A long time ago in an NFL far away, team owners and GMs across the league loved to make big trades. They’d sit in private rooms, most likely order someone to bring them something, and then they’d discuss how they’re going to get the league’s best player or trade the league’s best player for an army of draft picks. That era ended around the time that the Dallas Cowboys built a dynasty by trading away one star player for an absurd number of draft picks. Big trades have happened since then, but it seems that GMs and owners have become much more gun shy when it comes to pulling the trigger on a big deal. They don’t want to be known as the guy that blew it all.
However, it feels like the winds of change are blowing in the NFL. With so many teams ready to rebuild - or ready to admit to themselves that they need to rebuild - we’re seeing more and more franchises willing to take part in big trades that would have never happened just a few seasons ago. In fact, we’re willing to bet that the next couple of seasons will see more big trades than many recent seasons combined. Some of them will take place before this year’s trade deadline as the contenders and pretenders begin to honestly analyze their future. The rest will take place next season before a stunning wave of high-profile contracts come to an end. These are the 10 NFL players who could be traded before the week 9 deadline and 10 in the offseason.
20 Trade Deadline - Le'Veon Bell
At this point, we’d be floored if Le'Veon Bell plays another down for the Steelers past this season. The question is whether or not he plays another down for them at all.
The Steelers would prefer to have Le'Veon Bell, but they’ve made it clear that they don’t think they need him to win.
Right now, their price tag for Bell is probably very high, but as the trade deadline looms, they’ll have to ask whether or not they want to get any value out of him before he simply walks. Since the Steelers are not a stupid team, we think they sell him.
19 Offseason - Lamar Miller
Is it possible for a running back to be good and not good at the same time? Miller is an undeniably talented player whose biggest problem is that he never seems to be able to reach that next level. Even in his best season, he put up a respectable 1,099 yards and 8 touchdowns stat line.
Unless Miller really comes into his own this season for Houston, they’ve got to be asking themselves whether or not they’re prepared to continue to pay his massive contract in 2019 or if they should trade him off and start fresh in the backfield.
18 Trade Deadline - David Johnson
How's this for a bombshell? Coming into the season, the story was whether or not David Johnson would be able to recover from a devastating injury. Now, the story is whether David Johnson can survive being stuck on a woeful Cardinals team. They signed him to an extension almost immediately after his return, but that may have been a bit hasty.
The Cardinals have needs at just about every position (especially on offense) and Johnson is not the guy who is going to save this franchise by himself now or in the long run.
If the Cardinals smell a high draft pick coming next year, they might just decide to unload Johnson to the highest bidder and avoid his impending contract situation.
17 Offseason - Antonio Brown
Truth be told, we don’t make much of Brown’s supposed rumblings that he wants out of Pittsburgh ASAP. We think that’s just talk. However, it’s talk that leads you to wonder whether or not the Steelers would consider selling one of the most valuable wide receivers in the league.
We think that Brown has great years left in him, but he is a 30-year-old wide receiver who has probably spent his best seasons in Pittsburgh.
He’s got a massive pay bump looming in his contract, which might be all the incentive that Pittsburgh needs to trade him for draft picks. Plus, if things don't go the Steelers way this year and Ben retires, it might be time for a full-scale rebuild in Pittsburgh. The 49ers would be a good fit, as they need a no.1 WR and have the cap space for Brown.
16 Trade Deadline - Dante Fowler, Jr.
The fact that Dante Fowler, Jr. is tradable just goes to show how great this Jacksonville defense really is. Here you have a guy who is not even always in the starting rotation, yet has managed to put up 12 sacks in the last two seasons. While Jacksonville might see Fowler as part of their future, they also have to worry about his looming contract and the fact that they clearly don’t need him as a starter to win.
Fowler would be welcome by just about every contender out there - the Rams would especially love to have him - meaning that he could fetch quite the price.
15 Offseason - Chris Thompson
Why would the Redskins ever trade Chris Thompson? After all, he’s a dynamic backfield threat who is still young and coming into his own. However, Thompson isn’t a true number one back in the mold of a guy like Melvin Gordon. He’s also not a guy that is helping the Redskins win right now in a division that is arguably very winnable right now. As such, you have to wonder if Washington sees some of the Chris Thompson hype as a reason to shop a guy that probably has some value to a team like San Francisco that is able to use his skills more effectively.
14 Midseason - Mark Ingram
It’s nice to be rich. The reason it’s nice to be rich has little to do with what you can buy but the comfort that comes from knowing that you have more than you need.
Right now, the New Orleans Saints probably like having Mark Ingram on the roster, but they don’t need him.
Alvin Kamara is clearly the future of that team, and Ingram is little more than an expensive change of pace (despite his recent incredible seasons). There’s surely a team out there that will float a good offer for Ingram, and we think the Saints would be fools not to take it.
13 Offseason - Kiko Alonso
The Miami Dolphins are in a strange place. They’re not an awful team by any means. What they are, though, is a team that isn’t threatening to win the Super Bowl anytime soon. They’re not even the second best team in their state. Such teams are usually interested in trades, and Kiko Alonso remains one of Miami’s best possible bargaining chips. Alonso isn’t the type of defensive player who is going to single-handedly save Miami’s defense, but he’s the type of guy that a lot of defenses across the league would love to have. We think that Miami ultimately decides to move him rather than eat his contract.
12 Trade Deadline - Jimmie Ward
Whenever a coach has to give a player a vote of confidence, that’s usually a pretty good sign that something is wrong. While young Jimmie Ward is a talented defensive back, he’s also a guy that is prone to injury.
It’s becoming apparent that the 49ers are reaching that point where they have to decide whether Jimmie Ward is going to be a part of their future.
Given that there are probably some teams out there that are willing to overpay for Ward, we’re willing to bet that the 49ers unload him at some point in the near - maybe very near - future.
