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This year has brought one of the wildest NFL offseasons in recent memory. As is usually the case, free agency was a flurry of rapid spending and colossal contracts. Where things got wacky was on the trade market.
The list of notable players who were dealt includes Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Deshaun Watson, Tyreek Hill, Khalil Mack, Davante Adams and Amari Cooper—and that was only the early offseason.
The trade market is far from closed, as the recent deal that sent Baker Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers made clear. However, with teams set to open training camps—and many of them running low on cap space—predicting the next big trade is tricky.
Here, we’ll examine five trades that may never materialize but just make sense heading into 2022. These are hypothetical deals that address needs, surpluses, contracts and cap situations and, most importantly, are logical for all parties involved. While these are theoretical trade proposals, we aren’t diving into fantasy land here.
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Seahawks Get: QB Jimmy Garoppolo
49ers Get: 2023 conditional fifth-round pick
Would the San Francisco 49ers really trade their former starting quarterback to a division rival? Perhaps not. However, with Mayfield now in Carolina, the 49ers are running out of potential trade partners.
The Seattle Seahawks, meanwhile, are running out of veteran alternatives to Drew Lock and Geno Smith, and unless Seattle is eying a full-on tank job in 2022, it should be scrambling for them.
According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Seahawks have done their “film work” on Jimmy G.
Would Garoppolo be Seattle’s long-term replacement in the post-Russell Wilson era? Not necessarily, but he would at least give the team an above-average starter with which to evaluate its roster moving forward.
Obtaining Garoppolo isn’t likely to be expensive, as San Francisco will be happy to get out from under his $24.2 million base salary. As Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk recently pointed out, carrying Garoppolo as insurance behind Trey Lance has risks:
“Once he passes a physical, he has no guaranteed pay unless he’s on the Week 1 active roster. If, however, he ends up suffering a season-ending injury in training camp or the preseason, the team will be on the hook for his full pay.”
Seattle, which has $15.9 million in cap space, couldn’t take on all of Garoppolo’s contract. In this scenario, the Seahawks give up a 2023 Day 3 pick—a higher price than Carolina paid for Mayfield—while taking on a large chunk of his 2022 salary.
The Seahawks get an upgrade at quarterback, while the 49ers minimize their financial risk and get a little something in return. The two franchises may not like each other, but this would be a smart business decision on both sides.
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Rams Get: RB Kareem Hunt
Browns Get: 2023 third-round pick
The Los Angeles Rams will be looking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, and they have enough talent on the roster to make a run. However, Los Angeles’ backfield is one of the worst in the NFL and could use a boost heading into Week 1.
The problem for L.A. is that Sony Michel is gone while both Darrell Henderson Jr. and Cam Akers are coming off of injury-hampered seasons.
Akers (Achilles) and Henderson (MCL) were both woefully ineffective during the postseason, averaging 2.6 and 1.8 yards per carry, respectively. The Rams used a fifth-round pick on Kyren Williams, but the 5’9″ and 194-pound Notre Dame product is undersized and unproven.
In short, the Rams don’t have a proven bell-cow back on their roster. Cleveland Browns backup Kareem Hunt, who led the league in rushing as a rookie in 2017, has shown that he can be exactly that.
Hunt is entering the final year of his contract and is hoping for an extension. However, the Browns have established depth behind starter Nick Chubb with D’Ernest Johnson, Demetric Felton Jr. and rookie fifth-round pick Jerome Ford on the roster.
Rams general manager Les Snead has not been shy at trading to address holes, and the Rams have $9.7 million in cap space available. They could afford to take on Hunt’s $6.3 million cap hit and give themselves a high-end dual-threat back to lead their rushing attack.
The Browns, meanwhile, would get a premium draft pick for a player who may depart next offseason anyway.
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Cowboys Get: LB Deion Jones
Falcons Get: 2023 sixth-round pick
The Dallas Cowboys should be looking to bolster their linebacker corps ahead of training camp. There is a lack of proven depth behind Micah Parsons and Leighton Vander Esch, and Dallas’ run defense was a liability in 2021.
