NFLTR Review: Five Potential Blockbuster Trade Candidates Who Aren’t Quarterbacks

Quarterback intrigue always dominates the offseason but there are plenty of other big names who could be changing teams soon: 

  • The top contenders for Jalen Ramsey, and a budget consolation prize
  • Could history repeat itself in Kansas City?
  • Two veterans who will supercharge the WR market if made available

Around The Trade Block

If it seems to you like NFL teams are becoming more aggressive with their personnel moves, you’d be totally right. More and more teams have become willing to surrender premium draft picks for players. If the trade deadline this past October didn’t set a record number of deals, it certainly set one for splash, as several big-name players were dealt for significant draft capital. And of course, there are the blockbuster quarterback deals that are becoming an annual occurrence. 

It’s a good time to be in the trade rumors business. 

Naturally the speculation about quarterback trades takes up a lot of oxygen but there are plenty of non-quarterbacks who will be on the move. Perhaps the trade activity this past fall has pre-empted the spring market but there are still some big names worth keeping in mind. Some of them are semi-old news at this point, like Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins or Rams CB Jalen Ramsey. Others aren’t getting the buzz right now, but are in situations that could bubble up into an unexpected deal. When or if that happens, you heard it here first. 

In addition to Ramsey and Hopkins, here are three further players I think it’s worth keeping in mind. If I was an NFL GM, I’d be using this week at the Combine to put a bug in the ear of the respective GMs for this group in the hopes it led to something later this month or in April.

For all five players, here’s why they could be on the trade block, what they might cost and who might be interested: 

Jalen Ramsey

Why would the Rams trade Ramsey?

Out of all of the players listed here, my hunch is a Ramsey trade is the most likely. There’s too much buzz showing Los Angeles is seriously considering it and Ramsey’s good enough that there should be a healthy amount of interest. 

Here’s why Ramsey could be traded for the second time and join his third NFL team by this fall. The Rams’ 2022 season was obviously a major disaster, as it seemed that a year after everything went right en route to a Super Bowl win, everything instead went wrong. Injuries destroyed the roster, particularly the offensive line, but they also showed flaws that simply relying on a return to good health wouldn’t fix. As outlined in this terrific piece by the Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue, too many teams are copying Los Angeles’ model and any competitive advantage they may have enjoyed is gone. 

They won’t and can’t fully tear down the roster, nor would they want to. Rams HC Sean McVay didn’t forestall retirement to lose a bunch of games. But Los Angeles is on the verge of reimagining their team build, which means the Rams could look quite different in 2023. Trading Ramsey wouldn’t mean the Rams are initiating a tank but it would mean Los Angeles believes it’s at a point where Ramsey’s greatest contributions as an asset to their football team are no longer on the football field. 

The veteran corner is still playing at a high level but he’s 28 years old. Defensive back is a young player’s game and NFL teams treat successful DBs who are 30 or older as the exception, not the rule. While Ramsey has three years remaining on his contract, there have been rumblings that he’d like a new deal to reflect the growth of the market at his position. The Rams don’t have to give it to him but this is the type of situation that could fester if not addressed. 

So the team finds itself at a crossroads with Ramsey this offseason. Either reinvest in one of the game’s best defensive players as he enters the potential backside of his career, or deal him now while his value remains high. As noted earlier, given the context of where the Rams’ team as a whole is at, the latter option might make the most sense. 

What could they get? 

2022 wasn’t Ramsey’s best season but he was still one of the league’s best cornerbacks. He picked off four passes, forced two fumbles and recorded two sacks. His coverage numbers were higher than in other seasons, but it’s important to note the Rams just didn’t stick him on one side of the field or against an opponent’s best receiver. He moved all over the formation in an effort to make it impossible for offenses to avoid him. His ability to do both of those things at a high level will still make him attractive to teams, though his age and contract are mitigating factors. 

The Rams won’t get as much as they gave up for Ramsey, which was two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick. That won’t be their goal in negotiations, however. In a similar situation with WR Brandin Cooks, the team gave up a first-round pick to acquire him from the Patriots. Two years later he was traded for an early second, recouping a major portion but not all of the value. 

