Five NFL trades we'd like to see
With the NFL trade deadline looming, this is the last chance for teams to add a potential difference-maker to their roster this season that can push them over the top—and all the way through the playoffs.
Chances are the deadline will come and go with very little movement, but the league has tended to produce more trades in recent times, so maybe we’ll all be surprised with a few key moves that could prove to be the difference down the stretch.
Whether or not that happens, here are five moves that we would like to see.
1. Browns LT Joe Thomas to the Seattle Seahawks
In truth, I think Joe Staley is a better fit in Seattle, and probably available at a a better price than Thomas, but the chances of San Francisco dealing him within the division strike me as virtually zero, so instead I’m looking to Thomas.
This isn’t a particularly unique take, but it’s repeated so often because it makes so much sense. The Browns aren’t desperate to get rid of Thomas, but the team is rebuilding from the ground up in a way no other franchise has done in recent memory, so if the right offer comes around (a second-round draft pick, for instance), Cleveland would certainly listen.
The Seahawks are once again being held back by a disastrous offensive line, and there’s no better indication of that then the tie against the Cardinals we all suffered through. That game was directly impacted by their tackles being unable to hold up in pass protection, and while Joe Thomas has shown some signs this season that he is now mortal as a pass blocker, he would still represent a colossal upgrade and finally allow the Seahawks to forget about the LT position when game-planning.
2. Bears WR Alshon Jeffery to the Philadelphia Eagles
This might be the toughest trade to pull off, because Jeffery is playing on the franchise tag and Chicago has been unable to work out a long-term deal with the receiver, in part because of how scared the team is of his injury history. The Eagles are in desperate need of a legitimate receiver to shoulder some of the burden that is almost exclusively on rookie Carson Wentz. They have already gone looking in the receiver market—bringing in Dorial Green-Beckham via trade—but while he may have long-term potential, he hasn’t provided any kind of immediate boost.
Jeffery is a high-level receiver when he is on the field, having finished last season with a top-five overall grade among NFL WRs, despite missing half the year. This season, he has caught 60.4 percent of the passes sent his way for an average of 16.3 yards per catch.
The Eagles would likely want—or need—a long-term extension in place before they made any trade happen, and they aren’t exactly blessed with an overabundance of trade collateral after the moves to go and get Wentz at No. 2 overall in the draft; if all of the moving parts can be aligned, though, this trade makes a lot of sense for everybody involved.
3. 49ers WR Torrey Smith to the Buffalo Bills
It’s no secret that pretty much everybody on the 49ers’ roster that wasn’t drafted in the first round over the past two seasons is available to any team that comes calling. Torrey Smith may not be an elite receiver, but he can be a productive one on a team that can get him the ball, especially deep. Buffalo lost a big weapon when Sammy Watkins went down hurt, and Smith would go a long way towards giving the Bills some of that deep weaponry back. Smith’s average depth of target this season is 15.6 yards downfield, but he has caught just 43.3 percent of the balls thrown his way because of disastrous San Francisco QB play.
Tyrod Taylor throws one of the league’s best deep balls, and the pair could form a potent deep-strike partnership that would give Buffalo’s offense some of its swag back.
4. Saints LB Stephone Anthony to the San Francisco 49ers
As we just covered, the 49ers are in the selling market more than they are the buying one, but they could potentially add a big piece to their rebuilding project with a former first-round pick from a year ago. Stephone Anthony was one of the highest-graded linebackers in the nation during his final year at Clemson, with a grade of 87.1. He was instinctive, athletic, and productive. Then he went to New Orleans…
Anthony’s rookie year with the Saints was a disaster, and he ended with an overall grade of 43.3 before finding his role virtually eliminated this season. He has played just 55 snaps, almost all on the edge rather than in the middle at linebacker, and looks like a player the team has pretty much given up on already. That Saints’ defense has killed the career of many players over the past few years, and Anthony could be a perfect example of a defender that discovers his true potential at his second NFL destination.
The 49ers could take a gamble on a guy like Anthony and find themselves with a first-round linebacker joining the defense to aid in their rebuilding project.
5. Jets DE Sheldon Richardson to the Oakland Raiders
I’m not 100 percent convinced the Jets actually want to move any of their defensive linemen. Everybody assumes that because they have three players that all effectively do similar things, one of them is the odd man out. First it was Muhammad Wilkerson, then when he got a big contract, it became Sheldon Richardson. It wouldn’t shock me if they actually like the situation in which they have all three (Leonard Williams being the third player), but if we assume for a moment that Richardson is available if the right offer comes along, Oakland is the team best-situated to make it happen.
The Raiders badly miss Mario Edwards Jr. this season in the middle of that defense. It’s left them with no interior threat, and teams can more effectively deal with Khalil Mack when he is the sole source of disruption on the line. They could get a boost with Aldon Smith’s return if he is reinstated by the league, but that would just give them a second edge presence, leaving the Raiders still with nothing inside. Richardson can destroy the middle of offensive lines in both the run and pass game, and could provide the key to getting that Oakland defense to play up to the sum of its parts, not below that level.