There are usually two distinct groups when the NFL trade deadline arrives.
Buyers believe only a few tweaks need to be made to set up a Super Bowl run. Sometimes it’s a fringe playoff team hunting for a missing piece, like the Cowboys trading for receiver Amari Cooper in 2018. Other times, it’s an elite team going all-in on its championship run — like the Rams adding pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. en route to a Super Bowl 53 appearance.
The sellers are a much smaller bunch. There aren’t many franchises that decide that competing for a spot in the playoffs is no longer realistic before the end of October. Fortunately for the long list of potential buyers, there are several putrid teams in 2019 that might be willing to part with a top player.
With the deadline coming Oct. 29, here are six teams that could be ready to trade players away, ranked by how likely they are to be sellers.
6. Washington (1-6)
Washington is easily one of the worst teams in the NFL — its only win this season came when it edged the hapless Dolphins, 17-16. But the comments made by team president Bruce Allen after he fired head coach Jay Gruden suggest he doesn’t realize it.
Like this gem about a team that’s averaging 12.9 points per game:
Bruce Allen: “the pieces are here for a winning team.”
— John Keim (@john_keim) October 7, 2019
If Allen still believes that, he may turn down trade requests due to his belief that Washington can still compete for a playoff berth. If he’s smart enough to realize that’s not happening, there are a few players on the roster who could be moved to free up cap space and give Washington extra picks in 2020.
Potential trade bait
- Trent Williams, OT: Trade him already! The seven-time Pro Bowler has made it abundantly clear he’s no longer interested in playing in Washington and hasn’t shown up all season. For some reason, the team is turning away all interested callers and telling them to check back in the offseason about a trade for Williams. That’ll probably just lower his value, but maybe someone can make an offer Washington finally won’t refuse. It’s not easy to find a good left tackle and Washington can get a sizable haul.
- Ryan Kerrigan, LB: While he’s five sacks away from becoming the franchise’s all-time leader in the category, Kerrigan may be showing signs of slowing down. He has just two sacks through seven games in 2019. The four-time Pro Bowler is set to count $11.75 million against the salary cap in 2020 and then hit free agency in 2021. Washington could anoint Montez Sweat as the future of the pass rush by moving Kerrigan.
- Josh Norman, CB: Norman has been a liability in coverage in recent years. He’s already given up five touchdowns in 2019 and quarterbacks have a 134.2 passer rating when they throw his direction. So if any team thinks it has a chance to get the 2015 All-Pro version of Norman, Washington should take the deal without thinking twice. Considering he’s through the guaranteed portion of his contract, it wouldn’t be that weird if a team rolled the dice.
Back-to-back wins after an 0-4 start made the Broncos look a little less terrible. However, a 30-6 loss in Week 7 to the Chiefs — who had Matt Moore at quarterback for more than half the game — should’ve hammered home the fact that Denver’s not a contender this year.
If the Broncos decide the playoffs are an unrealistic goal in 2019, they should trade away players who aren’t long-term pieces.
Potential trade bait
- Emmanuel Sanders, WR: The two-time Pro Bowler is still a good player, but he’s 32 and set to become a free agent in the offseason. He probably won’t be re-signed by a team that needs an offensive overhaul, and that means a trade makes sense. Even he seems to know it. Sanders tweeted out a GIF of himself looking thoughtful after a report from ESPN said the Broncos are getting calls about the receiver.
- Chris Harris, CB: Like Sanders, Harris is set to reach free agency in the offseason and he’s on the wrong side of 30 years old. There are plenty of contenders that would love to have Harris in their secondary for the remainder of the season. If the Broncos don’t plan to bring back Harris in 2020, now would be a good time to get a draft pick.
- Von Miller, LB: Yes, it’s a long shot. He now has more than 100 career sacks for Denver and is the kind of cornerstone player a team never wants to trade. Here’s why it could still happen, though: Miller is due to count over $25 million against the Broncos’ salary cap next year. That’s a ton of money for a player who just turned 30 and only has 2.5 sacks through seven games in 2019. Denver would want a lot in return, but if the price is right, it could be time for Bradley Chubb to lead the Broncos pass rush moving forward.
The Bengals are the only team averaging less than three yards per rushing attempt, and they’re dead last in rushing yards allowed per attempt. Andy Dalton’s time as the starter in Cincinnati is presumably done after this season too. Now is the time to start worrying about the future instead of the present.
Luckily for the Bengals, their salary cap is already in pretty good shape. They’ve got about $60 million in projected space, and Dalton is the largest cap commitment in 2020 at $17.7 million.
Potential trade bait
- A.J. Green, WR: The Bengals insist Green isn’t on the block, but that hasn’t stopped speculation that a deal could happen. He’s 31 and his contract will expire in the offseason. That means Cincinnati is set to have a tricky negotiation with a receiver who has now missed 20 games due to injury since the beginning of the 2016 season. If a receiver-needy team comes calling for Green — which may be unlikely because of his ankle injury — Cincinnati might be better off taking a draft pick instead of keeping an aging and oft-injured star.
- Carlos Dunlap, DE: Dunlap’s streak of six straight seasons with at least 7.5 sacks could be coming to an end. The 30-year-old defensive end has just one sack in 2019 and has missed a couple games due to a knee injury. Although Dunlap’s best days are seemingly behind him, he can still be a plug-and-play starter who could contribute to a team in need of defensive line help.
- Tyler Eifert, TE: Second-round rookie Drew Sample is the Bengals’ tight end of the future. Eifert no longer looks like the player who caught 13 touchdowns during a Pro Bowl season in 2015. He’s getting phased out of the Bengals’ offense and likely won’t be on the team in 2019. If there’s a buyer out there that thinks they can turn Eifert back into a 6’6 touchdown-grabbing machine, then Cincinnati would be silly not to make the deal.
