NFLTR Review: Preseason Trade Block Edition

Late August is one of the most active times of year for trades, so that’s what we’re looking at in this week’s edition of NFLTR Review: 

  • Plenty of WRs from the 2019 class need a fresh start
  • A disgruntled Bear worth watching?
  • Why teams who need CB help always check with the Ravens

Around The Trade Block: Preseason Action

This past week was a big one for trades, as we saw three deals go down. 

None of these deals are big earth-shakers but they’re indicative of the type of action we tend to see spike around this time of year. As teams get a better sense of their rosters, including strong points and weak points, they start taking low-risk, potentially higher reward shots at boosting their depth. Often this is when you see guys who aren’t going to make the team, like Little and Jackson, sent elsewhere with the hopes that a change of scenery will provide a spark. 

With that in mind, we’re going to cruise through the league, position by position, to see who might be available for the right price in the next couple of weeks. 

Quarterback

  • Gardner Minshew: The Jaguars still haven’t technically declared No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence the starter at quarterback over Minshew. There’s a school of thought that Jacksonville is trying to boost Minshew’s trade value but it’s hard to see it going up by that much unless he actually has to start for Jacksonville this season. And in that eventuality, he’s shown enough potential that he’s worth holding to see if a market for more than a fourth or fifth-round pick develops. 
  • Nick Foles: His contract means it makes no sense to cut him but if another team needs a backup or spot starter, he’s not in Chicago’s plans at all. The Bears likely would give him up for dirt cheap if an offer came along. 
  • Marcus Mariota: Had Mariota’s contract not contained certain escalators, he probably would have been traded back in March. As is, he’s one of the best backups in the league and not someone Las Vegas would give up for a Day 3 pick. A Day 2 selection, though, and it feels like the Raiders would be ready to turn the backup keys over to Nathan Peterman

Running Back

  • Sony Michel: The Patriots have a ton of depth at running back. Damien Harris looks locked in as the starter and James White is still the passing down back. Fourth-round rookie Rhamondre Stevenson looked excellent in the first preseason game and pint-sized J.J. Taylor has also made a strong impression. If the Rams aren’t sold on their backfield, perhaps New England would part with Michel. 
  • David Johnson: As a part of the pay cut he took this offseason, Johnson had the rest of his 2021 salary guaranteed which makes him difficult to cut. But while he’s the highest-paid back on Houston’s roster, the early signs point to him primarily being a third-down back behind Phillip Lindsay and Mark Ingram. Houston has Rex Burkhead, too, making for a crowded backfield. A trade, if the Texans can find a taker, would save the team about $1.7 million in cap space. 

Wide Receiver

  • James Washington: The former Oklahoma State star didn’t want to talk about the reported trade request when asked about it. But he didn’t refute the report the same way HC Mike Tomlin did, so it’s pretty clear still that Washington would appreciate landing somewhere where he can get more of an opportunity. He’s currently buried on the depth chart, although the injury to Chase Claypool opens up some snaps and targets for him to showcase in the preseason. That injury does illustrate why it’s hard to see the Steelers trading Washington, though. 
  • N’Keal Harry: Like Washington, Harry also requested a trade to a place where he wasn’t buried in the pecking order. New England didn’t relent either, but Harry has actually had the best training camp of his career so far. It’s unclear whether that’s moved him up on the depth chart ahead of guys like Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne or Jakobi Meyers, but his roster spot is no longer in jeopardy. Even though New England will likely run its offense through the running game and tight ends, it’s hard to see them trading Harry unless they get a really good offer. 
  • Miles Boykin: The Ravens receiving corps got really crowded with all their additions this offseason but injuries have thinned the herd during camp. That includes Boykin who has missed a pretty big chunk of time. He would have been on the roster bubble before that, as the best thing Baltimore could hang its hat on with the former third-round pick entering this season was his blocking. That’s not irrelevant given how the Ravens do things on offense but Boykin’s inconsistency and inability to get on the same page with Lamar Jackson has stood out. He could potentially benefit from a fresh start. 
  • JJ Arcega-Whiteside: A former second-round pick by the Eagles in 2019, Arcega-Whiteside has fallen behind guys like Greg Ward and Quez Watkins in the hierarchy in Philadelphia. He’s not a lock to make the team. 
  • Jalen Hurd: Boy that 2019 receiver class was full of landmines (you could make a case for putting Cardinals WR Andy Isabella on here too.) Injuries have held Hurd back, including a back injury and a torn ACL that wiped out his first two years. This year, he’s struggled to stay on the field with knee tendinitis and is firmly on the roster bubble. The former college running back turned wide receiver also had HC Kyle Shanahan dreaming about using him at tight end, so another team could be similarly enamored with that versatility and roll the dice. 
  • Antonio Gandy-Golden: Washington is all of a sudden deep at wide receiver and might find it harder to dedicate a roster spot to Gandy-Golden, who was a raw prospect in need of some seasoning coming out of Liberty last year. 

