The trade winds have already been rather blustery as next Tuesday’s NFL deadline to make deals quickly approaches.
The biggest name is almost certainly off the board after last week’s blockbuster, when Christian McCaffrey switched coasts and returned to the Bay Area after the San Francisco 49ers shipped four draft picks to the Carolina Panthers for the multi-dimensional All-Pro back. Another swap occurred Monday, when the New York Jets acquired RB James Robinson from the Jacksonville Jaguars in an attempt to backfill the loss of budding rookie Breece Hall to a season-ending knee injury.
And then there are those whispers in the breeze, some players (disgruntled Jets WR Elijah Moore, for example) trying to manifest a move while rumors continue to circulate around spiraling teams like the Panthers, who also dealt unhappy WR Robbie Anderson last week. (For the record, the Jets have said they’re not trading Moore, and Carolina general manager Scott Fitterer has said it would take an “astronomical” offer to pry any more of the Panthers’ promising youngsters loose.)
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Although the NFL trade deadline rarely features the action that occurs in the NBA or MLB versions, it stands to reason that more players will be on the move before 4 pm ET on Nov. 1. Yet with even more pronounced parity throughout the league, it’s worth wondering who’s ready to shift into sell mode given the Houston Texans are the only team more than three games out in the win column for a wild-card spot.
But here are 20 names to keep an eye on in the coming days:
Los Angeles RB Cam Akers
A fairly miraculous turn of events for a player who fought back from a torn Achilles in the summer of 2021 to play in the postseason and Super Bowl 56, Akers now finds himself at philosophical loggerheads with coach Sean McVay. The Rams are open to keeping Akers, who hasn’t played since Week 5, but are openly shopping him – difficult as it may be for a player averaging 3.2 yards per touch. However, Akers’ low-cost rookie deal does not expire until the 2024 offseason.
Denver Broncos OLB Bradley Chubb
On one hand, why would GM George Paton deal one of the league’s better young pass rushers? On the other hand, the only way to ensure Chubb is a Bronco in 2023 would be a franchise tag. Paton picked up a second- and third-rounder by giving up Von Miller on a half-season rental in 2021 and might get similar compensation for Chubb – whom Denver could still try to get back in free agency.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR Chase Claypool
A tremendous talent who, like Akers, has another full season to go on his rookie deal. However … Claypool plays much smaller than his 6-4, 238-pound frame, is too often undisciplined on the field and has been bypassed by rookie George Pickens. Still, Claypool could be a nice weapon for a team more committed to throwing the ball than Pittsburgh is at this point.
Miami Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki
Mystifying that the Fins franchised a player who doesn’t fit their offense (Gesicki’s never been a good blocker). And he’s not even being used much as a receiver, starting only once and averaging just 28 yards per game – the lowest output since his 2018 rookie year.
Washington Commanders RB Antonio Gibson
He’s been a versatile, productive player in this league. But he’s been supplanted as the starter by rookie Brian Robinson, and Gibson hasn’t even played 40% of the snaps in Washington’s last three outings. He could really help another squad in need of a back who can catch and might fetch more compensation than a limited player like Akers.
Indianapolis Colts CB Stephon Gilmore
The 2019 Defensive Player of the Year served as a reminder in the Week 5 win at Denver that, even at 32, he can still be a difference maker. He’s under contract through next season, but the Colts should consider moving on as they’re not going to compete too much with Sam Ehlinger (or whichever rookie likely arrives in 2023) at quarterback.
Broncos RB Melvin Gordon
Even with Javonte Williams’ season over, Gordon is only playing 38% of the snaps for a team that continues to accumulate bodies for its running back room. Fumbles have been an issue this season, but the two-time Pro Bowler, who’s on an expiring contract, can play on any down and has shouldered at least 200 touches in all seven of his NFL seasons entering 2022.
Arizona Cardinals WR AJ Green
At 34, he might be cooked. Yet he was getting a fairly heavy load of snaps prior to DeAndre Hopkins’ return from suspension in Week 7. Another club might have more use for an experienced, 6-4 target than it seems the Cards do at this juncture.
