-round pick and 2021 seventh-round pick to the Steelers for a 2020 first-round pick, 2020 fifth-round pick and a 2021 sixth-round pick.
Adams is under contract through the 2020 season, and his fifth-year option for 2021 can be picked up between the end of this regular season and next May 3. Adams is scheduled to make $3,500,292 in 2020.