If a similar outcome is the goal, the Rams will likely start negotiations looking for a first-round pick and a sweetener like a mid or late-round pick. I think they’d also be open to taking less than a first as long as it involved a package with multiple Day 2 picks and three or four picks total. For instance, the 49ers’ package for RB Christian McCaffrey where they gave up second, third, fourth and fifth-round picks across two draft classes. It’s not apples to apples obviously. Ramsey and McCaffrey play different positions, have different contract situations and are different ages. But it’s also hard to argue Ramsey is worth less in a deal than McCaffrey. 

If it’s a package like that, I could see Los Angeles leaning toward the quantity of multiple picks rather than the quality of a first-round selection, as one of the tenets of their team-building philosophy has been that late first-round picks are over-valued compared to veterans or later selections. I suspect even as they tweak things, that belief will remain the same. 

Who would be interested?

There are a lot of teams that need cornerback help, but the teams that either fancy themselves as contenders or are a step away from possibly making noise will be the most interested in trading for Ramsey. Out of all the teams, the Detroit Lions stand out above the pack. They need a lot of help on defense and especially in the secondary. Lions GM Brad Holmes was in Los Angeles when they traded for Ramsey and the two organizations already have experience making franchise-altering trades. Detroit has a lot of picks, too, with eight this year, five in the first three rounds and an extra third in 2024. 

Ramsey should still have three or so productive years left, and he’s the type of leader and tone-setter who should fit like a glove into the culture the Lions are building right now. If the Lions are comfortable with the acquisition cost — and it is worth noting this is supposed to be an outstanding draft class when it comes to cornerback — then it almost makes too much sense for them to trade for Ramsey. 

Sometimes the really obvious deals in the NFL happen, more often they don’t. So there are several other teams who shouldn’t be discounted. The Dolphins will have a major need at cornerback with the expected release of veteran CB Byron Jones. Ramsey has been playing the past couple of years in a similar style of defense to what new Miami DC Vic Fangio will be running, and he’d be part of a formidable tandem with fellow CB Xavien Howard. Ramsey would also likely welcome the opportunity to return to the state of Florida. 

The hangup here will be cost. The Dolphins are tight up against the cap and have already made a significant investment at corner by reworking Howard’s deal. If they brought in Ramsey, they might also upset the apple cart again with Howard. They also don’t have a lot of draft picks to work with after making a few other blockbuster deals. For it to work with Miami, Ramsey and the Rams both might have to agree to take less. 

Other teams to keep in mind include the Patriots, who have a need at corner, picks and cap space to spare and a history of acquiring big-name players and personalities later in their careers. Ramsey would be outstanding in the defensive system in New England as well. I don’t know how the Ravens will find the picks and space to trade for Ramsey but they can never be ruled out when it comes to cornerbacks. They acquired CB Marcus Peters from the Rams a few years ago in a semi-similar situation. Los Angeles gave up a second-round pick and change to get Peters from the Chiefs but parted ways for only a fifth-round pick and LB Kenny Young. If the Ravens can pull off anything similar, that’d be a massive coup for them and a big loss for the Rams. I don’t think Los Angeles is that eager to get rid of Ramsey yet. 

DeAndre Hopkins

Why would the Cardinals trade Hopkins?

Hopkins’ name came up around the trade deadline as some teams poked around to see how Arizona was feeling about his status as the Cardinals’ season circled the drain. Nothing materialized then but a report near the end of the season indicated the Cardinals would seriously explore their options with Hopkins this coming offseason. 

It’s not a question about Hopkins’ performance. The veteran can still play. Despite missing six games due to a suspension for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy and a few more due to injury, Hopkins still appeared in nine games and caught 64 passes for 717 yards and three touchdowns. He turns 31 in June but hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down yet, though for various reasons he hasn’t played a full season since 2020. 

For a team like Arizona that’s entering what looks like a major rebuilding phase, Hopkins’ age and contract stick out. He’s due $19.45 million this year and has also indicated he’d like an updated contract even though his current deal runs through the 2024 season. He also probably wants to play somewhere with a better chance at competing for a Super Bowl. 