Broncos WR KJ Hamler
The diminutive speedster isn’t seeing much action for Denver’s disastrous offense – just 11 targets in six games – and isn’t being used at all as a returner. Worse, his frustration with QB Russell Wilson has become apparent. But a speed threat under contract through the 2023 season should be an intriguing option to other organizations.
Houston Texans DE Jerry Hughes
Doesn’t make sense for a team like Houston to hang onto a 34-year-old – albeit one who can still get after quarterbacks. Hughes, who’s in the first season of a two-year deal worth $10 million, could be far more valuable to a team that wouldn’t have to play him quite as much as the rebuilding Texans have.
Cleveland Browns RB Kareem Hunt
He’s not quite the prize McCaffrey was… but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Like CMC, Hunt is a dual purpose back, but one with an expiring contract and relatively fresh legs given he’s been second fiddle to Nick Chubb during his four seasons with the Browns. Hunt tried to force his way out of Cleveland during training camp, and there’s little reason for a struggling team not to get something for him now – especially since reserve D’Ernest Johnson might be nearly as capable.
Commanders CB William Jackson
He’s been a bad fit in Washington, failing to play up to his abilities while eating up a chunk of the salary cap. A fresh start would benefit a talented player who has been inactive for the past two weeks.
Kansas City Chiefs RB Ronald Jones II
He has not played a down this season, falling to the fourth string for his new team. Only 25, “RoJo” had more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage in 2019 and 2020 in Tampa. Now, he’s just languishing in street clothes.
Seattle Seahawks CB Sidney Jones
A solid player who started a career-high 11 games in 2021, Jones has fallen down the depth chart behind Seattle’s fleet of young corners. At this point, he’d be more helpful to another team … and more helpful to Seattle if he could return a draft pick to assist a nicely progressing rebuild.
New York Jets WR Denzel Mims
If the NYJ are going to move a receiver, he should be the one. A second-round pick in 2020, Mims has all of nine catches over the past two seasons. A team that’s effectively stopped throwing the ball since QB Zach Wilson’s return ought to try and get something for a big (6-3, 207) athletic target who might pan out elsewhere.
Chicago Bears DE/OLB Robert Quinn
Although he’s 32, he set a franchise single-season record with 18½ sacks in 2021 – all the more impressive considering who’s played for a century-old franchise. Quinn also has extensive experience in even and odd fronts. But he only has one sack and three QB hits through seven games this season. His five-year, $70 million contract runs through 2024 and might be an impediment for a suitor – and also the Bears, who will eat $8.5 million on next year’s salary cap by trading him … a charge they could afford if the compensation is sufficient.
Steelers QBs Mason Rudolph and/or Mitch Trubisky
The hand injuries quarterbacks like Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz (and Russell Wilson last year) have suffered are a reminder to contenders that you better have a viable backup who can navigate you through a month without your starter. Rudolph will be a free agent in 2023, and Trubisky’s contract is tradeable – but there is little reason for Pittsburgh to keep two veteran backups after giving the baton to rookie first-rounder Kenny Pickett. A team like the San Francisco 49ers – rookie Brock Purdy is currently Jimmy Garoppolo’s backup – should strongly consider a QB2 upgrade.
Bears LB Roquan Smith
He’s a productive and durable player if not necessarily elite. Now in his walk year, it was also evident Smith’s self worth did not resonate with new Chicago GM Ryan Poles’ assessment after a nasty training camp impasse that did not result in a new deal for the veteran. Also worth noting Poles worked more than a dozen seasons for the Chiefs, an organization that didn’t plow a ton of money into off-ball linebackers. It would make a lot more sense to draw up divorce papers with Smith now rather than let him go for nothing in March.
New England Patriots OT Isaiah Wynn
He’s been a serviceable left tackle for most of his five years in New England. But his deal is up after the season, he’s struggled this year, committed too many penalties and was benched for Monday’s loss to Chicago. Another team would certainly have more use for Wynn than it seems the Pats do at this point.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.