NFL Trade Ideas That Would Change the Super Bowl LVII Race
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Saints WR Jarvis Landry (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Believe it or not, we’re already a third of the way through the 2022 NFL season. While we still don’t quite know which teams are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, we’re getting a better idea.
Four teams—the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings—have won at least five games through six weeks. The New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys have four wins apiece.
Will other contenders emerge over the final 12 weeks of the regular season? Probably. However, the November 1 trade deadline is rapidly approaching, and teams looking to make a win-now move will have to do so long before the playoff field is set.
Here, we’ll examine six trade ideas that would alter the Super Bowl race before we hit the stretch run. While these are hypothetical deals, we’re considering plausibility and focusing on factors like team needs, contract situations, cap space and any relevant trade buzz.
Christian McCaffrey to the Buffalo Bills
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Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Bills Get: RB Christian McCaffrey
Panthers Get: 2023 third-round pick, 2024 fourth-round pick
We’ll start with arguably the biggest name who could be dealt in the coming weeks. The Carolina Panthers fired head coach Matt Rhule after Week 5 and could be on the verge of a fire sale.
On Monday, Carolina traded wideout Robbie Anderson to the Arizona Cardinals, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Standout running back Christian McCaffrey may be next.
“The Carolina Panthers are listening to other teams about a potential
trade for star running back Christian McCaffrey, although a deal might
not be easy to complete,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter wrote Saturday.
The Buffalo Bills have been linked to McCaffrey by
CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones. Buffalo also
contacted Carolina about him in the offseason, per Dan Fetes of WHAM (h/t Joe Person of The Athletic).
While adding McCaffrey would be a luxury for the Bills, it’s the sort of win-now move that could make Buffalo’s offense virtually unstoppable. He is a do-it-all back who would command defensive attention while in the backfield with dual-threat quarterback Josh Allen.
The Panthers cannot expect to get a first-round pick back for McCaffrey after two injury-plagued seasons, but it could get out from under some of his four-year, $64.1 million contract that runs through 2025—though it would have to eat a significant amount of dead money.
According to Spotracthe dead-money charge at the trade deadline would be $8.2 million for this season and $18.3 million for next. While that would save just $1.2 million of the cap in 2023, the savings would jump in 2024 and 2025. McCaffrey is due to carry cap hits of $19.6 million and $15.5 million in those years, respectively.
With a $1 million base salary this year and only $1 million guaranteed for injury next year, McCaffrey could be viewed as a one-year rental by Buffalo.
Matthew Ioannidis to the Green Bay Packers
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Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Packers Get: DL Matthew Ioannidis
Panthers Get: 2023 seventh-round pick
Defensive lineman Matthew Ioannidis is another player the Panthers might want to move before the deadline. A versatile defender who has played both on the edge and on the interior, Ioannidis signed a one-year, $9.5 million deal with Carolina this offseason and could be gone after the year anyway.
With a base salary of only $1 million, he could easily be flipped to a contender.
The Green Bay Packers should be among the interested teams. They have struggled to stop the run—Green Bay has allowed a sixth-worst 811 rushing yards and 4.9 yards per carry—and may be buyers at the deadline.
“There’s the possibility if certain guys emerge of us having a chance to make a run. I know [GM] Brian [Gutekunst] believes the same thing,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, per Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal. “But if there’s an opportunity, I would expect that Brian will be in the mix.”
The Packers have $8 million in cap space remaining and should be looking to make moves. The NFC’s No. 1 seed from last year is sitting at 3-3 and needs to find some way to get back in the Super Bowl picture. Adding Ioannidis (11 tackles, one sack this season) would provide a much-needed boost up front defensively.
William Jackson III to the Cincinnati Bengals
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Cooper Neill/Getty Images
Bengals Get : CB William Jackson III
Commanders Get: 2023 fifth-round pick
It’s unclear if the Washington Commanders will trade cornerback William Jackson III. However, the 29-year-old is looking for a change of scenery—according to Rapoport, Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com:
“Sources say the former big-ticket, free-agent cornerback would like a new home, and the Commanders have engaged in trade talks centered around him with hopes of making that happen. There has been interest in Jackson from several teams, sources say.”
A return to the team that drafted him—the Cincinnati Bengals—would be logical for Jackson if a deal happens. The Bengals are defending AFC champions and at 3-3 have gotten back into the playoff mix following an 0-2 start.
However, Cincinnati’s 11th-ranked pass defense is good but not great.