Mike Maccagnan was fired as the Jets’ general manager in May. The timing was curious, because it came after New York allowed the executive to dish out well over $100 million in guaranteed money in free agency in March and make draft picks for the franchise in April.
That leaves current GM Joe Douglas with a roster almost completely filled with players he didn’t acquire.
So don’t expect the Jets to be sentimental about their recent acquisitions. They don’t have much cap space to work with in 2020, and Douglas could try to rid himself of a few of the cumbersome contracts that Maccagnan dished out.
Potential trade bait
- Leonard Williams, DL: The addition of Quinnen Williams may have punched Leonard Williams’ ticket out of New York. Leonard Williams is playing on a fifth-year option and hasn’t done much of anything in 2019. Six games into the season, he is still searching for his first sack of the year. It seems more likely than not that he’ll hit free agency in the offseason, so the Jets could get a jump on his value and trade him now.
- Jamison Crowder, WR: The former Washington receiver signed a three-year, $28.5 million contract with the Jets in March. Even though he had a 14-reception day in Week 1, he hasn’t been all that productive since. With a $10.5 million cap hit on the way in 2020, the Jets could undo one of the free agency moves they made this year by shipping Crowder to one of the many teams looking for receiver help.
- Le’Veon Bell, RB: Yes, it’d be a wild move. It’s not that far-fetched, though. Jets coach Adam Gase reportedly didn’t want the team to spend big to acquire Bell and if Douglas feels the same way, the running back could end up on the block. He’s due to be one of the Jets’ largest salary cap anchors for the next three seasons, but the team can recoup some of that space by trading Bell.
2. Miami Dolphins (0-6)
Of course the Dolphins are going to be ready for a fire sale at the trade deadline. They’ve already been in full-fledged tank mode for months.
In 2019, Miami has traded Ryan Tannehill, Robert Quinn, Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills, and Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins are clearly willing to swap veterans for draft picks and probably wouldn’t hesitate to do it again if the price is right.
The real question is how many players are left on the roster that are tradable?
Potential trade bait
- Kenyan Drake, RB: There are already reports that the Dolphins are receiving calls from teams about the running back. Drake had 1,012 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns during the 2018 season. While he’s struggled so far in 2019, that’s understandable considering his supporting cast. If the Dolphins don’t plan to re-sign Drake in the offseason before he reaches free agency, it’d make sense to snag another draft pick.
- Reshad Jones, S: The 10th-year safety signed a five-year, $60 million extension in 2017, but now he’s a high-priced veteran who turns 32 in February. He’s still playing relatively well, which is exactly the type of player that the Dolphins have parted ways with all year.
- Josh Rosen, QB: This is the least likely of the candidates, though there’s some logic. The Dolphins traded a second-round pick for Rosen and gave him the reins early in the season. Unsurprisingly, he floundered with just one touchdown and five interceptions in an offense that’s a disaster. Now Ryan Fitzpatrick is starting again and Rosen’s on the bench. If Miami thinks he’s a long-term fixture, then keep him. The much more probable scenario is that the Dolphins plan to draft a quarterback early in 2020. So why not pass Rosen along if another team decides he’s worth developing?
There’s not much reason to be optimistic about the Falcons. The defense is 31st in the league in both points allowed and takeaways. Atlanta is averaging just 3.7 yards per rushing attempt, while Matt Ryan is third in the NFL in interceptions with eight.
Even when Ryan was just about perfect against the Cardinals in Week 6 with four touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 144.9 passer rating, the Falcons still lost because of their awful defense.
Now Atlanta’s 1-6 and, somehow, there are even more dark clouds on the horizon. The Falcons are headed straight toward salary cap hell:
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will consume 27% of the Falcons cap in 2020.
Add Jake Matthews, Grady Jarrett, and Desmond Trufant, Top 5 will consume 50.6%.
Add Alex Mack, Deion Jones, Devonta Freeman, Mo Sanu, and Ricardo Allen, Top 10 will cost 73.6%.
— Zack Moore (@ZackMooreNFL) October 20, 2019
Some contract restructures could help, but the Falcons are going to need to make moves to find some wiggle room. Since a playoff run isn’t going to happen, that means it’s time to deal players who won’t be around for the long haul.
Potential trade bait
- Vic Beasley, DE: The former first-round pick hasn’t done much since his 15.5-sack explosion in 2016. He had 10 sacks in the last two seasons combined. He’s due to become a free agent in March and it’s more likely than not that he’ll be moved before the deadline, considering Beasley has been informed by the team that he’s on the block.
- Mohamed Sanu, WR: The veteran is set to count $7.9 million against the cap in 2020, but his stats doesn’t quite match that number. He’s averaging 44.7 yards per game and he has a career-worst 9.5 yards per reception. With Calvin Ridley looking more than ready to be the No. 2 wideout across from Julio Jones, Sanu could fetch a pick from a team needing a receiving boost.
- Desmond Trufant, CB: He’s one of five Falcons players with at least a $15 million cap hit in 2020. Trufant’s been a good-not-great cover corner for Atlanta and that’s the kind of player who might need to get trimmed from this roster.
- Devonta Freeman, RB: Only four running backs — Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, and David Johnson — have a higher average salary than Freeman. It’s been a while since he played up to that contract. His production dipped a bit in 2017 and then he missed all but two games in 2018 due to knee and groin injuries. This season, he’s averaging 3.5 yards per carry and still doesn’t have a rushing touchdown after seven games. If the Falcons get a chance to offload his $9.5 million 2020 cap hit, they should take it.