Not all trades are the same.
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey was traded to the Rams because he was fed up with playing for the Jaguars. Emmanuel Sanders was sent to the 49ers because the Broncos knew the 32-year-old receiver was going to leave in free agency anyway. The Falcons shipped receiver Mohamed Sanu to the Patriots so they could start to dig their way out of a tricky salary cap situation.
With the trade deadline coming on Oct. 29, more deals are undoubtedly on the way.
Some teams need to get younger, others need to save money, and there are a few that just want value for players who won’t be on the team much longer.
Here are a couple dozen players who could be on a different roster when November begins:
Players headed for free agency
The trade deadline comes right around the midway point of the NFL season. For players on the final year of their contract, that leaves them less than 10 games away from becoming a free agent.
For some, it’s inevitable. Last year, Golden Tate was on the final season of his contract with the Lions and an extension looked unlikely. His 31st birthday was on the horizon and the younger duo of Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay was filling the rest of the depth chart. It made sense for Detroit to send Tate to the Eagles for a third-round pick rather than wait for him to leave in the offseason.
Here’s a list of players set to hit free agency in March, who might not be in the long-term plans of their current team:
Robby Anderson, WR, Jets
New York’s inconsistent deep threat has been tough to figure out so far in his career. Now, he’s averaging just 2.8 receptions per game in 2019. That lack of production may push the Jets to move on from Anderson. The booming market for receivers makes now a good time to do it.
Vic Beasley, DE, Falcons
In 2016, Beasley was an All-Pro with 15.5 sacks. In the 37 games since, he has 11.5 sacks. He’s set to hit free agency in the offseason, but the Falcons are mostly trying to trade Beasley because he just hasn’t been very good. Perhaps another team can convince itself that the 2016 version of Beasley can return.
A long holdout that began in the summer didn’t end until Gordon reported to the team in the last week of September. Prior to that, Gordon was allowed to pursue a trade, but couldn’t find a viable option. Now that he’s averaging 2.3 yards per carry, the Chargers may be more willing to play ball with a team interested in acquiring the two-time Pro Bowl running back.
Chris Harris, CB, Broncos
Harris could fit in a few different categories here, but the No. 1 reason the Broncos should part with the 30-year-old cornerback is that he’s probably leaving after the 2019 season anyway. Harris even seemed to say as much to reporters earlier this year. A lot of teams could use secondary help, and the Broncos aren’t contending for a Super Bowl this year anyway.
Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Jaguars
Joey Bosa and Ngakoue are the only two players from the 2016 draft class with more than 30 career sacks. Ngakoue held out for a contract extension in the offseason and didn’t get one. He later told reporters “[the Jaguars] had a chance to sign me for a long-term deal but it didn’t get done.” With his contract expiring in March, Jacksonville could add even more draft capital by trading the 24-year-old pass rusher for a king’s ransom.
The players in this group who were traded
Miami is ditching players left and right, so it’s not surprising it decided to do the same with Drake by trading him to the Cardinals. He’ll be a free agent in 2020, and hasn’t scored a single touchdown in 2019. He finished 2018 with 1,012 yards from scrimmage and nine total touchdowns. The Dolphins weren’t planning on re-signing him, so he was another tank casualty.
Leonard Williams, DE, Jets
Quinnen Williams is the future of the Jets defensive line and that made a big extension for Leonard Williams unlikely — especially when he has zero sacks through seven games. The 1-6 Jets sent the former top-10 draft pick to the team they share a stadium with, swapping Williams to the Giants for a third- and fifth-round selection.
Players who are too expensive
It’s always smart to see the big picture. Spending to acquire or keep talented players is usually a good idea, but eventually the money runs out. Even if a team isn’t near the salary cap limit, it still makes sense to cut down on expenses whenever possible.
For teams that are especially strapped for cash — or maybe just ones that are thinking about the long haul — the trade deadline can be a good way to get rid of their most cumbersome contracts.
Geno Atkins, DT, Bengals
Atkins has been to the Pro Bowl seven out of the last eight years, so the Bengals probably don’t want to see him leave Cincinnati. But the defensive tackle will also be 32 in March and he’s due to count $14.2 million, $14.8 million, and $16.05 million against the salary cap in the next three seasons. A rebuild is on the way for the Bengals and getting value for a great player while ditching his contract could be a starting point.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Jets
New Jets general manager Joe Douglas wasn’t the one who thought a four-year, $52.5 million deal for Bell was a good idea. That was Mike Maccagnan, who was fired as GM in May. Jets coach Adam Gase reportedly didn’t like the price tag of Bell. That’s why it wouldn’t be that weird if the Jets shipped away their prized free agent after only a handful of games.
Jamison Crowder, WR, Jets
Crowder was another Maccagnan acquisition earlier in 2019 on a three-year, $28.5 million deal. That’s a lot for a receiver with a career-worst 9.3 yards per reception and still no touchdown receptions. Considering the return Emmanuel Sanders and Mohamed Sanu got on the trade market, the Jets could be better off sending Crowder’s contract somewhere else.
Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons
Only four running backs have a higher average salary than Freeman, and he’s not playing up to that price tag. Freeman’s averaging 3.5 yards per carry and hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rushing season since 2016. With salary cap hell coming soon for the Falcons, it’d be a win for the team if it could find a team willing to take a chance on Freeman.
Von Miller, LB, Broncos
Denver would be wise to burn things down and start over. It already traded Sanders, but the real swing for the fences would be dealing away Miller. He’s due to count more than $25 million against the cap next season and $22.125 million in 2021. Miller turns 31 in March and only has 2.5 sacks so far in 2019. If a team comes with a lofty offer for the Super Bowl 50 MVP, the Broncos could really kick start their rebuild.
