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6 NFL trades that would shock the world like Kings sending DeMarcus Cousins to Pelicans

A fleecing led to a change of scenery for an All-NBA big man. Which NFL teams should follow suit?

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New England Patriots v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

On Sunday night, New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis lit up the NBA All-Star Game with a record 52 points, yet once the dust settled on his historic performance all anyone could talk about was his new teammate. Davis’ franchise capped off the midseason break with an absolute fleecing, sending a collection of marginal assets west for All-NBA center DeMarcus Cousins.

Years of trade speculation burned down to cinder with one quick agreement. Cousins and Sacramento were never a good fit; the trade marked the end of seven futile years of the Kings failing to build around the face of their franchise. While his departure seemed inevitable, Sunday’s trade is most notable for how disappointing the return was for a team mired in a lost decade of basketball.

Cousins’ dilemma isn’t limited to just the NBA. The NFL is littered with stars in need of a fresh landscape where their talents won’t be squandered. Joe Thomas is a nine-time All-Pro who has averaged fewer than five wins a season languishing in Cleveland. Deandre Hopkins is an elite receiving talent who has been forced to catch passes from a list of Texans’ quarterbacks that looks like an XFL wish list: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden, T.J. Yates, Brian Hoyer, Tom Savage, and Brock Osweiler.

They aren’t the only players who need new homes. Here’s a list of players who could be hypothetically set for the Boogie treatment this offseason, what the lowest possible return for them could be, and where we’d like them to end up.

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald to the New England Patriots in exchange for a sixth-round pick

Tom Brady has played with some good wide receivers in his storied career, but only one elite one — Randy Moss. While Fitzgerald is nearing the end of his rope as a pro, he’d still give the Patriots a premier weapon at a position of need for 2017. With Danny Amendola a candidate to be cut and Michael Floyd a free agent, New England could trot out a three-receiver starting lineup featuring Fitzgerald, Julian Edelman, and either Chris Hogan or 2016 draft pick Malcolm Mitchell.

Fitzgerald will be 34 this fall, and while he led the NFL in receptions (107), his career-low 9.6 yards per catch was a testament to both how the Cardinals used him and how Carson Palmer’s skills had declined behind center. The veteran wideout was targeted much closer to the line of scrimmage than in years past, in part to serve as his quarterback’s safety blanket in a disappointing season. Palmer’s QB rating dropped from 104.6 to 87.2 as he played out his age-36 season.

While those numbers and his age raise some red flags for the Patriots, New England would be thrilled to have the future Hall of Famer on the roster. Head coach Bill Belichick has often raved about Fitzgerald, even using him as the measuring stick by which other wideouts are compared. Utilizing wide receivers on short routes has also been a foundation for the Patriots’ offense throughout the Brady era, and a sure-handed route runner like the Cardinals’ veteran would give the team another option underneath while allowing deep threats like Hogan and Mitchell to test coverage over the top.

Fitzgerald wouldn’t be a home run, but he’d be another solid hit for a franchise that’s piled up free agent and trade victories en route to a dynasty. The only question here is whether he’d be willing to leave the only NFL franchise he’s called home — and whether the cost would be low enough for the notoriously stingy Patriots to bite.

Los Angeles Rams DL Aaron Donald to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for second- and fourth-round picks

Here’s a theoretical trade more in line with the move that shipped Cousins from the West Coast. Donald is an All-Pro lineman making relative peanuts on his rookie deal, but he could depart Los Angeles in 2019 after his fifth season with the team. If the Rams aren’t contending by then, he could be a free agent casualty — just like Cousins could have been in Sacramento this summer.

That’s where Oakland would swoop in. The Raiders have a dangerous defense thanks to 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, but failed to generate a consistent pass rush. The team ranked dead last in sack rate last season, getting to opposing quarterbacks just 4.2 percent of the time. Adding Donald would instantly boost the team’s defensive line, and the double teams he could induce would create plenty of space for Mack to terrorize passers.

Trading Donald is likely a non-starter for Los Angeles; a 25-year-old All-Pro is a building block, not trade bait. Then again, so is a 26-year-old All-NBA center. The Kings and Rams aren’t exactly in the same situation just yet, but LA could look to make a move like this (just, you know, better) in 2018 if it looks like their dynamic defensive tackle is not long for the franchise.