Tight End

  • Zach Ertz: Every time I list Ertz on one of these trade block updates, I’m a little less confident he’ll actually be dealt. He was clearly available this offseason, that wasn’t a myth, but the Eagles were apparently willing to risk him taking snaps in a preseason game. Either they’re really committed to selling their leverage on him or they’re planning on him being part of the offense. Perhaps a little bit of both. At the minimum, I would guess it’d take a fourth — as a bare minimum and then maybe only with some conditions attached so it can become a Day 2 pick — for a team interested in trading for Ertz. 
  • Chris Herndon: He hasn’t really stood out that much at Jets training camp but another team that liked him coming out of the draft could take a shot. He did flash talent as a rookie. 

Offensive Tackle

  • Andre Dillard: If Eagles GM Howie Roseman is willing to eat $8.5 million to hold out for a specific trade return for Ertz, he’s definitely not dumping a former first-round pick like Dillard just because he appears like he’s lost the starting left tackle job to Jordan Mailata. A team that wants Dillard is going to have to come with a real offer and that’s hard to justify given his injury history and the general lack of good NFL tape he has. 
  • Ryan Bates: Technically Bates could play all five positions on the offensive line, which ordinarily would make him quite valuable to the Bills. They have a really good roster that’s going to get squeezed in some places, though, and they’ve shown a willingness to flip linemen for draft picks in the preseason in the past. 
  • Chuma Edoga: A former third-round pick in 2019 who was seen a potential high-ceiling developmental prospect, Edoga has not developed to this point. New York hasn’t been the most conducive organization in terms of player development, so a fresh start might be best for both sides. 

Interior Offensive Line

  • Ben Bredeson: The Ravens just drafted Bredeson in the fourth round last year and they typically hate to give up on draft picks this soon. However, the competition for roster spots on Baltimore’s offensive line is intense, and Bredeson doesn’t have the benefit of positional flexibility as a backup. Ideally, the Ravens would like to recoup a late-round pick rather than lose Bredeson on waivers. 
  • Forrest Lamp: As previously mentioned, the Bills have a tendency to flip extraneous backup offensive linemen for picks. Buffalo just signed Lamp to a free-agent deal this offseason but turning a one-year deal into a pick for a player on a four-year, cost-controlled contract would be a win. 
  • Lucas Patrick: Green Bay spent a fourth-round pick on G Royce Newman and has been giving him a chance to beat out Patrick for a starting spot. Patrick was already competing with Jon Runyan Jr. as well. While his deal is relatively cheap for a backup, Patrick’s contract does represent one of the few ways the Packers can still save cap space to roll over to next season, so he’s worth keeping an eye on even though teams in championship windows wouldn’t ordinarily trade offensive line depth. 

Defensive Line

  • Akiem Hicks: The situation between the Bears and Hicks bears watching, as after Hicks publicly expressed a desire for a contract extension, he mysteriously bailed on practice earlier this week. Chicago hasn’t given any more details but if Hicks is upset at playing out the final year of his deal and plans to stage any kind of hold-in, a trade could quickly enter the picture. The Bears even shopped Hicks earlier this offseason before electing to keep him. He has a $10.4 million base salary that would be onerous for most teams to take on but it’s worth mentioning that the Chargers and Broncos 1) have coaches in Vic Fangio and Brandon Staley who have worked with Hicks, 2) could use a boost on the defensive line, and 3) have the cap space to take on his deal. 
  • Vernon Butler: A number of the Bills edge rushers can slide inside to help at defensive tackle, so there’s a stiff competition between Butler, Harrison Phillips and Justin Zimmer for probably just one or two backup spots. Phillips has the body to back up Star Lotulelei at nose tackle, while Zimmer has really impressed the staff with how he’s clawed his way up for his role. Butler could potentially have some value in a trade. 
  • Taven Bryan: The number of moves the Jaguars made to address their defensive line were a clear indication they were looking for more, including from Bryan. He’s missed a ton of time during camp as well, so his days could be numbered in Jacksonville. 
  • Jalyn Holmes: The Vikings have a ton of depth on the defensive line and some hard decisions will have to be made. 

