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The NFL Trades We’d Like to See Before Tuesday’s Deadline

We have ideas for where to send Patrick Peterson, A.J. Green, and Trent Williams—plus a few other potentially available big names you may not be thinking of

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The NFL trade deadline is 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, October 29. Bigger salary caps, analytics-informed decision-making, and plain-old aggressiveness have combined to churn out more trade activity in the past few years than ever before. We’ve already seen the Rams trade for Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Baltimore trade for Rams cornerback Marcus Peters, Denver send Emmanuel Sanders to San Francisco, and Atlanta trade receiver Mohamed Sanu to New England. These kinds of moments were rare in the NFL until the past few years.

The trades aren’t done. There are plenty of players on cellar dwellers that can be had for the right price and teams that believe they’re contenders who want to add a final piece or two (and even more teams that are not contenders but will do so anyway). Let’s look at some trades we’d like to see before Tuesday’s deadline, from superstars to half-a-stars and everything in between.

Big Names

Cincinnati trades WR A.J. Green to Washington for left tackle Trent Williams

Both of these players are 31, looking for a new contract, and have spent the entire 2010s as locker room leaders for incompetent franchises that took them no. 4 in the draft. Neither has played a single snap this season because of questionable decisions their organizations made that jeopardized their health. Green injured his ankle during the Bengals’ training camp in July when Cincinnati inexplicably held its first practice at the site of the NFL’s first game 100 years ago despite the field not being ready.

“Turf was terrible,” Cincinnati receiver Tyler Boyd told The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. “I couldn’t run any routes. I was falling all over. It was bad. There was rock, pebbles out there. It was somewhere we shouldn’t have been.”

Green has not played since, but that’s still one more practice than Williams has attended this season. Williams has refused to report to Washington because he believes the team’s medical staff delayed telling him about a potentially cancerous growth on his head (the growth was removed this offseason and was benign). Both men need a change of scenery, and a one-for-one swap would help both organizations.

Trading for Green is a classic Washington move: big name, splashy acquisition, past his prime, injury history, will require a lot of money in a contract extension. He also fits what Washington is trying to do. He would be another receiving option for quarterback Dwayne Haskins and a veteran leader to young players Terry McLaurin and Trey Quinn (tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis seem unlikely to return in 2020). Washington has tried to fix its culture issues by importing players from blue-blood college programs, especially Alabama and Oklahoma. Green went to Georgia, and that will do. Williams also fits on the Bengals, who have been without first-round pick Jonah Williams and tackle Cordy Glenn (who is also disputing a medical situation with the Bengals). The move makes sense for both teams, but the real question is whether Green and Williams would find their new digs any better than their old ones.

Arizona trades CB Patrick Peterson to Philadelphia for WR Nelson Agholor and a first-round pick

The Eagles reportedly made this offer earlier this week, according to Bleeding Green Nation. Peterson has been rumored to be a trade candidate for more than a year, and with his contract expiring at the end of next season, it would be a logical time to deal him. One possible destination is Philadelphia, the most CB-depleted quasi-contender. During their 2017 Super Bowl run, the Eagles traded for Bills cornerback Ronald Darby, but they’ll need more firepower this year after being outbid for Jalen Ramsey by the Rams and Marcus Peters by the Ravens. Peterson is signed for an affordable $7 million and change in 2019 and $12 million in 2020, and the Eagles have a lot of cap space this year ($28.2 million, fourth most in the league). He’d be a massive upgrade over Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas and could help the Eagles salvage their season.

Unsexy Impact Deals

Miami trades WR DeVante Parker to Minnesota for CB Holton Hill

Minnesota’s 2016 first-round pick, Laquon Treadwell, has been a massive bust, but that’s been hidden by the emergence of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Treadwell couldn’t even win the third-string job. This year, Chad Beebe was slated for the role but tore ligaments in his ankle in September. The Vikings unsuccessfully tried to plug that hole with Josh Doctson, the other massive receiver bust from the first round of the 2016 draft, and now are rolling with Olabisi Johnson, a seventh-round rookie from Colorado State.

Parker would be a massive upgrade to their third-receiver spot. The Vikings offense has been clicking ever since their Week 4 loss to the Bears, but adding strength to strength would be wise. In exchange, they could send Holton Hill, a promising 22-year-old cornerback who received two separate suspensions this year for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs. The Vikings would turn a headache into a solution, and the Dolphins could take a chance on a corner who could play alongside Xavien Howard.