Cleveland Browns LT Joe Thomas to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for a third-round pick

Let’s face it. Rams left tackle Greg Robinson lets defensive ends get past him faster than someone can finish sneezing. His play has been cringeworthy since the Rams drafted him in 2014. The 24-year-old is a liability on the offensive line, and he has been penalized 31 times in two seasons, which is the most by any player during that timespan.

Quarterback Jared Goff needs someone to protect his blindside. How can Goff, last year’s No. 1 pick, showcase his talent if he doesn't have enough time in the pocket to throw? Enter Joe Thomas, who has been involved in trade rumors for years.

Thomas, a 10-time Pro Bowler, has never missed a start and is one of the best left tackles in league history. He’s also been with the Browns for his entire career and has never sniffed the playoffs.

The Browns are in rebuilding mode and have stockpiled draft picks for the next couple years. Thomas will turn 33 next season, too. But to finally trade one of the cornerstones of the team — and for only a third-round pick — seems baffling. And also very Browns.

Matt Ryan to the San Francisco 49ers for Carlos Hyde and the second overall pick

Kyle Shanahan is tasked with turning things around for the 49ers, and he’s facing this undertaking without any viable option at quarterback. Meanwhile, back in Atlanta remains the quarterback Shanahan coaxed an MVP performance out of in 2016: Matt Ryan. Now, Ryan is the face of the Falcons, and there’s literally no reason that the Falcons would want to move on from him considering his performance last season, which culminated in a Super Bowl appearance.

But that second overall pick is appealing, and adding Hyde to the backfield with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman would easily give Atlanta the best running back trio in football, which will take some of the pressure off of rookie Deshaun Watson, who will obviously be drafted by the Falcons with the pick they get from the Niners. Watson used to be a ball boy for the Falcons, so bringing him home makes perfect sense.

Yes, this is a completely ridiculous proposition, but so was the Kings’ decision to trade Boogie. Anyway, Hyde is probably expendable for the Niners, because we all know Shanahan isn’t going to run him when it matters.

Philip Rivers to the New York Jets for Marcus Gilchrist and the sixth overall pick

The Kings shipped off their best player to a team that contended recently but has since taken a nosedive, in exchange for a former player and other compensation that doesn’t nearly measure to the guy being traded. Here, a Rivers-to-the-Jets trade seems to check all the boxes. Los Angeles is trading for a high draft pick and former player, while offloading the most important player on its team.

Coming off a terrible season, the Jets still have Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker on the roster. Adding a franchise quarterback could be huge for New York, who just two years ago made a playoff run with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick calling the shots on offense.

Meanwhile, the Chargers — amid an ugly move to Los Angeles — decide to part ways with a guy who has been the center of trade rumors for quite some time now. Rivers, whose “mixed” feelings about a move to LA have been well-documented, could benefit from a change of scenery, and he seems to have at least a few good years left.

The trade is also reminiscent of a historic move, where then-Chargers running back decided to sign with the Jets in free agency after nine years in San Diego. New York made the AFC Championship in the first year of Tomlinson’s two-year deal.

The value wouldn’t be worth a trade in these circumstances, but then again, it wasn’t there in the Cousins deal either.

Von Miller to the Atlanta Falcons for two first-round picks and a second-round pick

The Denver Broncos learned this season that their defense wouldn’t be able to carry the team by itself as it did when they won the Super Bowl two seasons ago. The Falcons had just about everything they needed to win Super Bowl LI, but ultimately came up short in blowing a 25-point lead. The defense of the Falcons improved immensely as the season progressed, to be fair.

Adding Miller as another pass rusher would make the Falcons nearly a superteam in the NFL. Their offensive arsenal is already loaded with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, and Tevin Coleman.

Defensively, Vic Beasley surprised everyone by leading the NFL in sacks, and Grady Jarrett put on a dang show in the Super Bowl. The young defensive backs like Robert Alford and Keanu Neal have showed promise.

Add Miller to that equation, and that’s as complete as a team gets.