Edge Rusher

  • Jaylon Ferguson: A couple of Ravens beat reporters have noted the addition of veteran Justin Houston could push out Ferguson. The former third-round pick has just 4.5 sacks in two seasons. But he was one of the most prolific sack artists in college football history, with 45 career quarterback takedowns at Louisiana Tech. That could prompt another team to trade a pick to the Ravens to give him a shot. 
  • Austin Bryant: The former Clemson Tiger’s career hasn’t gotten off the ground with the Lions because of injuries. He missed a chunk of time this year in camp, too. While he’s healthy now, he might be too far behind other options on the Lions’ defensive line, so the new regime could try to recoup a pick. 

Linebacker

  • Jahlani Tavai: The last Lions regime handpicked Tavai in the second round for their scheme, but in new HC Dan Campbell and DC Aaron Glenn’s system, Tavai has been largely relegated to a first and second-down role player. Tavai would be a much better fit on a team like the Giants, Patriots or Dolphins that run the system former HC Matt Patricia was trying to implement. 

Safety

  • Jayron Kearse: Dallas put a lot of effort on improving the defensive side of the football, and that included six additions to a secondary that already returns four starters from last season. It’s particularly crowded at safety, with Donovan Wilson, Darian Thompson, Damontae Kazee, Malik Hooker and sixth-round rookie Israel Mukuamu, in addition to Kearse. It might not be Kearse, but someone here could fetch interest from another team. 

Cornerback

  • Joejuan Williams: A second-round pick in 2019, Williams just hasn’t been able to crack a deep and talented Patriots secondary. At 6-3 and 212 pounds, Williams is massive for a corner, and New England may have had some designs on using him as a matchup weapon against big receivers and tight ends, kind of like they did with Eric Rowe. However, Williams hasn’t seized the role and the Patriots spent big on Jalen Mills as that type of secondary chess piece. New England could try to trade Williams for a late-round pick rather than cut him outright. 
  • Chris Westry: No team lives by the phrase “you can never have too many quality cornerbacks” more than the Ravens. Which means every year during roster cuts, there are talented players Baltimore just doesn’t have room to keep. This year, that guy might be Westry. He’s long at 6-4 and he’s flashed quite a bit during camp, but he’s behind Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, Anthony Averett and probably fifth-round rookie Shaun Wade. Getting a pick for Westry might be tough if team’s know the Ravens are going to cut him, but perhaps someone like the Saints wants to leapfrog the waiver priority order. 
  • John Reid: Last year, Reid made headlines in camp for an approach that was more akin to a five-year vet than a rookie. That didn’t translate to much of a role during the regular season, however, as Reid was one of a number of rookies the Texans took it slow with in 2020. His play has been a little more up and down this year in camp and there’s a new regime in town, so Reid could be a casualty. 
  • Isaiah Johnson: The Raiders have thrown a ton of resources at their secondary and the collateral from that is that they’ll have to start moving on from former draft picks soon. There have been murmurs that 2020 first-round CB Damon Arnette, who is at best the No. 4 guy on the depth chart right now, could be on the outs, but Raiders GM Mike Mayock likely will want to give Arnette more time to justify his pick. Johnson is a more likely chopping block candidate, as the former fourth-round pick has had issues with injuries but has terrific size and athleticism worth gambling on. 

