For years, the NFL’s trade deadline was just another day. A lack of in-season deals made the league’s wheeling-and-dealing cutoff date pale in comparison to the frenzy of action the NBA and MLB typically saw.
But teams have been more active than ever the past few seasons, and 2019 has seen a flurry of trade activity in the run-up to Oct. 29. The Rams traded Marcus Peters and brought in Jalen Ramsey. The Patriots addressed their impending loss of Josh Gordon by freeing Mohamed Sanu from the Falcons’ sinking ship. The Broncos dealt away their previous season’s leading wideout for the second straight year.
That won’t be all. Plenty of big names are on the trading block with teams skidding toward mediocrity (or worse), and wide open playoff races in both conferences should leave no shortage of buyers. Players like A.J. Green, Melvin Gordon, and Chris Harris are all entering the final year of their contracts on teams whose postseason hopes range from “pretty bad” to “haaaaaaaaa.” They could find new life with new homes — but where?
We’ve got some ideas.
The Bills liberate WR A.J. Green from the Bengals
Green is 31 years old, has yet to play in 2019 thanks to an ankle injury and, because he has never played an NFL game as anything other than a Bengal, has no idea how to celebrate a playoff victory. And he could be just the thing that makes the rest of the NFL world take Buffalo seriously.
Green, even at 80 percent of his peak performance, would be the best wideout to play in western New York since Andre Reed ruled Orchard Park (sorry, Eric Moulds fans). While the transition from Andy Dalton to Josh Allen may be a step down for the seven-time Pro Bowler, he’d be a boon for a Bills offense in desperate need of consistency in its passing game. Injuries have limited Green’s impact the past four years — he’s played 35 of a possible 55 games since 2016 — but his on-field impact in that span is still elite. He’s averaged 85 catches, 1,251 yards, and eight touchdowns per 16 games in those seasons.
He’d also play a major role in helping an inconsistent quarterback who still needs signal-boosting weapons. Allen has had his share of bad games in 2019, but he has improved slightly after a trying rookie season, going from awful to mediocre (at least in terms of pure passing numbers) in the process.
An upgraded cast of receiving talent has helped push his completion rate from 52.8 percent in 2018 to 62.4 percent this fall, and he’s also showcased improved accuracy. His on-target throw rate has gone from 63.1 to 66.1 percent. Though that last number ranks 32nd among qualified QBs, it’s still slightly higher than Dalton’s rate so far.
Adding Green would allow top targets Cole Beasley and John Brown to take on the complementary roles for which they’re better suited. He’d also take defensive pressure away from rookie tight end Dawson Knox, who looks like he could be a big piece of the team’s future moving forward. Though Buffalo may not be high on Green’s wish list, he’d have a chance to step right in and make a major impact for a team in dire need of a playmaker. — Christian D’Andrea
Get Kyler Murray some protection in the form of Trent Williams
I’m not sure if Trent Williams wants to go to a team that isn’t expected to make the playoffs this season, but the Cardinals certainly have a better chance at competing in the near future than Washington does. More importantly, they have a young, promising head coach-quarterback combo in Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray.
We’ve already seen Murray improve this season, but that progress can easily be halted by an offensive line that simply isn’t holding up. Arizona has allowed Murray to be sacked 23 times this season, which puts him firmly in the top 10 of most sacked quarterbacks this season.
Murray is raw, but extremely active in the pocket. He needs some more protection so his rookie campaign isn’t derailed, and he’ll need help beyond this season. Williams has been named to the Pro Bowl for seven straight seasons and the left tackle clearly has a few good years left in him. I don’t know if he wants to spend them helping a young team become competitive, but if he’s open to it, then I think the deal makes perfect sense.
It would do a lot not just for the Cardinals offense, but for Murray’s confidence. And it’d free Williams from Washington. — James Brady
Give the Eagles some cornerback help by picking up Chris Harris Jr.
Philadelphia has been ravaged by injuries at the corner position pretty much all season. with Avonte Maddox, Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, and Sidney Jones all missing time. The Eagles signed back Orlando Scandrick to help out. That didn’t last long, as Scandrick was soon released and went all scorched earth on the way out.
