Nobody trades better than the NBA.
This NFL offseason has been filled with some of the best trades in recent memory -- the Patriots acquired Brandin Cooks, the Texans sent a second-round pick to the Browns so that Brock Osweiler's salary wouldn't be on their books any longer, the Bears shocked the world by trading up to grab Mitchell Trubisky at No. 2 overall, and the Chiefs and Texans both engineered trades to draft their future franchise quarterbacks -- and it took the NBA one damn trade to top all of those ones. When the Thunder -- not the Lakers, Celtics, or Cavaliers -- landed Paul George, they not only got a second star to pair alongside Russell Westbrook, they also sent a reminder to the NFL that the NBA is still king when it comes to splashy acquisitions.
The NFL is never going to match the NBA in offseason material. Due to the restrictive franchise tag, most high-level players aren't able to jump ship like Kevin Durant. Player for player trades are virtually nonexistent. And it's quite possible NFL players will never understand the language of emojis like NBA players so clearly do.
🌴🗑☘️💩🎷🏆— Rudy Gobert (@rudygobert27) July 2, 2017
But what if the NFL decided to go against the norm and became a trade-happy market? It'll never happen, but it's a fun alternative universe to explore. I'm a "Star Wars" and "Game of Thrones" nerd, so I'm into this sorta thing: spending way too much time thinking about things that won't ever exist.
Trades are unlikely to happen this late in the offseason -- barring another Teddy Bridgewater-like injury situation -- but there's still a chance (a slim one, albeit) that trades could materialize around the trade deadline, when teams have some clarity about where they're heading, when bad teams should be in rebuild mode and good teams should be in win-now mode.
Those bad teams should be looking to part ways with assets that don't hold any long-term value -- veteran players whose contracts are expiring after the season. And those good teams should be looking to bolster their playoff-caliber rosters with cheap, proven players. The return for those players likely won't be much, but a conditional or sixth-round pick is better than losing those players for absolutely nothing following the season. It's also a reasonable cost for a contender to pay for a player who can help them win a Super Bowl in February.
The trade deadline during the upcoming season is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET on Halloween -- presumably so Bill Belichick can go trick-or-treating instead of staring at the transaction wire. Here are seven candidates that could be traded before that deadline. Again, it's highly unlikely any of these players get traded in reality, so let's not get too worked up in the logistics of these trades.
Instead, let's pretend we're in a galaxy far, far away …
- 2017 cap hit: $16.9 million
- 2017 dead cap: $9.2 million
- 2018 status: $3.6 million in dead cap
The starting quarterback (for now) of the Chiefs, Alex Smith, will be the only quarterback appearing on this list for a reason. Quarterbacks so rarely get moved during the season because mastering a new system mid-season is a difficult assignment. When Sam Bradford was traded to the Vikings right before the season, he sat the team's first game because he wasn't ready. So, don't expect Smith to get moved.
But here's why it could happen. Smith has absolutely no long-term future with the Chiefs. When the Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes, they made that much clear. Even Smith knows his time is up.
"I think [the Chiefs are] committed to me [only] through this year," Smith said in May, via ESPN. "That's just the nature of it. If you don't go out there and perform, I mean, coach [Andy] Reid and [quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy] are very honest. You've got to go out there and do your deal. We all have to."
So, what happens if the Chiefs start poorly in a tough division that also features three potential playoff teams in the Raiders, Broncos and Chargers? It could happen.
Take a look at the Chiefs' schedule before the deadline:
That's tough. If the Chiefs drop to a unrecoverable record, they could decide to let Mahomes take over so he gains live experience. If that happens, why would they want to hang onto Smith when they're likely to cut him after the season?
Again, this seems unlikely for a myriad of reasons. The Chiefs have averaged nearly 11 wins in each of the past four seasons with Smith. Even if the Chiefs start slowly, they might not punt on their season. In 2015, they began the year with a 1-5 record and ended up at 11-5. And, most importantly, a contending team would need to be absolutely desperate to trade for Smith. They'd need to lose their quarterback to an injury and feel confident in Smith's ability to learn a new offense.
Translation: It's not happening, but it's fun to dream.
- 2017 cap hit: $7 million
- 2017 dead cap: $7 million
- 2018 status: Unrestricted free agent
The Bears signed Prince Amukamara to be their CB1 after years of simply not filling the position. But they only gave him a one-year prove-it deal. There's a very good chance the Bears will be bad (again) in 2017 and Amukamara has proven to be a solid cornerback when healthy -- that's a huge problem, of course, considering he's successfully endured a full 16-game season just once in his six-year career.