The Cardinals could always keep Hopkins, and if they feel confident QB Kyler Murray will be recovered from his torn ACL sooner rather than later, they might be higher on their chances of a quick turnaround than the general public or the rest of the league. If they’re more realistic, then clearing nearly $20 million off the books and getting a strong draft pick is an attractive alternative and probably the best course of action. 

What could they get? 

When the Cardinals acquired Hopkins from the Texans, they pulled off a heist. All they had to surrender was a second-round pick and they even got Houston to take on RB David Johnson and his contract. However, at this stage in Hopkins’ career, Arizona will be hard-pressed to get more than that. In the past, receivers have fallen off the age cliff rather abruptly and any team acquiring Hopkins will be mindful of that risk. If Hopkins is after a new deal, that will also lessen the market, as teams are usually hesitant to give up both premium picks and big chunks of cap space unless they perceive their risk as low. 

With that in mind, a second-round pick would be a good return. There’s a chance the Cardinals would have to settle for a third-round pick but I think Hopkins’ strong performance in 2022 and the general lack of outstanding options for receiver-needy teams this offseason will help make things competitive. 

Who would be interested?

Back in January, we looked at the best fits for a potential Hopkins trade. At the time, the Browns, Jaguars, Patriots, Giants and Chargers stuck out. We have a little more information now and I think the Jaguars and Chargers make less sense given the financial constraints. Jacksonville has invested a lot at receiver and restructured veteran Zay Jones this week. They’re probably boxed in from adding anyone else as expensive as Hopkins this year. 

If the Chargers are going to keep WR Keenan Allen, they also wouldn’t be in the market for Hopkins, as it would mean paying three receivers more than $20 million a year. They have work to do to get under the cap and have a mega-extension for QB Justin Herbert to budget for. I suspect the Giants will also be a no-go unless they’re able to work out a long-term deal with QB Daniel Jones. If he ends up getting the franchise tag, which is where it looks like the two sides are headed, then that will suck up most of New York’s cap space and curtail their budget for Hopkins. 

That leaves Cleveland and New England. The Browns make sense for the same reasons. If they restructure QB Deshaun Watson, they’ll have plenty of cap space to make the move, and reuniting Hopkins and Watson could be a huge boost to a passing game that already includes WR Amari Cooper. The Patriots also hit the tri-factor of need at receiver, budget and available picks. It helps that new Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort has a ton of connections to the New England front office after working there for 14 years. 

Other teams might figure more prominently into the mix now. The Bears still have a major need at receiver and Hopkins’ suspension voided the no-trade clause in his contract. Chicago wouldn’t have been at the top of his wish list but his say in the matter is now lessened if they put the best offer on the table for the Cardinals. The Ravens might have the biggest need of any team at wide receiver but the acquisition cost for Hopkins might be too rich for them, as they are low on both picks and financial wiggle room this offseason. Depending on how they want to handle the position, the Chiefs also have the resources to be major players in the wide receiver market this offseason. 

But a dark horse contender that might actually make the most sense in the end? The Houston Texans. The regime that shipped Hopkins out of town is completely gone. There’s a new, player-friendly coach in town and there’s going to be a highly-drafted and highly-touted rookie quarterback in the building by May. If Hopkins hasn’t completely burned bridges with the team that drafted him and where he played seven seasons, it could be a landing spot he finds compelling.

As for Houston, they need playmakers however they can find them. Normally a rebuilding team wouldn’t be interested in pulling off a blockbuster trade for a veteran but the Texans have been rebuilding for two years now. They won’t compete for a Super Bowl this year (probably) but they don’t have to look far outside the division for how quickly things can come together if you find the right quarterback. And outside of the Jaguars, the AFC South is not a daunting division. Hopkins would be a safety blanket to help whichever quarterback they draft hit the ground running. And perhaps in two or three years, if the Texans build right, Hopkins could still be a key piece of a contending squad. 