Why not load up for the stretch run with a familiar face and a starting-caliber cornerback? Bringing back Jackson would give Cincinnati valuable secondary depth at a reasonable price.
Per NFL.com, an acquiring team would only be responsible for a cap hit of $3.8 million of Jackson’s $5 million base salary should it pick him up this week, which wouldn’t be too difficult for the Bengals to absorb.
Cincinnati has $2.8 million in cap space and would only need to clear a little room to add him. Washington, meanwhile, would get something back while getting Jackson out of the conference—not that the 2-4 Commanders are likely to see him in the playoffs.
D’Ernest Johnson to the Los Angeles Rams
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Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Rams Get: RB D’Ernest Johnson
Browns Get: 2023 sixth-round pick
The 2-4 Cleveland Browns are also unlikely to make the playoffs, and if they’re not already shopping running back D’Ernest Johnson, they should be.
The 26-year-old was a surprise standout in 2021, finishing with 534 rushing yards, 137 receiving yards and three total touchdowns despite playing a rotational and spot-starter role. This year, Johnson has played a mere 10 offensive snaps.
The Los Angeles Rams are defending Super Bowl champions, but they’re also sitting at 3-3 and have struggled to run the ball (3.4 yards per carry, 31st in the NFL). The Rams also appear poised to part with running back Cam Akers soon.
“Sources say Akers, who is out today
due to what was described as personal reasons, has philosophical and
football-related differences with head coach Sean McVay,” Rapoport wrote on Sunday. “The coach has
left Akers’ future open, and sources say the third-year pro could be on
the way out.”
Johnson, who averaged 5.3 yards per carry last season, would be a fine replacement for Akers and could help bring some much-needed balance to L.A.’s offense. With a base salary of $1.1 million, he’d also be a financially logical target for the Rams, who have $4.7 million available.
Jarvis Landry to the Green Bay Packers
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Todd Kirkland/Getty Images
Packers Get: WR Jarvis Landry
Saints Get: 2023 fifth-round pick
We’ve already discussed Green Bay’s need and potential willingness to get help ahead of the deadline. At no position is the need greater than wide receiver. The post-Davante Adams receiving corps has struggled, as has Rodgers.
Green Bay ranks just 18th in passing and 21st in yards per attempt this season.
The New Orleans Saints may be willing to part with wide receiver Jarvis Landry, as injuries and inconsistent quarterback play have plummeted the Saints to 2-4. Landry is also playing on a one-year, $3 million deal.
While he is dealing with an ankle injury, he could help the Packers. He showed that he can still be special with a seven-catch, 114-yard performance in the season opener. Another factor in play is Landry’s close relationship with fellow LSU alum Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham remains a free agent and is still recovering from last year’s ACL tear. However, he’s expected to be healthy later this season, and Rodgers has spoken warmly of Beckham and the idea of adding him.
“Whether or not we need an OBJ, who knows, but I like the person, love the player and just want him to be healthy, honestly,” Rodgers said, per Mike McDaniel of SI.com.
Beckham and Landry enjoyed being teammates in Cleveland, though Beckham’s relationship with the team soured. Adding Landry might be a great first step for the Packers, if they’re hoping to lure Beckham before another contender signs him.
Roquan Smith to the Baltimore Ravens
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Ravens Get: LB Roquan Smith
Bears Get: 2023 first-round pick
The Baltimore Ravens have an offense capable of competing for a championship. Led by the league’s preeminent dual-threat passer, Lamar Jackson, Baltimore has scored just over 26 points per game this season. But the defense has been a disaster.
The Ravens have allowed an average of 6.3 yards per pass play and 4.5 yards per rush while surrendering an average of 23.5 points per game. At 3-3, the Ravens may need to make a move to enter the Super Bowl conversation.
Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith could help all areas of the Ravens defense. This year, he’s racked up 66 tackles, 40 solo stops, 1.5 sacks and an interception. He has allowed an opposing passer rating of 69.2 in coverage.
The challenge for Baltimore would be financial. Smith is in the final year of his rookie deal and is owed a $9.7 million base salary. The Ravens have just $2.7 million in cap space. If Ravens GM Eric DeCosta can get creative and free up some space, however, this would be a fantastic move for the Ravens.
Naturally, DeCosta would want a guarantee that Smith is willing to sign a long-term deal upon arrival.
The Bears, meanwhile, could get something in return for a player they’re likely to lose in free agency anyway.
Smith requested a trade in the offseason, but he reversed course and decided to bet on himself—and he is set to cash in.
Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference. Contract and cap information via Spotrac.