The 4pm NFL Trade Deadline yesterday came and went, and the only player moved was Vernon Davis to the Denver Broncos. Although there were rumors of several players on the trading block, nothing ever materialized... but they should have. Here are four trade scenarios that would have made sense for all parties involved.
PANTHERS RECEIVE: WR CALVIN JOHNSON
LIONS RECEIVE: DT STAR LOTULELEI, 2016 2ND RD PICK, COND. 2017 3RD RD PICK
If you watched Ted Ginn drop yet another wide open pass in overtime this past week vs. the Colts that could have cost the Panthers the game, you will know why this is a good trade for Carolina. Don't get me wrong - is Calvin Johnson's best football behind him? Probably. But Johnson just recently turned 30 and is exactly the WR that this Panthers team could use on the roster, especially after they lost their playmaker Kelvin Benjamin to a torn ACL before the season started. At 6'5, 235 pounds, Johnson is precisely the type of receiver that Panthers GM Dave Gettleman prefers for Cam Newton, since Cam tends to miss high when he is off the mark. It is no coincidence that they have invested premium draft picks the last two years in WRs 6'4" & above in Benjamin and Devin Funchess. Funchess, however, is struggling to get on the field with a weak WR core and Megatron could be the go-to guy that Cam Newton needs if this Panthers team is going to make a run for the Super Bowl this year. Johnson would also be an ideal mentor for Benjamin and help with Funchess' progression, just like Arizona Cardinals WRs seem to do under Larry Fitzgerald.
In return, the Lions would fill a need with DT Star Lotulelei and obtain a second round pick for the 2016 NFL Draft to invest in a young WR. Lotulelei, although talented, has had trouble staying on the field due to injuries, so the Panthers wouldn't be missing him as much as you would think. The conditional 3rd round pick would be negotiated on the basis of Calvin Johnson catching 80 passes in 2016.
BRONCOS RECEIVE: OT JOE THOMAS/C ALEX MACK
BROWNS RECEIVE: OLB SHAQ BARRETT, LT RYAN CLADY, 2016 1ST RD PICK, 2016 3RD RD PICK, 2017 2ND RD PICK
As soon as I heard the Browns rumors of putting Joe Thomas and Alex Mack on the trade block, I immediately thought to myself that they aren't going anywhere unless they go together. Not because they are friends and need to be on the same team a la an elementary school kickball team, but rather I thought that bundling them up would be the only way they get the Browns favorable compensation for two of the most consistent and dominant players at their position in the last decade.
The Broncos were an ideal trade candidate for the Browns since they have huge needs at the LT and C position, especially after rookie LT Ty Sambrailo landed on IR this week. Elway knows that his window is closing with Peyton at QB and this could be his chance to push hard for that ring, as long as they could get through New England. The only bad thing about this trade for the Broncos is that it really takes them out of contention for drafting a QB this year, but I doubt there would have been a franchise-caliber signal caller late in the first round available anyway (we can debate if Hackenberg is a franchise-caliber QB another day). This move would have really been Elway putting his chips on the table and going all in on 2016 with the most dominant defense in the NFL leading the way. I also like this move for Denver because it gives Alex Mack a taste of what it's like to be on a championship-caliber team, which might get him hooked on winning and keep him from opting out and becoming a free agent after this season, per his contract terms. Having teammate Joe Thomas there too would help in making that decision as well. They would also have money to re-structure contracts following this season when Peyton retires and his salary is opened up.
In return, the Browns would receive a young up-and-coming pass rusher in Shaquill Barrett who is seeing limited reps playing behind Von Miller and Demarcus Ware, but would immediately be an impact starter for a Cleveland team who is desperately searching for a more consistent pass rush and someone who can set an edge in rush defense. Think of Pernell McPhee playing behind Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil last year in Baltimore - that's Barrett. They also have a replacement for Mack after taking Cam Erving in the first round of this past draft, so I think they were anticipating this being Mack's final year with the club anyway. But most importantly, the 1st round pick could be used as ammunition to move up and trade for the top QB in this year's draft, whether it shakes out to be Jared Goff, Connor Cook, or Paxton Lynch. This would be a fun blank slate for a likely new GM and Head Coach after current GM Ray Farmer and HC Mike Pettine are canned after this year. As for Ryan Clady, although he has been plagued by injury recently, he is a player that was one of the best in the NFL at his position once upon a time, so if they can focus on rehabbing him so that he is 100% for next season, it may lessen the impact of losing Thomas.