(Wanna get really wacky? Cooks wants out of Houston and Ossenfort would know him from New England. Would Arizona be interested in Cooks as a way to make the financials work? They’re due almost the same amount and Cooks is about two years younger)

That’s a lot of ifs, to be true. More than likely it would take a slow-moving market for Hopkins. The Texans can justify parting with a third-round pick a lot easier than a second. It’s not completely outside the realm of possibilities, though. 

Stephon Gilmore

Why would the Colts trade Gilmore?

Another team with high expectations in 2022 that instead bottomed out, the Colts look like they’re entering a rebuilding period of their own, including a rookie quarterback and new head coach. While fixing the quarterback position will go a long way for Indianapolis, it’s not that simple, otherwise they’d be in the market for one of the veteran options. There are other holes to fix and the Colts are likely a year away at least. 

Moving on from Gilmore would create another hole in the secondary, as he was arguably Indianapolis’ best defensive player last year. It’s a matter of timing though. If things go smoothly, Gilmore would be turning 34 in 2024 when the Colts are ready to compete and be a pending free agent. His value is much greater as a trade chip than it is on the field for the team in 2023. Moving Gilmore would allow the Colts to go younger and cheaper, as well as freeing up reps for his successor. Gilmore would almost certainly welcome a trade to a team that’s going to be more competitive as well. 

What could they get? 

Despite his age, Gilmore still played at a high level for the Colts in 2022. He only picked off two passes but teams often preferred not to test him in coverage, as he allowed just a 56.2 completion percentage on 89 targets. As a one-year rental, plenty of contending teams should be interested, and he’s a lot cheaper than Ramsey. He’s due only $10 million in 2023 on the final year of his contract. 

That’s a decent value but also not an inconsequential amount. With age and salary factored in, inquiring teams might open with a fifth or fourth-round pick as the offer. If there are a lot of interested bidders, maybe the price gets as high as a third but I doubt it given the depth at cornerback in the draft. 

Who would be interested?

Any teams that are interested in Ramsey should be checking into Gilmore as a cheaper Plan B, albeit for perhaps fewer years. This might make the most sense for the Dolphins, as they don’t have as much cap space or as many picks to spare. They’d check an important box as a contending team for Gilmore. 

The Lions and Ravens make a lot of sense for most of the reasons articulated above. If the Ravens don’t re-sign Peters, Gilmore will be more affordable to fill the hole at corner than Ramsey. The Patriots probably aren’t an option given things didn’t end on the best of terms between the two sides and New England probably wants to go younger. 

One interesting fit is the Vikings, as Gilmore overlapped with DC Brian Flores for two years with the Patriots. Minnesota has a cavernous need at cornerback, particularly if Flores is going to install a defense similar to the aggressive, blitz-heavy, man coverage-based scheme he’s run in the past. Gilmore could be a short-term solution while younger options develop. 

Chris Jones

Why would the Chiefs trade Jones?

A year ago, the Chiefs decided to trade WR Tyreek Hill when the wide receiver market jumped more than they anticipated and his asking price went to nearly $30 million a year. It worked out better than almost anyone could have expected, as the team won the Super Bowl. The trade was a big topic during interviews before the game, and Chiefs GM Brett Veach essentially said with the major deal they gave QB Patrick Mahomes, they needed to put more of an emphasis on adding draft picks and hitting on those as opposed to concentrating their cap space on a few elite players. 

This year, Jones is up for an extension as he enters the final year of his deal, just like Hill. The defensive tackle market is due for a major jump just like the receiver market was last offseason, with an enormous gulf between Rams DT Aaron Donald at $31 million a year and Giants DL Leonard Williams at $21 million a year. And just like last year, there are a number of players poised to push that number higher, including Jones. After the season he just had, he’d be justified in asking for $30 million a year on his next deal — minimum

The parallels are hard to ignore, which is why it’s worth pondering the possibility that just like offseason, the Chiefs could unexpectedly trade away one of their core pieces. They might value Jones more than they did Hill, as the presence of Mahomes allows the team to get away with less at the receiver position. Jones is an elite pass rusher and those are harder to find. =

What could they get? 