This Week In Football

  • Just as it seemed the standoff between the Seahawks and S Jamal Adams could start to get really ugly, the two sides struck a deal that largely is fair for everyone. Adams got four years and a max value of $72 million, with $38 million of that guaranteed. He didn’t get the additional $2 million in guarantees and structure he was sticking firm for but he is now the highest-paid safety by a fair amount at $17.5 million per year, and has a chance to be the highest-paid defender on the Seahawks if he hits all his incentives. For Seattle, they get Adams under contract and on board with three weeks to go until Week 1. And while this deal will be somewhat controversial given Adams’ reputation as a box safety and a liability in coverage, there’s no denying he’s a playmaker and key to the Super Bowl hopes the Seahawks have. 
  • Also key to those hopes is LT Duane Brown, Seattle’s best offensive lineman and the man charged with protecting QB Russell Wilson’s blindside. However, Brown’s situation remains unresolved. The 36-year-old veteran continues to hold in with the hopes of getting an extension before playing out his contract year. Seattle’s obviously wary of making a major commitment to Brown now, and the leverage is on their side. Brown not practicing isn’t ideal but he would have worked sparingly anyway. Unless he’s willing to miss games and forfeit game checks (doubtful) he’ll probably report before the start of the season and play out the year. 
  • It feels like so far during training camp we have largely avoided a bunch of season-ending injuries to major players (though it makes me think that’s coming in Week 1 or Week 2). That changed Thursday when Jets DE Carl Lawson went down and heard the dreaded pop in the back of his leg signifying a torn Achilles. He’s out for the season and this is a dreadful loss for the Jets. Lawson was one of their top free-agent acquisitions and he looked primed for a dominant season based on his performance in training camp the past few weeks. Now not only is this year scuttled, but this is the type of injury that could linger into 2022 as well. For the Jets, it significantly lowers their ceiling in 2021, as a defensive line led by Lawson was expected to cover for a secondary filled with the opposite of household names at the moment. 
  • The Bears find themselves in something of a disaster of their own making on the offensive line. Chicago was elated to see OT Teven Jenkins slip into the second round and traded up to stop his slide. Shortly after the draft, they cut veteran LT Charles Leno, a solid but not spectacular option, and declared Jenkins would switch over from the right side where he played in college to the left. However, the back issues that caused Jenkins to slip reared their head again and now the rookie is slated for surgery with a return to the lineup unknown. Chicago had to sign OT Jason Peters to fill in on the left side. While he’s a future Hall of Famer, he was not that good for the Eagles last season and has struggled to stay healthy, both of which are related. Both tackle spots are now even bigger question marks for the Bears. 

Check This Out

Every year, the Athletic’s Bruce Feldman releases his Freaks List — a compilation of the biggest, strongest, fastest, most absurd athletes in all of college football. His list seems like it gets longer every year and this one is huge at more than 100 names. It’s well worth the deep dive to dig into, as this list is chock full of future NFL players. 

Nickels & Dimes

Quick-hit thoughts and observations from around the NFL…

Emptying the notebook here this week. We use Super Bowl wins to prop up or knock certain quarterbacks, but the truth is the best option is the one that’s going to get you in the playoffs consistently. Once you’re in, anything can happen…

I’ve been anti “QB WINZ” — wins as a primarily quarterback stat — for a long time, but we’re about to see an interesting case study this year. Few quarterback’s reputations have misaligned with their record like Matthew Stafford. Now he’s in a pretty much perfect scenario. And out of excuses…

Sticking with quarterbacks, Broncos GM George Paton told NBC Sports’ Peter King a couple of weeks ago that “quarterbacks are available more than franchise corners every year, at least the last couple of years,” when explaining why Denver passed on QB Justin Fields for CB Patrick Surtain. Panthers HC Matt Rhule has hit similar notes when asked why they took CB Jaycee Horn instead of Fields or another quarterback. We’ll see what happens the next few years but if Fields becomes even a Pro Bowl-level quarterback for Chicago, Surtain and Horn will need to be practically Darrelle Revis to make it worth passing on him…

And speaking of Fields…

Our calibration for spectacular plays is being recalibrated. But this is still outstanding…

And this guy in Missouri is why they’re being recalibrated. Sheesh…

Chris Ballard is widely seen as one of the league’s top general managers, and for good reason…

The Colts obviously could be without Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson for a period of time to start the season. But maybe relying more on Jonathan Taylor isn’t a bad thing…

Every time…

Crazy stat time. Jakobi Meyers was New England’s leading receiver last year. He was targeted 81 times and caught 59 passes for 729 yards. But no touchdowns. In fact, Meyers has zero career receiving touchdowns in the regular season. His touchdown Thursday night was his first since going off for two receiving scores in his very first preseason game in 2019 against the Lions…

However, Meyers, a former college quarterback, does have two passing touchdowns to his name in the NFL, including one to Cam Newton. Go figure…

That’ll really blow your mind…

Stats and analytics in the NFL are getting better and better, and the result is cool findings like this. Really shows how it’s a game of inches…

Analytical way to look at linebackers, including a couple who got some significant paydays recently…

Something I really really appreciate about Ron Rivera is how he’s willing to adapt and change. The beginning of his time in Carolina is a great example. He didn’t transform into Riverboat Ron completely overnight, but he adjusted to help the team find success. Rivera has become much more outspoken on certain social issues than he was in Carolina as he’s been exposed to new information. Political beliefs and coaching philosophies are often deeply ingrained but Rivera has shown the ability to change in the presence of new information. It’s truly a rare attribute…

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