As NFL teams around the league prepare to trim rosters down to 53 players on August 30, Heavy’s football mailbag series continues on Friday, August 26 — hosted by Heavy NFL insider Matt Lombardo — to answer questions about your favorite team(s).
New York Jets
With Jets WR Denzel Mims having requested a trade, who are some teams that could emerge as suitors? If his return value is truly a late-round pick, could there be some player-for-player swaps around the league that could make sense?
The Denzel Mims saga is fascinating.
There is no question that Mims has underachieved since being chosen by the New York Jets in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft, catching only 31 passes for 490 yards. His struggles in the Big Apple include battling through nagging injuries, and ultimately getting benched during the latter stages of the 2021 campaign, prior to his agent, Ronald Slavin, requesting a trade on August 25.
It could prove difficult for the Jets to find a trade partner. Especially because, as one current NFC Executive told Heavy, “A lot of teams around the league are already loaded at the position.”
Combine a limited market with Mims currently buried on the depth chart, and there is a good chance that teams across the league believe he will be available when the Jets trim their rosters to 53 players by Tuesday, August 30.
For the Jets to bury a former second-round pick, that this regime hand-selected, sends a signal to the rest of the NFL in terms of how they view the player.
However, according to multiple league sources, there have been three teams aiming to add veteran wide receiver help throughout the summer who could be ideal fits to offer Mims a change of scenery, and perhaps extended playing time.
The Cleveland Browns, as Heavy previously reported, have been hoping to add a veteran receiver to replace Jakeem Grant, after the burner was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. It’s hard to imagine Mims not being able to climb the depth chart in Cleveland, with Donovan Peoples-Jones and rookie David Bell the two most likely starters alongside Amari Cooper.
Likewise, the Atlanta Falcons have fully embraced a rebuild, and dropping another young weapon such as Mims alongside cornerstones Kyle Pitts and Drake London could serve as a foundation for that offense’s future. Atlanta also got a first-hand glimpse of Mims during joint practices with the Jets, and that scouting could give general manager Terry Fontenot an advantage over other teams, when it comes to evaluating Mims.
Finally, the New York Giants, who saw Mims during a joint practice on August 25, have a glaring need in terms of wide receiver depth behind Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and rookie Wan’Dale Robinson. Especially as Sterling Shepard continues to make his way back from a torn Achilles.
“I told our team after the joint practices with the Falcons,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said on August 25. “That a lot of people in this building probably made the Falcons’ roster today. Same goes for after this [joint practice with the Giants].”
Whether Mims is one of those players, or the Jets are able to squeeze an asset for the former second-round pick remains to be seen, but there are some fits for the Baylor alum to get on the field.
New England Patriots
If you were to put a percentage on it, what are the chances the Patriots trade Damien Harris before the start of the season?
The New England Patriots, of course, have a history of trading players as they approach the final year of their contract, and are very high on second-year running back Rhamondre Stevenson, but because New England is paper-thin at the position, a Damien Harris trade would seem unlikely.
New England has never featured a true workhorse, bell-cow type of running back, so a tandem of Harris and Stevenson could be how the ground game takes shape in the Bill Belichick-Matt Patricia-Joe Judge New Patriot Way offense.
There are teams that would make sense for Harris, especially the Las Vegas Raiders after releasing veteran Kenyan Drake, and the Eagles kicking the tires on veteran backs all offseason, and Harris could be an ideal fit for the New York Giants as an insurance policy on Saquon Barkley suffering another injury. But, running back just doesn’t feel like a position that teams are willing to trade assets to acquire.
If I were a betting man, I’d say there’s less than a 10% chance that Harris is traded.
Los Angeles Rams
With Logan Bruss injured, do you see a scenario where the Rams may consider OT Ereck Flowers or orchestrate a trade?
Ereck Flowers’ career renaissance from first-round bust as an offensive tackle for the New York Giants to emerging as a competent offensive guard has been one of the more intriguing storylines when it comes to offensive line play across the NFL the past few seasons.
Losing Bruss is a big blow to a Los Angeles Rams offensive line that finished the 2021 campaign ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 7 ranked unit in the league while paving the way to a Super Bowl championship.
Flowers had one of his strongest seasons to date, in Washington, allowing 6.0 sacks, but producing an overall grade of 72 from Pro Football Focus, while finishing as the outlet’s No. 17 ranked guard.
But, the league just might view last season as an outlier.
“Flowers’ name isn’t one that I’ve heard from many teams. At all,” a league source told Heavy. “I’ll tell you a name to watch for the Rams, and other situations, is Oday Aboushi.”
Aboushi, 31, was absolutely dominant during limited playing time last season for the Los Angeles Chargers, not allowing a single sack en route to a 68.2 overall grade from Pro Football Focus in 298 offensive snaps, all of which were at right guard.
On the surface, Aboushi makes a lot of sense along a veteran offensive line, especially when starting guards and Coleman Shelton are coming off mediocre campaigns. Edwards produced a 66.9 overall grade while allowing 6.0 sacks, and Shelton finished with a 57.7 mark while playing just 216 offensive snaps.
Surprise or Disappointing Teams?
What’s your best guess on teams that will surprise and disappoint with their performance in 2022?
The Tennessee Titans, to me, feel like a team that perennially enters a season with high expectations — FanDuel SportsBook lists the Titans over/under at 9.5 wins — but often come up short, especially in the postseason.
This year doesn’t feel much different.
The AFC South is going to be vastly improved, especially following Matt Ryan’s arrival in Indianapolis, which prompted a current NFL executive to tell Heavy the division is “the Colts’ to lose.”
Meanwhile, Jacksonville finally has the stability that comes with the hiring of Super Bowl-winning head coach Trevor Lawrence and some added weapons around potential franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
While it is only preseason, Malik Willis looks the part of a franchise quarterback and just might offer significantly more upside than Ryan Tannehill does in the Titans’ offense. Willis’ mobility is an added dimension to an offense that is built around solid offensive line play and using running back Derrick Henry as a battering ram, and the Liberty alum has passed for 187 yards and a touchdown during two preseason games while adding 74 scramble yards with another rushing touchdown.
It feels like only a matter of time before Willis replaces Tannehill as the starting quarterback, and that could be hastened by a sluggish start, which is very plausible given Tennessee opens the season at home against the Giants followed by a gauntlet at the Buffalo Bills, against the Las Vegas Raiders, and at the Colts during the first four weeks.
Don’t be surprised if the Titans take a step back in 2022, but if Willis’ strong preseason play translates during any opportunities in the regular season, this could be one of the more entertaining teams to watch, for years to come.