Multiple firsts might be a tall ask for Jones given his age and the contract a team would be required to give him. Though there have been defenders traded for two first-round picks in the past, and Jones has the benefit of playing a premium position, all of them were younger. 

Still, the five-pick package the Chiefs got for Hill serves as an interesting baseline. Kansas City got a first and a second, two fourths and a sixth from the Dolphins for Hill. The first was No. 29 overall, the second was No. 50. 

That could be tweaked a little bit for Jones depending on where the picks slot, who’s bidding and the Chiefs’ preferences this year — last year they preferred more picks to fewer even if fewer might have been higher. It’s a solid example of the kind of market Kansas City would have, though. 

Who would be interested?

The team that leaps out immediately as a potential bidder if the Chiefs were to make Jones available is the Chicago Bears. No team has more resources at its disposal this offseason than the Bears, with nearly $100 million in cap space and the No. 1 overall pick. They also are in need of talent across the entire roster and especially on the defensive line. In Indianapolis, Bears HC Matt Eberflus had a dominant three-technique defensive tackle in DeForest Buckner whom he built the entire defense around. Jones is one of just two or three players at the same position who are better than Buckner. 

Chicago probably wouldn’t part with the No. 1 pick, unless Bears GM and former Kansas City executive Ryan Poles got creative with his former team, but their 2024 first could definitely be on the table. With what seems like real opportunities to trade down from No. 1 and pick up a haul, the Bears could quickly replenish any picks they’d lose. 

The Browns could jump at the chance to add another dominant player to their defensive line to take attention away from DE Myles Garrett, and they have the money to facilitate a deal for Jones, although they’d have to pay attention to how Garrett feels about potentially not being their highest-paid defender. Another complication is the fact that the Browns don’t have a first-round pick until 2025 due to the trade for Watson. That might be an insurmountable hurdle. 

Other teams with a notable need at defensive tackle, plenty of cap space and picks to burn include the Lions, Falcons and Seahawks. Detroit’s extra draft capital gives them the ammo to go after Jones and still have picks to spare. The Falcons have some picks slated to be high in the round and a ton of cash to work with. The Seahawks are a little more limited financially but have spare picks still from the Russell Wilson trade and a history of working with the Kansas City front office. 

Davante Adams

Why would the Raiders trade Adams?

The Raiders were as aggressive as any team last offseason, swinging a blockbuster deal for Adams, splurging in free agency and inking a bunch of players to extensions. But while all of those actions screamed an all-in approach, the Raiders maybe had an inkling that things could and would go poorly. They negotiated an exit ramp after 2022 in a number of the major contracts they signed, including one they’ve already taken with QB Derek Carr

There’s an exit coming up with Adams, too. Las Vegas has from now until the start of the league year in mid-March to trade Adams before a $20 million roster bonus kicks in and the next two years of his base salary become guaranteed. After that, a deal becomes much more financially complicated. The Raiders have to decide if they want to lock Adams onto their roster for two more years or flip him now for younger, cheaper assets. 

If we view teams as exclusively rebuilding or competing, the answer is obvious. The Raiders thought they were contenders last year and were proven wrong. This year, they’re obviously rebuilding and should do what rebuilding teams do and trade away their veterans for picks. But many NFL teams, including the Raiders, don’t view it as that black and white. Raiders GM Dave Ziegler has talked about trying to walk the line between building sustainably and still making win-now moves to compete in the short term. It’s the line they tried and failed to walk last season and why they were connected so heavily to Tom Brady if he had decided to play in 2023. 

So it’s not a given that the Raiders think they need to trade Adams now to maximize his value and avoid him wasting away as they try to rebuild the roster. Whoever they land at quarterback could have a major impact on this decision. If they think they’ll be able to get a solid veteran — can you say reunion with Aaron Rodgers? — then Adams still has utility. But if they end up with a rookie or Jarrett Stidham, Adams himself might try to force the issue even if the Raiders want to keep him around to aid in a young player’s development. As much as he loves playing closer to home on the West Coast, he’s a competitive player. It’d be a surprise if he’s ready to sign away any of his remaining years of productivity on a team he doesn’t believe in. 

