The NFL trade deadline is a point of reflection for all 32 teams.
While general managers have shown an increased proclivity for pulling off deals in recent years, every franchise still must use the midseason cutoff to evaluate its present viability as well as the long-term outlook. And while fans are often interested in adding a marquee name, teams must also weigh cap concerns and scheme fits.
Based on their needs and tendencies, here are some teams that could be buyers and those that could be sellers before next Tuesday's deadline:
New England Patriots: Bill Belichick has left no doubt about his willingness to orchestrate a move to infuse talent, especially after bringing on Josh Gordon from the Browns to jolt what had been a lifeless receiving corps without Julian Edelman. The Patriots coach reiterated Monday that he expects plenty of calls and plans to listen.
What exactly the Patriots might be in the market for isn't clear, though depth is a concern at several positions. With Sony Michel working though a knee injury that knocked him from Sunday's win at Chicago, New England could have renewed inclination to add a running back with James White and Kenjon Barner the only other options on the roster. Defensive end and linebacker might also be areas of interest. And don't count out Belichick for an elite talent in Patrick Peterson given the cornerback's ability to shadow No. 1 receivers and a contract that runs through 2020.
Philadelphia Eagles: The defending champions are facing a cap crunch, meaning any trade might also entail a subsequent move to free up space. But the Eagles already had Fletcher Cox restructure his contract, and they have extra capital to make a deal with two second-round picks in 2019. Above all, though, Philadelphia has the blend of need and opportunity that could prompt trade-happy executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman to roll the dice.
Even if the Eagles don't swing big by pursuing Le'Veon Bell or LeSean McCoy, they could look to add another running back next to Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood. A wide receiver might also be on the wish list given NFL Network's report that Philadelphia offered a second rounder for Amari Cooper before the Raiders pass catcher was sent to Dallas. And a glaring weakness at cornerback could leave Roseman looking at both high-end (Peterson) and low-cost (Gareon Conley) options.
Houston Texans: This might seem like an odd position for a team that started the season 0-3 and still looks well behind the league's elite. But Houston now finds itself atop the AFC South and has ample cap space ($24 million this year and nearly $91 million in 2019, according to overthecap.com) and assets (with an extra second-round pick from the Seahawks via the Duane Brown trade) to land the kind of talent that could accelerate its rise.
The Texans' glaring weakness rests with its offensive front, which has allowed 26 sacks and a league-worst 70 quarterback hits, but available help looks to be in short supply. The best option might be a serious push for Peterson, as an upgrade over the likes of Johnathan Joseph, Kevin Johnson and Aaron Colvin is needed if Houston is going to become a legitimate threat in the AFC.
Oakland Raiders: Regardless of Jon Gruden's claim to ESPN's Chris Mortensen that his team isn't trading anyone else, a franchise that sends away both Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper is an automatic entry to this list. The Raiders have made it clear that they're happy to look toward their Las Vegas future and pile up picks, as they now are set to have five first rounders in the next two years.
Safety Karl Joseph and Conley, a corner, could be the next former top selections to be cast off, though neither will fetch the same kind of return Mack and Cooper did. With several postseason hopefuls needing help in the secondary, however, Oakland could still net more picks for players Gruden seldom utilizes.
Parting with struggling quarterback Derek Carr would be a blockbuster on par with the franchise's other shocking steps, but that seems too wild even for this Silver & Black regime — unless, say, the Jaguars fall flat again this weekend but decide to go all in to resuscitate their flagging Super Bowl aspirations.
New York Giants: In casting Eli Apple off to the New Orleans Saints for fourth- and seventh-round selections, the Giants accepted dimes on the dollar for a starting cornerback (albeit one who has been serviceable at best) still on his rookie contract. That should say plenty about New York's plans, even as first-year coach Pat Shurmur protests that the team isn't "throwing in the towel."
The Giants don't have a ton of salary cap space in 2019 (roughly $27 million, according to overthecap.com, following Monday night's trade of nose tackle Damon Harrison) and should be focused on compiling assets while moving on from costly veterans who will be past their prime when the franchise is ready to contend. Pass rusher Olivier Vernon and cornerback Janoris Jenkins could be other candidates on the block. Reports indicate that Vernon will remain, however, and Jenkins' hefty contract and off-field issues likely limit his potential suitors.
Arizona Cardinals: Take first-year coach Steve Wilks and owner Michael Bidwill at their word, then Peterson isn't going anywhere. Yet even though it might be tough for a 1-6 team to part with a perennial Pro Bowler and defensive cornerstone, this might be Arizona's optimal window for cashing in on a player uninterested in waiting for the team to return to contending status.
At the very least, Arizona should see if it can ship off some of its other ill-fitting pieces. Linebacker Deone Bucannon has only received 13 defensive snaps in the last three weeks, while Haason Reddick also seems to have fallen out of favor. There's almost assuredly no market for Sam Bradford barring a rash of injuries in Week 8, but any potential deal for the third-string quarterback would be welcomed given he isn't even active on game days so Arizona can avoid bonus clauses in his contract.
Buffalo Bills: Coach Sean McDermott was noncommittal when addressing the McCoy trade rumors two weeks ago, saying only that the veteran back is "one of our better players." McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane don't appear prepared to shift gears to selloff mode after ending their 17-year playoff drought last season, but moving on from the 30-year-old offensive centerpiece would be the shrewd move for the long term.
But even if Buffalo isn't bowled over by the kind of offer that would make them reconsider a trade for McCoy, Beane still has to consider what other players he can swap. Defensive end Jerry Hughes might be a prime candidate as he could boost the pass rush of several contenders. It seems highly unlikely the Bills could find a taker for either wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin or tight end Charles Clay, but they should pounce on the opportunity if one materializes.
Denver Broncos: Even after a 45-10 win against the Cardinals ended a four-game skid, Denver much more resembles the cellar-dwelling rival Raiders than either of the AFC West's legitimate threats in the Chargers or Chiefs. John Elway might go about it with gritted teeth, but the Broncos need to send several players packing to load up for the future.
Demaryius Thomas is the most obvious candidate, as the longest-tenured Bronco said he thought his time with the franchise could be "coming up." Given his diminishing production and untenable contract beyond this season — not to mention the presence of second-round pick Courtland Sutton — Thomas should be dangled to any team looking for a receiver. Pass rushers Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett are also superfluous thanks to Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz
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