2020 NFL trade deadline preview

2020 NFL trade deadline preview

Michael Markoch, General Assignment Reporter

In a year unlike any other, the NFL has accomplished what some viewed as the impossible. The league has made it halfway through a season in the middle of a global pandemic. Not only is this a great achievement, but the middle of the season marks one of the most important events of the entire NFL season, the trade deadline.

Like any other season, there are teams that are good and teams that are bad. Whatever the case is for any team, the deadline is a time to improve its roster for the present or sell away players for the future.

Who are the buyers? Who are the sellers? And what crazy trades might be made by the deadline on Nov. 3?  Here are some of my predictions.

Teams Likely to be Buyers

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens are sitting as one of the top teams in the league, record-wise and talent-wise, but after once again losing to the Kansas City Chiefs, their holes are evident. The Ravens lack depth and overall talent at wide receiver, as reigning MVP Lamar Jackson is forced to make a lot out of very little in the passing game. They have recently signed former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, but there are a lot of questions surrounding Bryant at this time. The Chiefs also exposed a large weakness in the Ravens’ secondary, with the release of safety Earl Thomas III beginning to have an impact. The team already traded for All-Pro defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who should help the pass rush, but look for the Ravens to bolster their passing offense and defense in the next week.

Trade Prediction: Ravens Trade a fourth-round pick to the Houston Texans for wide receiver Kenny Stills.

Cleveland Browns: Staying in the AFC North, the Browns are a surprising team at the halfway point. But what is clearer than anything is that the Browns are not quite an elite team with two blowout losses to the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively. The loss of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. may lead some to believe the Browns need offensive help. That is not the case, as their defense comes in as one of the worst in the league. The Browns have the weakest linebacker rotation in the league, coupled with poor safety play that leaves the middle of the field wide open for opposing quarterbacks to expose.  If the Browns can find a starting-caliber safety and maybe another veteran linebacker by the deadline, they may cause some chaos in January.

Trade Prediction: Browns trade a fifth-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for safety Anthony Harris.

San Francisco 49ers: To no fault of their own, the defending NFC champion 49ers are very thin on their roster at the moment. Due to a plethora of injuries, the Niners find themselves in last place in a very tough NFC West division even with a winning record. The loss of edge rusher Nick Bosa to a torn ACL has diminished the Niners’ pass rush significantly as they find themselves in the bottom half of the league in sacks after finishing top five a year ago. As they get healthier on offense, they are going to need to regain some of that defensive magic from last season. Ngakoue might have been a great signing for the 49ers, but with him off the board, look for names such as Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan or Atlanta’s Takkarist McKinley as potential targets.

Trade Prediction: 49ers trade a second and sixth-round pick to the Washington Football Team for defensive end Ryan Kerrigan.

New Orleans Saints: The Saints are finally, for the first time in a few years, being challenged in the NFC South. Unfortunately for them, they are not the best nor most talented team in the division right now; that title belongs to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Star wideout Michael Thomas hasn’t played since week one due to injuries and behavioral issues, quarterback Drew Brees is beginning to show his old age, and they have significant issues on the defensive side of the ball. Are the Saints still a playoff team? Probably, but if the team keeps the status quo, it will be another quick exit this postseason. The Saints will need to look for pass-rushers and secondary help, and while they have made it clear they will not trade Thomas, an extra receiver might be useful as well.

Trade Prediction: Saints trade a third and seventh-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster

Teams Likely to be Sellers

New York Jets: Need anyone say more about the Jets? They are not a good team in any way. An incompetent head coach in Adam Gase, no true starting-caliber wide recievers, a 37-year-old running back in Frank Gore and a tired-out defense is not a recipe for success. The Jets are tanking for Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and don’t be surprised if current Jets quarterback Sam Darnold is traded next week to a team like the Indianapolis Colts or Pittsburgh Steelers.

Houston Texans: The Texans are not a very good team. They have their franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson but that is about it. Their defense can’t stop anybody, offensive line play has been poor, and it is safe to say the DeAndre Hopkins trade was a complete failure. This team needs a rebuild, but at least they have a piece to build around in Watson. Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks, Justin Reid and maybe even J.J. Watt are players the Texans could trade by the deadline.

Minnesota Vikings: Similar to the Texans, the Vikings were a playoff team a year ago, so what happened? The answer is a lot of things. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs was a bigger loss than the team imagined, their defense lost a lot of pieces on the defensive line and they have an unhappy secondary. With quarterback Kirk Cousins on a large contract for a significant amount of time, a full-on rebuild is going to be difficult in Minnesota. But trading safeties Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith could be a good start.

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons should be so much better than they are, as quarterback Matt Ryan and wideout Julio Jones are a lethal combination on offense. But the Falcons are just… not good. They have an annoying habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and coach Dan Quinn recently lost his job because of it.  Their defense has been once again hit with the injury bug and the offense just lacks innovation. The Falcons have said Ryan and Jones will not be traded this season, nor should they be, but moves will have to be made in Atlanta.

Now that some of the buyers and sellers have been established, it is time to address some of the loudest rumors as the deadline looms.

Starting with the quarterbacks, there is a lot of intrigue surrounding who might and might not be traded. Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. seems to need a fresh start outside of the nation’s capital, but it does not seem like the team is willing to trade him at this time. Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was recently benched for 2020 No. 5 overall pick Tua Tagovailoa, and now could be traded to a quarterback-needy team such as the Dallas Cowboys, who are currently on their third-string quarterback. Matt Ryan will not be traded this season, says the Falcons’ front office, but that’s something to watch for in the offseason.  

Moving on to wide receivers, there are not many superstars on the trading block. Like Ryan, the Falcons have made it clear that they are not going to trade star wide receiver Julio Jones. But it wasn’t long ago that Giants general manager Dave Gettlemen said the same thing about Odell Beckham Jr. before he traded him a few months later to the Browns.

Speaking of Beckham, he recently went down with a torn ACL, ending his season and shutting down his trade market. But only time will tell if the Browns truly need Beckham, as quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 22-of-23 passes after Beckham left the game in week seven.  This will be another name to look out for in offseason trade discussions.

Lesser known, but quality options should be available at the deadline as well. Texans receivers Brandin Cooks and Kenny Stills would seem to be available, Detroit Lions’ veteran Marvin Jones Jr. and the Cincinnati Bengals’ A.J. Green could also be available at the deadline.  

On the defensive side of the ball, many aging veterans have already been flipped. The aforementioned Ngakoue went to the Ravens, Everson Griffen was traded from the Cowboys to Detroit, and Carlos Dunlap was traded by the Bengals to the Seahawks. All three of those moves could have a major impact down the stretch.

In the last couple days, the New England Patriots have seemed to make cornerback Stephon Gilmore available, but it seems it would cost too much to acquire the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. With high offensive paces and statistics this season, acquiring defensive players is important and at a premium. Any team that wants to make a strong push to win the Super Bowl will need to have a great defense to match up with these powerful offenses.

The trade deadline is one of the most exciting times of the NFL season, and as the league approaches Nov. 3 in this year unlike any other, it’s time to buckle up and enjoy this crazy ride of rumors and trades to come..

Michael Markoch is a general assignment reporter for WDBM Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @mcmarkoch20.