What could they get? 

The Raiders dealt a first and a second-round pick for Adams last year. If they looked to deal him, they could probably recoup most, if not all, of that value. Even in a more challenging situation in Las Vegas, Adams was as productive as ever. He finished 2022 with 100 catches, 1,515 yards and 14 touchdowns. He looked as explosive as ever despite turning 30 and set a new career high with 15.2 yards per catch. 

What could give an acquiring team extra confidence with trading a haul for Adams is that while he’s plenty athletic, his game is built on route-running ability and savvy rather than overpowering defenders with size or speed. Even if he loses a step, he has the type of game that should enable him to remain a productive player for a few more years as long as he stays relatively healthy. 

Who would be interested?

Should the Raiders look to deal Adams, I think the Bears would be one of the teams jostling to get in the front of the line. They would have never been considered when Adams was on the move last offseason as a division rival of the Packers, but there’s no such impediment from the Raiders. Bears OC Luke Getsy is a familiar face as the former QB coach in Green Bay and a connection that could help pull Adams back to the NFC North. Though Chicago needs a lot of help, they have the resources to facilitate a quick turnaround and an exciting young quarterback, which could also help them sell Adams on the move. Even though he doesn’t have a no-trade clause, players of Adams’ caliber usually aren’t moved without their buy-in. 

Outside of the Bears, I think the Giants would probably stretch more to acquire Adams than they would someone like Hopkins. The Patriots would almost certainly be interested as well for the same reasons listed above in the Hopkins section. If Rodgers ends up with the Jets, you can’t completely rule out New York making a move to reunite the two. There’s a chance Rodgers’ trade cost will be less than some people think, and the Jets could augment their offer for either Rodgers or Adams by dangling WR Elijah Moore. Moore has a lot of potential but the Jets are looking for production, not potential, in 2023. 

