The trade deadline is still nearly a month away, but already there has been a rush of activity to express interest in certain valuable veteran players, and a sense among aggressive general managers that there are more potential trades to be made this year than possibly ever before.
That sentiment was shared by the eight general managers I reached out to this week, all noting that the chasm between the contenders and pretenders seems more stark than in years past, and that it is no longer considered taboo for struggling teams to trade top players in-season or embrace a wholesale rebuild. The Bengals, Jets, Broncos, Dolphins, Cardinals and Washington are all winless, and there have never been more than six winless teams this late in the season since the 1970 merger of the AFL and NFL. If five teams or more remain winless entering Week 6, that will be an all-time record.
Trades have become more commonplace in general in the NFL in recent years, with younger GMs with more diverse backgrounds (and not simply scouting) having accepted a mode of transaction that was largely frowned upon in the past, given the extreme team nature of this sport and the differences between schemes and terminologies from team to team. But now, several teams have already begun laying the framework for potential deals ahead of the October 29 deadline, sources said.
The Saints, Eagles, Ravens, Chiefs, Patriots and Seahawks have been among the most active teams, league sources said, hopeful of addressing roster needs to fortify what they believe can be Super Bowl runs. Many of these teams have already been in pursuit of disgruntled Jaguars star corner Jalen Ramsey, who still could be dealt ahead of the deadline; the Chiefs, Eagles, Ravens and Saints, in particular, are pushing for corner upgrades.
The Patriots have issues at the offensive line, tight end and receiver, and are expected to push for players like Bengals receiver A.J. Green and/or tight end Tyler Eifert; those players also appeal to the Saints, sources said, who made a real effort to land Denver's Emmanuel Sanders a year ago and likely would again.
The Ravens need to address a flagging defense and will attempt to do so, sources said, with Denver's Derek Wolfe making sense for them, and any other pass-rush help, too.
The Eagles tried to land star defensive back Patrick Peterson from the Cardinals a year ago, and he could be dealt when he returns from suspension as well, with Arizona yet to win and in need of future draft picks instead of 30-something players.
Washington has refused to trade holdout star left tackle Trent Williams to this point, baffling rival GMs who used adjectives like "ridiculous," "unbelievable" and "backwards" to describe the team's approach to that situation. Still, some believe owner Dan Snyder will relent at some point this month with his franchise spiraling. Could that prompt him to deal stalwart end Ryan Kerrigan as well? If so, there would be serious interest. Same with Bengals defensive standouts Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.
It has the makings of a wild few weeks until the deadline. Traditionally, this would result in far more talk than action. But that tide may finally be changing.