Atlanta trades TE Austin Hooper to Houston for a 2020 second-round pick

The Texans are the drunk guy at the poker table. They’ve traded so many draft picks in the past two months (two firsts for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills, a third-rounder for cornerback Gareon Conley, a fourth-rounder for running back Duke Johnson) that at this point it doesn’t matter—head coach Bill O’Brien needs to win with this team or he won’t be around to make any picks. Might as well ditch the lot. The Texans’ best investment would be sending a pick to Atlanta for Hooper, who has been the breakout player of the year at tight end. The Texans are using tight ends more than they have at any point in Deshaun Watson’s career, but are currently playing Darren Fells and Jordan Akins. Upgrading that to Hooper and Fells alongside DeAndre Hopkins, Kenny Stills, and Keke Coutee would make them a far more dynamic offense.

The Falcons likely don’t want to trade Hooper, but they may have to pick between a bunch of bad and worse options. Just like Dallas messed up its cap so thoroughly five years ago that it had to cut team legend DeMarcus Ware, the Falcons have locked themselves into bad choices. Atlanta has the second-least cap space next year. Matt Ryan is getting top-five QB money; Julio Jones broke the receiver market wide open with a massive guaranteed contract; and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, linebacker Deion Jones, and running back Devonta Freeman all have near-top-of-the-market deals. All they have to show for it is a 1-6 record. Hooper is in the final year of his rookie contract and playing well enough that the Falcons may have to use the franchise tag to keep him, which could be hard. Even if they could work out a long-term extension with him, they’d be bending over backward to lock in the core of a team that is damn near winless. The alternative would likely be releasing safety Keanu Neal, running back Devonta Freeman, and center Alex Mack. If the Falcons hold on to Hooper, those players may be out in the offseason.

New York Jets trade WR Robby Anderson to Philadelphia for a third-round pick

This would depend on the health of DeSean Jackson, who hurt his abdomen in Week 2 and has not played since. When the Eagles don’t have a speed demon to stretch defenses vertically, tight end Zach Ertz and the rest of Philly’s offense struggle to take advantage horizontally. If Jackson can’t get back on the field soon, the Eagles may be wise to send a pick to the Jets for Anderson, who will be a free agent at the end of the year. If he signs a large contract in free agency, the Eagles could get a compensatory pick like they did by trading for Detroit’s Golden Tate and letting him walk in the offseason.

Cincinnati trades DT Geno Atkins to Oakland for a 2020 third-round pick

Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther worked as a Cincinnati defensive coach for 13 years before coming to Oakland in 2018. The team already has former Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict (who is suspended for the rest of this season), but in this deal they’d add a longtime Bengals defensive lineman who likely isn’t a part of Cincinnati’s future. The Raiders pass rush last year was abysmal, and despite taking Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell no. 4 this year, the Raiders aren’t much better in the trenches in 2019. Oakland is tied for the fifth-fewest sacks (10) and is dead last in pressuring opposing quarterbacks (14.0 percent). At that rate, bringing in two good players is more important than one great one. The Raiders are 3-3, and the Chiefs may be vulnerable without Patrick Mahomes. Even if they can’t win the AFC West, they are in the thick of the wild-card race, but will need a pass rusher to make an impact.

Miami trades QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to Buffalo for a fifth-rounder

Fitzpatrick is a below-average starter but an above-average backup, and plenty of teams have needed backup QBs this year. The most logical team to trade for him was the Steelers, who traded backup Josh Dobbs, lost Ben Roethlisberger for the year, and replaced Mason Rudolph with fourth-string duck-caller Devlin Hodges as the former recovered from a concussion. Fitzpatrick is a better option than Rudolph or Hodges, but if the Steelers were going to make this move, they would have done it before their bye week.

With the Steelers out of the mix, the Bills make the most sense for Fitzpatrick. Normally, teams would prefer not to trade a QB within the same division, but the Dolphins and Bills are currently on opposite wavelengths. Miami is pseudotanking while Buffalo has a real chance to make the playoffs. Their main issue is that Josh Allen has not shown he can stay healthy. He continually exposes himself to big hits, and the Bills need a better backup plan than Matt Barkley, their current second-stringer. Fitzpatrick’s return to Buffalo as a prime backup could provide some real firepower to a team that could use a veteran second quarterback.

Misused Players Who Could Fit Better Elsewhere

Bucs trade TE O.J. Howard to New England for DE Michael Bennett and a fifth-rounder

O.J. Howard has been phased out of Tampa Bay’s offense under head coach Bruce Arians. It’s startling for the über-talented 2017 first-round pick to be getting roughly half of the targets, catches, and receiving yards per game as he did last year. Unless something changes, it’s worth seeing what Tampa can get for a cheap tight end it is choosing not to fully utilize. The Patriots would love to add Howard’s receiving, even after adding Mohamed Sanu, in the wake of placing Josh Gordon on injured reserve. Howard’s run blocking is good enough to make him versatile, and his receiving abilities would make him a decent stunt double for Rob Gronkowski.