If the Bears are struggling, they might decide they'd rather trade him for a draft pick. A lot of teams are lacking quality defensive backs. A potential contending team could decide they want to bolster depth and Amukamara would be a solid option. Pro Football Focus handed him a positive grade in 2016.
- 2017 cap hit: $8 million
- 2017 dead cap: $3.25 million
- 2018 status: UFA
Finally, one that makes some sense realistically speaking. For months, the Ravens appeared to be OK with the idea of Wallace serving as Joe Flacco's top target, but they lucked out when Jeremy Maclin suddenly became available and signed with them. Now, Wallace will be a secondary option for Flacco -- and rightly so.
There's a decent-sized chance, though, that the Ravens aren't going to be good in 2017. For one, they're lacking an elite quarterback. Fun fact: Joe Flacco has a lower career passer rating (84.5) than Colin Kaepernick (88.9). OK, that fact might not have been fun if you're a Ravens fan. And two, any team relying on Wallace to be a reliable playmaker is probably lacking reliable playmakers.
But Wallace is still a home-run threat who can thrive in the right kind of offense -- one that features a quarterback with dependable deep accuracy and a plethora of other targets. If the Ravens get off to a bad start, they should jettison Wallace to a contender who needs a receiver like, say, the Panthers.
- 2017 cap hit: $7,703,125
- 2017 dead cap: $2 million
- 2018 status: UFA
The Lions are probably going to regress in 2017 because they overachieved in 2016. Their point differential? Minus-12.
Even if they weren't the poster team for a regression candidate, they likely don't have Ngata in their long-term plans given his age (33). Ngata isn't the player he once was, when he was a dominant interior force for the Ravens, but he can still function as a rotational player. He could bolster a contender's defensive line.
- 2017 cap hit: $6,166,668
- 2017 dead cap: $666,668
- 2018 status: UFA
The Jaguars aren't going to be good as long as they keep trotting out Blake Bortles as their quarterback. Ignore all the talk of his supposedly fixed mechanics. It's nothing more than offseason bingo.
So, they should be trying to move Posluszny even if they'll get nothing more than a conditional pick. It makes too much sense. They're not even playing him at his position. For the first time in his decade-long career, he's switching positions. He'll no longer be a middle linebacker. He'll be positioned as a strong-side linebacker.
He has no future with the team. He's 32 and the team should continue to get younger.
- 2017 cap hit: $1,194,328
- 2017 dead cap: $262,473
- 2018 status: UFA
This might be my favorite idea. Unlike the majority of the names on this list, Hill isn't ... over the hill. He's still only 24 years old and is coming off a nine-touchdown season. In his three-year career, he's reached the end zone 30 times. He still has value, even if he's unlikely to be a feature back in a top offense.
The Bengals don't need him, though, not with Giovani Bernard and rookie Joe Mixon also on the roster. If Mixon looks like a first-round talent -- he didn't fall to the second-round due to football reasons -- the Bengals won't have any need for Hill in their crowded backfield. Some contender needing another body in their backfield could look to acquire Hill if Mixon establishes himself as the Bengals' de-facto back or if the Bengals get off to a rocky start.
- 2017 cap hit: $8,069,000
- 2017 dead cap: $8,069,000
- 2018 status: UFA
Out of the seven players, Richardson is the only one who is likely to be moved. How do I know this?
He's already on the trading block. He's been on the trading block since last November, when the Jets tried to ship him away before the trade deadline. Richardson himself already noted that he's the "odd man out" on the Jets' defensive line with Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams there for the long haul. Richardson's contract expires after the coming season, so he won't return to New York barring a stunning turn of events.
Off-the-field concerns aside, Richardson is a solid asset, but the Jets are losing leverage. The entire league essentially knows that Richardson will be available as a free agent after the season, so it seems unlikely a team would overpay for him in a trade. Maybe the Jets will accept a late draft pick instead of losing him for nothing after the season. That's what they should do. The Jets are nowhere close to contending. They need to collect all the picks they can so they can rebuild their team through the draft.
Look for a contender (cough cough the Titans cough cough) lacking a top pass rush to make a move by renting Richardson for half a season. He has 18 sacks since 2013.
Wink of the CBS eye to Spotrac for all of the contract figures