Dallas ranked just 24th in yards per carry allowed (4.5) on the year and surrendered an average of 130 rushing yards per game over the final 10 weeks of the regular season.
Linebacker is a position Dallas could consider targeting ahead of Week 1.
“Linebacker is definitely not as deep as last year, even though Jayron Kearse’s versatility to play down in the box has to be factored into the equation. So maybe that’s a position to watch,” Rob Phillips of the team’s official website wrote in late May.
If the Cowboys are willing to make a trade, Deion Jones of the Atlanta Falcons is a target who makes perfect sense, so long as Dallas is willing to take on some of the $24.9 million in dead money remaining on his contract.
“Once a top-10 fixture, Jones appears to be on the trading block after six seasons in Atlanta,” ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler wrote.
Jones is recovering from shoulder surgery, but he’s a quality run-stopping linebacker with experience playing under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. He’s topped 100 tackles in each of the last three seasons and would bring system familiarity to the Cowboys linebacker corps.
Dallas, which has $20.2 million in cap space remaining, could ease Atlanta’s financial burden while giving up minor draft capital and improving its run defense in the process.
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Raiders Get: Edge Robert Quinn
Bears Get: 2023 second-round pick
The Las Vegas Raiders have shown that they’re willing to take an aggressive, win-now approach to the 2022 season. Las Vegas traded for Adams—reuniting him with his college quarterback, Derek Carr—and went out and signed Chandler Jones to a three-year, $51 million deal.
Jones and Maxx Crosby should give Las Vegas a top-notch pass-rushing tandem at the top of its depth chart. The problem is that the Raiders don’t have a reliable third member of the pass-rushing rotation.
2019 fourth overall pick Clelin Ferrell continues to have more potential than production.
The Chicago Bears, meanwhile, have shown a willingness to part with key pieces as part of the rebuilding process. They traded Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers and allowed players like Allen Robinson II and James Daniels to walk in free agency.
The Bears also have a prime trade candidate in pass-rusher Robert Quinn.
“I continue to hear that Quinn wants out of Chicago—and who could blame him?—and there are a host of interested teams,” CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora wrote in late May. “Bears brass has told everyone he ain’t going anywhere, but they will keep asking, and that’s not lost on the veteran defensive end.”
Quinn racked up 18.5 sacks this past season and could partner with Jones and Crosby to give Las Vegas the league’s top pass rush.
While a trade might not be cheap, Quinn’s 2022 base salary of $12.8 million would be doable for Las Vegas, which has $20.2 million in cap space. The Raiders could further establish themselves as AFC contenders while the Bears snap up a valuable piece of capital for their ongoing rebuild.
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Bears Get: WR Darius Slayton
Giants Get: 2023 seventh-round pick
The main focus of Chicago’s rebuild should be putting pieces around second-year quarterback Justin Fields. However, Chicago didn’t do a ton of work in that department this offseason.
Even after acquiring N’Keal Harry from the New England Patriots, Chicago’s receiving corps is underwhelming at best. Darnell Mooney is a rising star, but complementary pieces like Equanimeous St. Brown, Byron Pringle and rookie Velus Jones Jr. leave plenty to be desired.
It would behoove the Bears to add another veteran pass-catcher before the offseason concludes. New York Giants wideout Darius Slayton could be the perfect candidate.
The fourth-year pro is slated to carry a cap hit of $2.5 million in 2022, with only $58,497 of that guaranteed. With Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard and rookie Wan’Dale Robinson on the roster, Slayton is in real danger of being a cap casualty. The Giants, though, should be eager to get something in return first.
And Chicago would be a terrific landing spot. Slayton, who had 1,491 yards and 11 touchdowns over his first two seasons, would give Fields another quality target. He would also reunite with Bears receivers coach Tyke Tolbert, who held the same position in New York during Slayton’s first three seasons.
Chicago would get an established veteran who can help Fields develop, while New York would get something in return for a player it may outright release anyway. It might not be a flashy trade for either franchise, but it’s one that would just make sense for both.
*Cap and contract information via Spotrac.