Defensive end Michael Bennett has been used for less than a third of New England’s defensive snaps during the Patriots’ extraordinary defensive run, and parting with him and a pick to improve their passing game would be music to fans’ ears.

Disappointing 2015 First-Round Picks

New York Jets trade DE Leonard Williams to Kansas City for a fifth-round pick

When the Jets drafted Leonard Williams no. 6 in 2015, he was joining a defensive line with Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson that looked like one of the best in football. It never panned out, and five seasons later, the Jets seem uninterested in signing Williams to a second contract. Instead, the team drafted Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams at no. 3 in April, and Leonard is the old Williams on the way out.

Williams is a solid run defender and a decent pass rusher, and any player that could help the Chiefs’ run defense would be an improvement over what they have now. Kansas City is giving up an embarrassing 5.0 yards per carry and that porous run defense has cost them in time of possession in back-to-back weeks against the Texans and Colts. Williams would be a big help, especially if paired with a healthy Chris Jones on the inside.

Atlanta trades DL Vic Beasley to the Los Angeles Chargers for a sixth-round pick

Beasley went two picks after Leonard Williams, and in his second season, he led the league in sacks with 15.5. In the 37 games since then, he’s had 11.5 sacks. Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has tried everything to reboot Beasley’s career, from getting him to drop into coverage to focusing on pass rushing and everything in between. Nothing has worked, and there is little chance the Falcons will retain him beyond this year, the final season of his contract. There is reportedly little interest from teams around the league for a pricey but unproductive pass rusher, but if any team would take a flier, it might be the Chargers. Beasley’s 15.5-sack year came under defensive coordinator Richard Smith, who is now the Chargers linebackers coach, and the Chargers have injuries on defense that could have them looking for depth.

The Los Angeles Chargers … keep Melvin Gordon

Gordon’s holdout was dulled when Austin Ekeler replaced, if not improved upon, the former’s work as the Chargers running back. Gordon has not looked sharp since returning, and the nadir of his season was asking for the ball more before their game against Tennessee and then fumbling at the goal line late in the fourth quarter. It’s unclear why a team would shell out for Gordon’s services at his relatively high price tag when he doesn’t seem to be in a groove,and the Chargers may feel the compensatory pick Gordon would bring back if he leaves in the offseason will beat what they can get in a trade. If teams want to send a good pick to the Chargers for a running back, they’ll be calling about Ekeler, not Gordon.

Makes More Sense Than You Think

Cincinnati trades QB Andy Dalton to Chicago for a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 first-round pick

Andy Dalton can be cut this offseason with zero cap penalty. The Bengals would owe him nothing. This past March, Bengals controlling owner Mike Brown said the team would not extend Dalton’s contract until they saw what he did this year.

”I think it’s a good year for [Dalton] to show like he can, like we think he will,” Brown said. “After he re-establishes himself we would want to get together with him and see if we can extend it. … I think Andy is a good player and that he will rebound off last year. He was hurt. We lost so many other pieces. It fell apart, but if he’s healthy and we stay healthy enough, I have confidence in him.”

The Bengals are 0-7 and Dalton has once again shown he does not make the surrounding talent any better or worse, which might be the definition of an average quarterback. It would be surprising if the Bengals retained him beyond 2020 considering the odds are they’ll have the chance to pick a QB in this year’s draft. Dalton could babysit Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert for seven months next year, or instead the Bengals could flip him to Chicago for more draft picks to fast-track their rebuild.

For the Bears, Dalton would be a massive upgrade over Mitchell Trubisky, who is unable to consistently make even the most basic throws to wide-open receivers. The best upgrade a team can make is going from an average QB to an elite one, but going from an incompetent quarterback to an average one is the next best thing.

Broncos trade OLB Von Miller to Indianapolis for two 2020 second-rounders

Colts general manager Chris Ballard has become a favorite of the draft-pick-hoarding analytics community, but eventually he will have to trade away some picks. Miller is declining but still a game-wrecking pass rusher, and the Colts are short on those. Breakout defender Kemoko Turay just went on injured reserve, and Indianapolis will have a hard time replacing his impact. The Colts are ready to compete now, but until their defensive front is as stout as their offensive line, they’ll struggle to stop opposing offenses in the playoffs. The division-rival Texans just shelled out for left tackle Laremy Tunsil, and acquiring Miller would be a worthy counter.

An earlier version of this story misstated which team Ronald Darby was traded to the Eagles from in 2017. It was the Bills, not the Panthers.