0 out of 6
Danny Karnik/Associated Press
Given the NBA-ish vibes the NFL has given off over the past few years, no trade idea should be out of reach.
Look at the past few months, which have featured one of the league’s best offensive tackles (Orlando Brown Jr.) and perhaps its best wide (Julio Jones) given out to new teams. Add to that speculation about Aaron Rodgers and many other big names, and it looks like the trade season has only just begun.
Wildly enough, there are still plenty of big-name players who should be on the block and traded this summer, if not before the regular season deadline. Cap reasons, odd adjustments with new staffs and/or new players, and simply the end of relationships (like Jones wanting to leave a rebuilder for a competitor) are the main reasons why some veterans should be on the trading block.
These are the best players expected to be on the block in 2021.
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John Raoux/Associated Press
It seems like a matter of time before the Jacksonville Jaguars move quarterback Gardner Minshew II.
Minshew, after all, is a younger player with an advantage at the most important position, but also useless after new head coach Urban Meyer naturally used the first draft pick on Trevor Lawrence.
A sixth-round pick in 2019, Minshew showed enough as a rookie in 14 games to appear in nine games as a sophomore. Minshew completed 62.9% of his passes with 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in two seasons. He’s only 25 and he could have a lot of advantages if he’s surrounded by more talent in a better team.
According to Jeremy Fowler from ESPN, Minshew would also like the idea of starting somewhere else. Jacksonville could easily meet a trade request, grab a late pick to fuel long-term rebuilding, and find a reliable veteran who can coach Lawrence instead.
2 out of 6
Doug Murray/Associated Press
Notable New England Patriots veterans tend to appear on lists like this because Bill Belichick has a reputation for cutting ties before a player’s salary no longer matches his game.
Stephon Gilmore could be next. At the trade deadline last year, ESPN Diane Russini reported that other teams were thinking along the same lines and calling out the Patriots on him.
And why not? Gilmore, who turns 31 in September, is the team’s peak load ($16.2 million) and the team only has $15 million free. In free agency, the team even added corner Jalen Mills to the tune of $24 million over four years.
Certainly Mills is not the the biggest factor here, but clearly the Patriots are remaking the roster. Gilmore also doesn’t have many years to bring the team a big return via trade. He posted a 61.0 Pro Football Focus Rankings in 2020 before suffering a season-ending quad injury late in the season.
Since this is potentially the last chance the Patriots have to get good value via trade, Gilmore should be on the block.
3 out of 6
Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
The Arizona Cardinals have a bit of a self-inflicted wound when it comes to their seemingly inevitable split with linebacker Jordan Hicks.
Arizona drafted linebacker Zaven Collins in the first round this year, effectively replacing Hicks. NFL Network Ian Rapoport later reported that the team had given the veteran permission to seek a trade.
Getting a lot of anything in exchange for Hicks won’t be easy, though. At the start of his 29-year-old season, he only mustered a 50.4 PFF rating last year on 92 percent snapshots of his defence. It has a less expensive cap stroke ($6 million) after taking a pay cut and is actually on a one-year rental, but other teams might be patient knowing that Hicks will eventually reach free agency.
Which is a long way of saying the Cardinals should take whatever they can get for Hicks after backing into that corner, keeping him in the market for as long as it takes.
4 out of 6
Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
It looks like the relationship between the Chicago Bears and off Anthony Miller has already run its course.
Miller was thrown into business negotiations around the time of the project, according to Reportlikely signaling that the team has already come to a conclusion on the advantage of the 2018 second-round pick.
Perhaps that’s an unfair assessment on Chicago’s part given their consistently poor quarterback situation. But after scoring seven times as a rookie, Miller has scored just four more times in two seasons and hasn’t even broken the 700-yard mark yet.
From Chicago’s perspective, it might be better to get something back for Miller now than to flirt with a possible contract dispute, regardless of whether it doesn’t align with what they want to do offensively with. Andy Dalton or Justin Fields. And for the receiving team, there’s always the allure that he can become so much more in a better passing attack.
5 out of 6
Butch Dill/Associated Press
The New Orleans Saints recently appeared to throw a bucket of cold water on any Michael Thomas trade speculation by restructuring his contract in a way that saves space on the team cap in 2021.
But perhaps the Saints should still consider suspending Thomas.
It’s not so much about the Saints escaping a terrible salary cap situation (although that certainly couldn’t hurt with the team having just $6 million cap space) because he reads the piece and thinks long term.
On paper right now, there’s no guarantee Jameis Winston and/or Taysom Hill can even come close to filling Drew Brees’ cleats. And if they can’t, the team doesn’t win a ton of games and will end up signing a relatively high quarterback, sparking a massive rebuild after an era ends.
Thomas, who just turned 28, has an outlet built into his Contract after 2021 and three years under contract after that. A year ago, lingering injuries limited him to seven games and zero touchdowns, and spectators such as The Athletic’s Larry Holder have already written about how Winston’s inaccuracy on oblique routes could be a big problem for Thomas.
If nothing else, the Saints should keep Thomas on the block in hopes of a monster offer. It’s probably not what the majority of Saints fans want to see right after losing Brees, but it could benefit the team the most in the long run.
6 out of 6
Morry Gash/Associated Press
The Green Bay Packers seem unwilling to part ways with franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers, which is about as reasonable as it gets.
But Rodgers might end up forcing their hand anyway. He did, after all, to jump Mandatory OTAs, leaving Jordan Love’s first round of 2020 to take first team representatives while the team worked on free agent Jake Dolegala.
the Why behind Rodgers’ dissatisfaction with the Packers isn’t too hard to figure out. Love’s arrival as a first-round pick in the 2020 draft has sparked speculation, as expected. But the veteran responded by completing 70.7% of his passes with 4,299 yards and 48 touchdowns, good for an MVP award.
It made things awkward, as did team spirit in general. To waste a second-round pick on running back AJ Dillon in 2020, only to pay to re-sign Aaron Jones while letting a key offensive lineman like Corey Linsley slip away, was odd.
It’s always easy to imagine a scenario where Rodgers will eventually come back and play at the elite level again. But watching Love – an indisputable demotion – work with the first team over the summer is sure to cause some anxiety in the Green Bay front office.
If nothing else, the Packers should throw Rodgers on the block. They might do this just to appease him, but also to make sure a godfather type offer doesn’t emerge. It’s never ideal to lose a player of his caliber, but watching a Carson Palmer situation unfold (a franchise passer adamantly refusing to play again) could be even worse.