Trumaine Johnson, CB, Jets
The third Jets player in this section is the hardest to trade. Johnson got a five-year, $72.5 million deal in 2018, but now he has a tenuous grasp on a starting role in New York. If the Jets can convince a team to take on Johnson’s salary, they’d likely take peanuts in return just to ditch the contract.
Josh Norman, CB, Washington
The days when Norman was considered one of the premier shutdown cornerbacks in the NFL are long gone. Now he struggles to stop anyone and is costing Washington points. He’s due to count $15.5 million against the team’s cap in 2020, but will likely be cut before he ever sees that salary. Washington would love if it could get another team to take on that problem instead.
Desmond Trufant, CB, Falcons
Another solution to the Falcons’ aforementioned upcoming salary cap disaster would be to trade Trufant. Unlike Freeman, the veteran cornerback is still playing pretty well. He’s just not playing well enough to warrant eating cap hits between $14.15 million and $16.15 million in the next three seasons. Plenty of other teams would be capable and willing to pay that price, though.
Players who are too old
It always feels awkward calling someone old when they’re only around 30, but the sports world is a weird place.
You: "I'm only 35, I have my whole life ahead of me."— Troy Johnson (@_troyjohnson) December 6, 2016
Sports Broadcaster: "Here comes the oldest player in the league. He's 32. A miracle."
For many teams — especially ones that know they have rebuilding to do — the trade deadline can be the right time to offload aging veterans and see what their young replacements can do.
Carlos Dunlap, DE, Bengals
Spoiler alert: Here’s the first of three consecutive Bengals on this list. The team’s Super Bowl window is 100 percent closed, and there are a few older players on the roster who could fetch value on the trade market. Dunlap, who turns 31 in February, is one of those players after six straight seasons with at least 7.5 sacks. He’s not going to make the Bengals a contender, but a team already set up for a playoff run could use his help.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals
While he’s only 29, the 2015 Pro Bowler is about 38 in football years. Eifert missed 15 games in 2014 due to an elbow dislocation, six games in 2016 with an ankle injury, four more games in 2016 due to back injuries, 14 games due to another back surgery in 2017, and 12 games in 2018 with an ankle fracture. He’s been healthy in 2019, but not very productive. The Bengals would be fine moving on with C.J. Uzomah and Drew Sample at tight end.
A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
The last of the Bengals trio is the one they insist isn’t for sale. Green doesn’t quite have Eifert’s injury history, but he’s now missed 20 games (and counting) since the beginning of the 2016 season. Green turned 31 in July and is probably the most valuable asset on the Bengals roster. If Cincinnati decides it’s rebuild time, trading Green makes sense.
Reshad Jones, S, Dolphins
The only other player on the Dolphins roster with at least 10 seasons under his belt is Ryan Fitzpatrick. Miami is tanking and there’s not much logic in keeping around aging veterans. There aren’t many tradable players left for the Dolphins, but Jones is one. Dumping his $15.63 million and $14.55 million cap hits in the next two seasons is just a bonus.
Patrick Peterson, CB, Cardinals
Around this time last year, Peterson requested a trade out of Arizona. He has since apologized and the Cardinals have turned away callers interested in trading for the eight-time Pro Bowler. Calling him old is a stretch, considering he’s 29 and has never missed a game due to injury, but getting younger would be the only reason for the Cardinals to move on from Peterson. He’s still a great player and a relatively affordable one too.
Players who just don’t fit
Sometimes a player just doesn’t work on a certain roster. A scheme change could make someone a square peg trying to fit in a round hole, and a crowded depth chart could force a player out of town.
The Patriots didn’t really want to trade Jimmy Garoppolo in 2017, but Tom Brady wasn’t going anywhere, so eventually their hands were tied.
Here are a few players who just don’t fit into the plans of their current team and would be better off somewhere else:
O.J. Howard, TE, Buccaneers
The 2017 first-round pick looks like the odd man out of the Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich offense in Tampa Bay. After scoring 11 touchdowns in his first two seasons and recording 56.5 yards per game in 2018, Howard’s numbers have tanked in 2019. He’s only averaging 29.3 yards this season and hasn’t caught a single touchdown. The Buccaneers would benefit from sending Howard to an offense that actually uses tight ends.
Josh Rosen, QB, Dolphins
Miami gave up a second-round pick during the 2019 NFL Draft to see if Rosen could develop into its quarterback of the future. It’s hard to imagine the Dolphins still think that’s a possibility. They’re careening toward the top pick of the 2020 NFL Draft (or at very least, close to the top) and will probably take a quarterback there. While Rosen’s value is hurt by his 52.0 passer rating in 2019, there are certainly teams that wouldn’t mind seeing what they can get out of a top 10 pick who’s still just 22.
Solomon Thomas, DE, 49ers
The San Francisco defensive line is really freakin’ good and it’s not because of Thomas. The No. 3 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft is just a rotational player with DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and Ronald Blair all outplaying him. Thomas is expendable and could have a bigger role in a defense that isn’t so stacked up front.
Trent Williams, OT, Washington
Washington doesn’t really want to trade Williams, but it doesn’t have much of a choice. The left tackle appears content to sit out for as long as it takes for the team to send him elsewhere. Washington hasn’t been in a rush to get a deal done, but that could be changing. The team now may be willing to play ball in the final day before the trade deadline.