This Week In Football

  • It’s NFL Scouting Combine week, which means most of the league descends on Indianapolis to rub elbows with each other, draft prospects and agents. This week always results in a lot of news and there’s plenty to get to. We’ll start with the draft, as the Chicago Bears have been on the clock for the No. 1 pick since the end of the season. If they’re going to trade the pick, which seems to be the way they’re leaning, then this is the week those conversations would start to germinate. For a team with as many needs as the Bears do, and plenty of quarterback intrigue bolstering the value of the top pick, it makes a lot of sense to move down and collect a haul. How far down the board the Bears move is one of the big questions. The consensus is that Georgia DT Jalen Carter and Alabama DE Will Anderson are the two best prospects in this draft and then there’s a major dropoff. So a lot of focus has been on the Texans at No. 2 and the Colts at No. 4 as trade partners, as that would allow the Bears to still get one of those two. But Carter’s unexpected arrest on misdemeanor racing and reckless driving charges in an incident that led to the deaths of two other Georgia students present a wrinkle here. There will be extra work for the Bears and other teams to make sure they’re comfortable with making such a big investment at the top of the draft in Carter. Ultimately Carter’s talent will probably stop his stock from sliding too far. 
  • We are less than two weeks away from the start of free agency and only 10 days from the beginning of the “legal tampering” period, yet the status of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers remains in limbo. We should hear from Rodgers soon, as he’s finished his darkness retreat and has had several weeks now to mull his football future. Whether that future is in Green Bay remains to be seen. Unlike at the end of the season, Packers GM Brian Gutekunst struck a much more open-ended tone about Rodgers when asked at the Combine, saying all options are on the table moving forward. Rodgers could retire, he could come back to play for the Packers or he could ask for a trade somewhere else. Gutekunst seemed to suggest Rodgers’ own preference would guide the ultimate course of action, which is interesting because in various comments over the past several weeks, Rodgers and other reports have alluded to it being Green Bay’s preference to move on and start the Jordan Love era. I’m not alone in this observation, but it feels like the two sides trying to avoid the blame for a breakup. Mercifully we should be near a conclusion one way or the other. 
  • Once the Rodgers domino falls, the quarterback market should come together rapidly. Former Raiders QB Derek Carr is free to sign wherever he wants, whenever he wants. But in addition to wanting to take his time and not rush to a decision, Carr will be impacted by what Rodgers decides to do. The Jets are one of the top players on the veteran quarterback market this year and a trade for Rodgers is believed to be their Plan A. But if he retires, stays in Green Bay or prefers to finish his NFL career elsewhere, they need other options. Carr seems to be Plan B, as the two sides had a productive visit this past weekend. The Jets have been publicly and privately raving about Carr and seem to be genuinely enthused about the idea of adding him, if of course they can’t get Rodgers. Carr has other options, too. He’s already met with the Saints in New Orleans and in addition to the Jets and Saints he’s had contact with the Panthers this week at the Combine. It’s possible other bidders could emerge, but those appear to be the three for now. The Saints and Jets appear highly interested, while it’s not clear how interested the Panthers are. They could push to win the division this season with Carr but the belief seems to be they’d prefer to take a swing at developing a long-term solution in the draft as opposed to going the veteran patch route again. They’ve had preliminary discussions with QB Sam Darnold about coming back in a bridge quarterback role, and that caliber of player seems more likely if they add a veteran this offseason. 
  • More cap cuts have started to come in as teams prepare their budgets for the new league year. Some notable names include:
    • Commanders QB Carson Wentz. He was cut to save $26 million after not working out as the starter for Washington. It might have been his last chance in the NFL, though the Panthers can’t be completely ruled out with HC Frank Reich
    • Falcons QB Marcus Mariota. The writing has been on the wall for this move since Mariota left the team late last season after he was benched. It saved a big chunk of cap space, too. 
    • Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette. “Lombardi Lenny” asked for his release now that Tampa Bay looks like it’s entering some lean years. The Bucs probably didn’t mind, as they had a cap hole and a young replacement in 2022 third-round RB Rachaad White.
    • Giants WR Kenny Golladay. A spectacularly bad free agent bust, the Giants don’t save that much by cutting Golladay but this is the first realistic chance they’ve had to get out from under his albatross of a contract. 
    • Jaguars CB Shaquill Griffin. Another former highly-paid free agent, Griffin unfortunately couldn’t stay healthy. While Jacksonville will try to trade him it’s unlikely he’ll have much of a market and will soon be released.
    • Browns S John Johnson. This is an interesting one. Johnson wasn’t awful with the Browns but he clearly wasn’t as productive as they were hoping he’d be. If the Browns designate Johnson as a June 1 cut, they save $9.75 million. If it’s a straight release, the savings are less than $1 million. It’d almost have to be the former for this to be worth doing for the Browns. 