11 Offseason - Bobby Wagner
Bobby Wagner is one of the best linebackers in the game. He’s the kind of guy that could become the future of Seattle’s defense. However, there are serious questions as to whether or not Seattle will have a defense worth talking about while Wagner is still in his prime.
As such, there are some who believe that the Seahawks could make a Khalil Mack kind of trade by shipping Wagner off for a ton of valuable draft picks. Considering that Seattle looks like they’re entering a rebuilding year, we think that they just might send Wagner elsewhere even though he is in his prime.
10 Trade Deadline - LeSean McCoy
The question here isn’t so much whether or not the Bills want to unload LeSean McCoy but whether anyone wants him. Even if you put aside his personal problems, McCoy is a 30-year-old back with few treads left on the tires and his best years behind him. However, you could argue that a team like the Colts who are seemingly in need of a flexible running back might just be willing to take a chance on McCoy.
As for the Bills...well, we’re willing to bet that they’d take just about whatever they can get for McCoy as they prepare to rebuild.
9 Offseason - Desean Jackson
At the moment, such a trade probably seems silly. After all, the Bucs offense looks great, and Jackson appears to be enjoying a bit of a career revival at the moment.
While we highly doubt the Bucs would trade Jackson this year, we do think there’s a possibility that they test his market value next year.
That’s especially true if Jackson just goes all out this season and presents himself as someone who might have a few great years left. If the Bucs believe that such a season is just an anomaly, they might just go for a younger wideout.
8 Trade Deadline - Ameer Abdullah
Ameer Abdullah remains an anomaly. The Lions have kept the young back around under the belief that he might just blossom into a true RB1. Instead, Abdullah has been that guy that does well enough to keep around but not so well that you offer him a big contract. It’s coming time to put up or shut up with Abdullah, and we think that the Lions are going to choose to send him to someone who wants to figure out what he’s really worth. Abdullah’s trade value at the moment is fairly low, but we feel like the Lions need draft picks more than this RB.
7 Offseason - Amari Cooper
The Oakland Raiders are bad. They were good enough at key positions in recent years to disguise how many gaps there are on their roster, but the Mack trade exposed the cold hard truth about Oakland’s situation. Rather than be that rebuilding team that doesn’t realize they’re a rebuilding team, Oakland should start a fire sale that includes Amari Cooper.
We don’t know if Cooper’s slump is here to stay, but unless Oakland wants to be the one to find out, they need to unload Cooper while they can add to their stockpile of first-round picks in the coming years.
6 Trade Deadline - Kelvin Benjamin
The Bills fire sale continues! Truth be told, we really don’t know what Kelvin Benjamin’s trade value is. He has one good season to his name, and that season came courtesy of Cam Newton’s brilliant play.
He’s a problematic player that just might have enough gas in the tank to contribute to a team that is a little more “together” than the Buffalo Bills.
Benjamin has zero value to the Bills, and there’s virtually no chance that he will contribute anything meaningful to the franchise even if he does stick around in the coming years. Just get rid of him and move on.
5 Offseason - Michael Brockers
There is a very good chance that the Los Angeles Rams will win a Super Bowl sometime in the next couple of years. They’re a team with almost no real weaknesses to speak of who happen to excel at quite a few of the most important aspects of the game. However, they’re not a team that can afford to get complacent. They still need to make moves to help build a dynasty.
So far as that goes, Michael Brockers feels like the most obvious piece of talent that they can trade. He’s more than solid, but he’s perhaps not as essential as what he’ll fetch on the open market. Not to mention all the long-term deals they'll eventually have to pay. Salary will have to be shed somewhere on the roster.
4 Trade Deadline - Jay Ajayi
Eagles fans don’t want to hear this, but Philadelphia has become the place that running backs go to die. It’s a trend that goes beyond coaches and schemes; Philly just doesn’t have a long history of great running backs. Jay Ajayi is the latest Philly running back that doesn’t do much. His stats aren’t awful, but he’s not the true number one that Philly thought he would be when they traded for him. They might do well to send him elsewhere, snag a few picks, and then go back to the backfield by committee approach that they’re already kind of relying on.
3 Offseason - Joe Haden
You might get the feeling that we’re picking on the Steelers with this list, but the truth of the matter is that Pittsburgh needs to rebuild more than they know. They’re not that far removed from Super Bowl wins, but they’re also not looking like that team that can make the AFC Championship every year. Their defense is a particular problem.
When it comes time to fix the Steelers defense, you do have to wonder how Joe Haden fits into Pittsburgh’s plans.
He’s commanding a big contract, and he isn’t making the Steelers defense nearly as good as it needs to be.
2 Trade Deadline - Earl Thomas
Considering that Seattle didn’t make this trade prior to the start of the season, you might be wondering why they would make it now, especially with Earl Thomas now injured. Well...it's pretty clear that Thomas won't be back in Seattle next season and with him out for the year, the Seahawks may try to get whatever they can for him.
If the Dallas Cowboys plan on having Earl Thomas for next season, they can send a late-round pick to Seattle and ensure Thomas doesn't hit the open market. The alternative for the Seahawks is to just let him walk for absolutely nothing when his contract expires next year. That doesn’t seem like a Pete Carroll move.
1 Next Year - Demaryius Thomas
There’s an argument to be made that this trade should happen this year, but we don’t think the Broncos ship Demaryius Thomas in 2018 unless things really start to fall apart. So far as that goes, we don’t think they’re going to completely fall apart. However, the thought of Thomas signing another contract with the Broncos just feels like a fantasy.
Thomas has been a wonder for the Broncos, but he’s not living in the Peyton Manning era anymore. He can still win another Super Bowl with another team, but it feels like his value to himself and the Broncos lies in him being sent elsewhere.