The Eagles could use all the help they can get at cornerback. Philly’s defense is allowing 271 pass yards per game (27th in the NFL), and the problems in the secondary are evident. This clip from their blowout loss to the Dallas Cowboys sums up the unit in a nutshell:
Amari Cooper sends Rasul Douglas to another world with his patented sluggo.
my god, amari pic.twitter.com/5lNrOmoiTT
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) October 21, 2019
The Eagles need lockdown corner and already missed out on Jalen Ramsey. So how about Chris Harris Jr. from Denver? The four-time Pro Bowl corner has 19 total tackles and an interception so far this season, and has only allowed one touchdown. He’s also versatile and can play either outside or as a slot corner.
The Broncos aren’t going anywhere this season and Harris will be a free agent in 2020. They could at least get something for him from Philadelphia, which desperately needs a boost in the secondary to compete for the NFC East title, even if it’s only for the rest of the season. — Morgan Moriarty
Let Melvin Gordon start fresh with the Bears
This has not been a banner year for Melvin Gordon. First, he decided to hold out in hopes of receiving a lucrative new contract. When he and the Chargers didn’t make any progress in negotiations, Gordon requested a trade. When that didn’t materialize, Gordon ended his two-month absence. With his return, Gordon wanted to prove his worth to the Chargers (or another team) in the final year of his contract.
Yet, ever since Gordon entered the lineup in Week 5, he’s looked far removed from his Pro Bowl season a year ago. In three games, Gordon has gained just 81 yards on 36 attempts. The Chargers are 0-3 in that span, and the offense has been decidedly better with Austin Ekeler as the main back. You could even argue that the Chargers going away from Ekeler in favor of Gordon is what cost them a win against the Titans.
Gordon has admitted he wouldn’t miss training camp again, but it’s already tough enough for running backs to get paid, and it’s not like he forgot how to play football during his holdout. At this point, though, a new start might be his best chance to boost his confidence and show he still deserves top money.
The Bears would be an ideal landing spot. Their running game has been sluggish all season, ranking near the bottom of the league in rushing yards (420), yards per carry (3.4), and rushing touchdowns (two).
Bringing Gordon into the fold would take less pressure off David Montgomery and allow the rookie to work as part of a 1-2 running back punch. Gordon’s presence could also let speedy Tarik Cohen be more effective in his role as a change-of-pace back and receiving weapon.
Most importantly, Gordon would be a security blanket for the struggling Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears’ third-year quarterback needs all the help he can get, whether that’s a steady ground game or another target he can dump the ball off to. Gordon can do both. He has totaled at least 400 receiving yards for three straight seasons, and his only touchdown so far this year has come through the air.
Chicago needs just a little more production from its offense to get back into playoff contention. Then, it can let the defense do the rest. — Sarah Hardy
Von Miller could fill the Terrell Suggs-sized hole in Baltimore
Three years ago, Von Miller recorded 2.5 sacks in the AFC Championship Game to help lead the Broncos to a 20-18 win over the Patriots. Two weeks later, he had another 2.5 sacks in a 24-10 win over the Panthers that earned him Super Bowl MVP honors.
That’s the last time Miller played in the postseason.
The Denver offense has dragged down the defense for a few years now, and there’s still more roster repair left to do. Miller is 30 and wasting quality pass-rushing seasons while the Broncos struggle to figure out a way to score points.
If a team is willing to step up and offer the Broncos a lot for Miller, Denver could get pieces to speed along that rebuild. Even better, it could dodge the final two years of the pricy six-year, $114.1 million extension Miller signed in 2016.
Baltimore should be the team to step up to the plate. The Ravens only have 12 sacks through the first seven games of the season. Terrell Suggs, who is somehow still going strong in his 17th NFL season, has five sacks for the Cardinals — one more than any player on the Ravens.
The team isn’t afraid to make a splash. The Ravens reportedly made a significant offer to acquire Jalen Ramsey, but came up short. They have the draft capital to acquire Miller and a willingness to push their chips to the center of the table with a lead in the AFC North.
The tricky part would be fitting Miller’s contract under the salary cap for the remainder of the 2019 season. The Ravens have room in 2020, but they’d have to make some moves to clear space for Miller. If Baltimore can make it work, it’d be great to see Miller back on a team with a chance at winning something. — Adam Stites