  • The deadline for teams to use the franchise tag is Tuesday, and most of the time there’s no benefit in doing it early. But the Commanders went ahead and placed the tag on DT Daron Payne a full week before they had to. The tag will count nearly $19 million against their cap unless Washington can work out a long-term deal with Payne, which they have until July 17 to do. Tagging Payne shows they’re serious about keeping him, but this could have other implications for their defensive line, as DEs Montez Sweat and Chase Young will be due for extensions in the next couple of years. All of these may or may not be problems for a different owner to solve, as there’s still no shortage of drama surrounding Dan Snyder’s potential sale of the team. In the past week, there have been reports about Snyder blocking Amazon founder Jeff Bezos from bidding due to Bezos owning the Washington Post, one of Snyder’s many nemeses, allegations of major bank fraud against Snyder by former minority team owners, suggestions that Snyder might not sell after all and a nugget that he charged the team $4.5 million to put its logo on the side of his personal plane. 
  • The Jaguars haven’t officially announced the tag yet but they are expected to place it on TE Evan Engram, one of 2022’s breakout stars. It will give Engram a raise of a couple million from his 2022 salary but at $11.4 million it’s still probably a discount compared to a long-term deal. To make space, the Jaguars restructured three contracts, including WR Christian Kirk, WR Zay Jones and G Brandon Scherff, and extended DL Roy Robertson-Harris. In total, it creates over $30 million in cap space for Jacksonville this offseason, but extends their commitment to those players further into the future. All of them were free-agent signings who were a key part of the team’s success this past season and the thought is obviously that they’ll continue to do so. 
  • There’s not expected to be nearly as much activity on the wide receiver market this offseason as there was last year. Bengals de facto GM Duke Tobin emphatically shut down any thought that the team would consider trading WR Tee Higgins if it couldn’t come to an agreement on an extension with him this offseason, and given the way the Bengals have historically operated, you can take him at his word. Higgins is one of a number of outstanding receivers from the 2021 class who are due for a new deal, with the headliner being Vikings WR Justin Jefferson. Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah indicated Jefferson’s a high priority for them to re-sign, though the cost will be steep. Jefferson’s had one of the most productive starts to a career by any receiver ever, and will probably reset the receiver market again this summer. 
  • Another receiver not going anywhere is apparently Chargers WR Keenan Allen, as GM Tom Telesco reiterated his stance that Allen is a good player and he’s not in the business of getting rid of good players even if they cost a lot. So Allen is apparently safe and not available for any receiver-needy teams. But this begs the question of how the Chargers plan to create cap space this offseason. They’re currently $20 million over the cap and will need even more to sign draft picks, free agents or extend current players like QB Justin Herbert. Veterans like OL Matt Feiler and CB Michael Davis are likely on the chopping block instead, and restructures for DE Joey Bosa and WR Mike Williams could free up more than $21 million. But the single move that would free up the most cap space would be trading or cutting OLB Khalil Mack. It’ll be interesting to see if Los Angeles is as committed to keeping Mack as it is Allen. 
  • Another receiver in the loaded 2020 class who’s in position to potentially cash in this offseason is Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb. He’s one of a trio of players who the Cowboys will look to extend this offseason, and while he’s established himself as Dallas’ No. 1 receiver, he’s probably the No. 2 priority this offseason behind QB Dak Prescott. Dallas has the fifth-year option to buy extra time with Lamb even though he’s eligible this offseason, while an extension for Prescott is one of the best ways for the team to create more cap space this offseason. It will likely mean giving Prescott a raise from $40 million a year to $45 million a year minimum, and likely more. Once those two are done, the Cowboys can turn their attention to a new deal for CB Trevon Diggs, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2023. While that would in theory make his situation more urgent than Lamb, Dallas would have the franchise tag to fall back on if necessary to keep him. 
  • The last few major coaching jobs were wrapped up this past week, with the Eagles officially promoting QB coach Brian Johnson to offensive coordinator and hiring Sean Desai away from the Seahawks as their new defensive coordinator. The move with Johnson was expected, as he was in high demand from other teams for the same position but elected to stay in Philadelphia where he has a breakout quarterback and a high degree of familiarity with everyone. Desai is an outside hire who is highly thought of as a young coach but will be looking to improve on his last stint as a defensive coordinator with the Bears. 
  • In more unexpected news, Bills DC Leslie Frazier will be stepping away from his post for the 2023 season before looking to return to the NFL in 2024, and not necessarily with Buffalo. It’s a big loss for the Bills, as their defense has consistently been one of the league’s best units under Frazier. It’s an interesting move for Frazier, who has been coaching for a long time and is 63 years old. Needing a break to recharge would be understandable, as would the potential thought that shaking things up might get him more head coaching interest. It’s yet another challenge for the Bills to navigate going into 2023. 
  • Former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson passed away this week at the age of 86 years old, leaving behind a complicated legacy. He was the first former player to ever own an NFL team, bringing an expansion franchise to the Carolinas at a time when there were serious doubts about the viability of the area to support a pro football team. He was one of the league’s most influential owners for a while and is still beloved by many former coaches and players. But in late 2017, a number of employees went public with accounts of sexual and racial misconduct that prompted Richardson to exchange payouts for non-disclosure agreements. When the news broke, it ultimately caused Richardson to sell the team the following year. He’ll be remembered as much for that as anything else.

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