Five Things to Look for Before the NFL Trade Deadline

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Martavis Bryant of the Pittsburgh Steelers is one of a few star players who could be on the move this year

Let’s all be honest with each other, the NFL trade deadline doesn’t really exist. It’s an illusion, Michael, a figment of our collective imaginations. We all get excited about it, we all like to imagine possible moves our favorite team can make and then we all are generally let down when none of those moves happen. Rinse and repeat. Guess what? It’ll happen next year too.

Last year the New England Patriots actually made noise at the deadline when they surprised everyone by trading away star linebacker Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns. It was a move that really put the whole Pats Nation mantra of “In Bill We Trust” to the test as Collins was seen as a linchpin of the Patriots’ defense. We all should learn from our mistakes though, because Bill Belichick apparently knows what he’s doing as the Patriots seemed just fine without Collins, going on to win the Super Bowl.

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Jamie Collins looked to be a star for the Patriots before he was traded to the BrownsThe Collins’ trade was an anomaly in the NFL because the truth is, it’s rare that a player of his caliber is actually dealt come the October deadline. It’s not as if it’s totally unheard of for a big deal to be made, but you do have to go a ways back to find a move of significance that was made, like all the way back to 1989 when the Dallas Cowboys traded Herschel Walker and a handful of draft picks to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for five players and eight draft picks. In between then and now though, it’s hard to find any moves you’d consider a game-changer.

It’s not as if the NFL is opposed to mid-season trades. After the 2011 season the league and the players association voted to move the deadline back two weeks, from Week 6 to Week 8. The thought was that the move would increase activity as team’s doing well would be in a position to upgrade their roster, whereas teams already out of it would be more open to unloading players. The biggest move that year was Tampa Bay trading cornerback Aqib Talib to the Patriots for a fourth-round pick. The Buccaneers weren’t optimistic about re-signing Talib after the season and at 3-4, it made sense to move him when they could rather than having him walk and get nothing in return at the end of the season.

So what will happen at this year’s deadline? Will someone of Walker’s caliber get moved or someone more on par with Talib be traded? Here are five things to look for leading up the deadline.


1. Will This Be the Year Larry Fitzgerald Finally Gets Traded?

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Larry Fitzgerald’s name is frequently mentioned in NFL rumors and this year is no exceptionShort answer: no. Longer answer: nope.

Rumors of Fitzgerald being traded away by Arizona have become common place on the floors of the NFL rumor mill. Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston recently called him “the lowest of low-hanging fruit trade targets” as Fitz was once again being rumored to be on the Patriots’ radar. Curran went on to joke that at Fitzgerald’s inevitable Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Pats’ fan will be still be wondering if the team could pull off a trade for him. It’s funny because it’s true.

Of course Fitzgerald would be a solid addition for the Patriots, but their needs are glaring elsewhere. A team like the Saints or Chiefs could make a run at him, but his salary of $11 million would make it tough, and not just for New Orleans or Kansas City. Any team looking to acquire the wide out who will now be catching balls from Drew Stanton, with Carson Palmer out with a broken arm, would have to do some magic with their numbers to create space for the star receiver.


2. What Will the Patriots Do?

Malcolm Butler intercepts a Russell Wilson pass to seal New England’s 28-24 victory in Super Bowl 49 (Getty)

Speaking of New England, the team is 6-2 heading into their bye week and their defense appears to have at least somewhat righted the ship, posting solid performances in the past two weeks against Atlanta and San Diego. They did lose their defensive leader Dont’a Hightower though, so it wouldn’t be crazy to think that Belichick could still have designs on improving his defense, maybe linebackers Aaron Lynch of the 49ers or Hau’oli Kikaha of the Saints coming in to fill Hightower’s shoes.

Malcolm Butler has been playing better as of late, but I still think he could be traded if the right offer presented itself. Belichick hasn’t traded away a fan favorite in a while; a move that sets New England on fire for a few days, so he’s due.

As for the offense, Fitzgerald is too expensive and if the team were to add anyone, a backup tight end makes the most sense as the team hasn’t gotten much (that’s being polite) from Dwayne Allen, who was brought over from the Colts in the offseason. Eric Ebron of the Lions is a possibility,  as are Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks and Martellus Bennett of the Packers (who was on the Patriots last year.) I wouldn’t hold your breath though.


3. Will the Eagles Find a Replacement for Jason Peters?

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Duane Brown (#76) goes against Denver’s Von Miller.Your friends who are Eagles’ fans are right – the birds are currently 7-1 and look like the best team in the NFC (partially by default.) Carson Wentz has silenced critics and is a MVP candidate while the team is sitting pretty in the lackluster NFC East. Yet they have at least one area where they could look to improve before Tuesday’s deadline and that’s finding a replacement for left tackle Jason Peters, who is out for the season with a torn ACL and MCL.

The obvious candidate to replace Peters is Duane Brown of the Texans. Brown ended his holdout last week after sitting out the first six games of the season due to being unhappy with his contract, specifically the lack of guaranteed money left on it (i.e. none.) It would make sense for Houston to try and hold onto Brown, especially with their rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson playing so well, but if they were looking to move him, Philly would be happy to have him. The Eagles would have to make some room financially to make it work, but having Brown protect the blindside of Wentz would be worth it.


4. Which Wide Receiver Gets Traded: Jarvis Landry or Martavis Bryant?

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Jarvis Landry could be on his way out of MiamiLandry is in a contract year, so despite Miami being in decent shape in the hunt for a wild card spot, he has to be a candidate to be traded. Landry is a proven veteran receiver and could help a slew of teams, including the Patriots, Eagles, Saints and really any team looking to get more production out of the slot. But would the Dolphins really trade him, though?

One team that could be an option for Landry is Pittsburgh, especially if the Steelers buck and trade away Bryant, who has become a sore spot for the team and has been making noise lately and not in a good way. Pittsburgh has said they are not looking to trade Bryant, but come on, when have we ever taken a team’s word for it when it comes to a player being or not being available? The emergence of fellow wide out JuJu Smith-Schuster has seemed to make Bryant at least somewhat expendable and only a few hours west of Pittsburgh, the Bears could be looking for someone like Bryant to help their struggling offense.

If I was a betting man I’d say both players stay put, but if pressed, I’d say Bryant moves and Landry stays.


5. Which NFC East Team Makes a Move to Challenge the Eagles?

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Could Carlos Hyde be a fit in Washington?Ha, probably not the Giants. At 1-6, New York is much more of a seller than a buyer right now and if you’re interested in a cornerback, the Giants would love to trade you Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

As for Dallas and Washington though, a move here or there might not make them threats to Philadelphia, but could at least improve their standing in the wild card race. For instance, Washington could bolster their offense by adding Carlos Hyde of the 49ers. Any fantasy football owner who invested in Rob Kelley can tell you that he’s been a bummer this year and Hyde would be a marked improvement.

Dallas has had two weeks in a row where Ezekiel Elliot has looked the player he was last year, but he also could still be suspended for six games. The timing is tricky in terms of lining up a replacement, so the Cowboys might be better suited to shore up their defense, maybe by adding someone like Vontae Davis from the Colts, who would be willing to trade away anyone not named Andrew Luck.

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