JAGUARS RECEIVE: FS ERIC WEDDLE
CHARGERS RECEIVE: DE ANDRE BRANCH, C STEFEN WISNIEWSKI, 2016 4TH RD PICK
From what we have seen in just under three years in Duval, it's not GM Dave Caldwell's style to give away draft capital for players. But Eric Weddle would be a decent exception, especially at a good value in essentially a 4th round pick. If you asked me if the Jags would have done this at 1-5 following the Week 6 loss vs. the Houston Texans, I would have said no way. However, with the Colts losing on Monday Night (and basically imploding), the Texans losing Arian Foster and the Titans turning their 2015 fortunes over to interim Head Coach Mike Mularkey (good luck), all of a sudden, the young Jaguars might even be (gasp) favorites to win the division! If they even want to entertain the thought, however, they are really missing a true FS who can operate sideline to sideline in a Cover 3 and allow Jonathan Cyprien (or James Sample when he returns from injury) to play more of a box-safety role and help in run support, a la Kam Chancellor in Seattle.
Why can the Jags get Weddle so cheap? He is turning 31 in January and is in the final year of his contract. If you read between the lines, you get the feeling that Weddle is not going to return to San Diego following the season. As a result, the Chargers at 2-6 would be better off getting some type of compensation for Weddle before he walks. He has also been hampered by some injuries so far this year, but nothing too serious that should deter a team like Jacksonville in making the investment. The Jags also have ample cap room going into next season to extend a long term deal to Weddle and keep him in Duval if they like what he sees. So I know what you are thinking - why don't the Jaguars just wait until free agency to sign Weddle? The answer is because they can challenge for the postseason this year and more importantly, it's very difficult to attract high-profile free agents to Jacksonville in the open market. This move basically gives Weddle no choice.
In addition to the 4th round pick, the Chargers would receive edge rush help in Andre Branch, who just never seemed to get going in Jacksonville despite being a high draft pick, but may have more look in a 3-4 scheme. More importantly, the Chargers would bring in veteran C Stefen Wisniewski. The Chargers Center spot has been an abomination since the retirement of Nick Hardwick, and with the injuries to the rest of the offensive line this past week (King Dunlap, Orlando Franklin), the Chargers #1 priority right now should be keeping Philip Rivers, who they just invested a ton of money in, from getting killed. Wisniewski has played well this year for Jacksonville, but they are big believers in second-year player Luke Bowanko and both Wisniewski and Branch are both set to become free agents anyway.
BEARS RECEIVE: MUHAMMAD WILKERSON
JETS RECEIVE: 2016 1ST ROUND PICK
For half a second, I really thought about re-uniting free agent-to-be Alshon Jeffery with Brandon Marshall in the Big Apple, but I think Jets fans can agree that they would rather have the first round pick so they can use it as ammo to trade up and finally get their franchise QB. Sure, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a consistent presence behind center this season, but this team needs "the guy" if they are going to challenge the New England Patriots in the division. The Bears pick should be relatively high in this year's draft, so you would think that this coupled with the Jets pick should be enough to move into the top five.
With the selection and strong play of rookie DE Leonard Williams this year, the Jets have essentially made all-Pro DE Muhammad Wilkerson expendable, and it seems like Wilkerson's camp and GM Mike Maccagnan are nowhere close to the same page on a contract extension. Bears Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio is trying to build a special defense in Chicago, and Wilkerson would be the perfect play-making DE to put next to promising rookie NT Eddie Goldman.