The bulk of the NFL’s offseason action comes in March, when the free agency floodgates first open, but that doesn’t mean teams aren’t eyeballing big moves as the regular season draws near.
The Houston Texans are for Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson, and just last fall, the league saw a flurry of deals for notable names: Teddy Bridgewater, for example, went from New York to New Orleans in late August, and Khalil Mack’s blockbuster move to Chicago came all the way on Sept. 1.
All that’s to say there could easily be a headlining move or two still around the corner. With trades in mind, here’s a look at five we think would make lots of sense during the 2019 preseason:
WR A.J. Green
Green would’ve been an obvious trade candidate even before Marvin Lewis was canned and the Bengals went full into rebuild mode, as he’s set to hit the open market in 2020. Now, there’s almost no reason for either side to ride this out. From Cincy’s point of view, why not try to get something for a 31-year-old impending free agent with a $15 million cap hit? With Green expected to miss multiple games with an ankle injury, opening the door for an internally praised Josh Malone alongside a recently paid Tyler Boyd, and new coach Zac Taylor just beginning his overhaul of the roster, ?
The 49ers would obviously be betting on Green returning to health by surrendering at least one premier pick here, but they can afford the gamble. Jimmy Garoppolo is entering a huge prove-it season under center, and his receiving corps, while injected with youth, lacks a lot of pop or proven production. San Fran has more than enough cap space to swallow Green’s 2019 cap charge, and if the rental works out down the stretch, the Niners will have the option to either re-up one of the league’s top outside targets (when healthy) or cash in on a compensatory pick by allowing Green to test his market. It’s a win-win across the board.
QB Trevor Siemian
A true Howie Roseman blockbuster would be assembling a package for a top pass rusher to rotate with Derek Barnett opposite Brandon Graham (like, say, Jerry Hughes, who plays for a team that might have use for a guy like Halapoulivaati Vaitai). But after Thursday night, priority No. 1 has suddenly become finding an experienced backup for Carson Wentz, who — in case you forgot — has been prone to miss games. Nate Sudfeld may very well be sidelined for much of the 2019 season after in his preseason debut, and Siemian — even more proven than Sudfeld — would make for an instant upgrade over Cody Kessler.
The Jets, of course, signed Siemian to be the No. 2 behind their own youngster, Sam Darnold. But they signed him months before new general manager Joe Douglas, a noted member of the Eagles’ title-winning front office, came over from Philly. That’s not to say Siemian’s unwanted, but is the drop-off from him to, say, free agent Josh Johnson so steep that Douglas would turn down a future pick for his Jets reconstruction? (Fun fact: Johnson once signed with the Bears back when Douglas was in Chicago’s front office, too.) Douglas could help his old friends out and gain some draft capital for a guy the Jets will likely replace after 2019 anyway.
OT Trent Williams
Texans get: OT Trent Williams
Washington gets: 2020 second-round pick
Williams is Dwayne Haskins, but it can also be justified: Williams is 31, he hasn’t played a full season in six years, and he’ll save the club a lot of cap space through 2020. Plus, there’s one team in particular that looks especially primed to cough up considerable compensation.after disagreements over either the team’s medical operations or a future contract, so unless Dan Snyder decides to fork over a lucrative raise, the NFC East’s leading candidate to bottom out early in 2019 could be forced to consider dealing their longtime left tackle. It’s hardly ideal for new quarterback
The Texans are operating without a general manager, and that might explain why Houston gave up what could be a third-rounder for Duke Johnson, a change-of-pace running back. That alone should tell you they’d probably jump at the chance to land Williams for a two — a price most teams would probably balk at considering Williams’ salary and injury/suspension history. Regardless of how you feel about the compensation, though, this is clear: The Texans need to protect Deshaun Watson. They brought in Matt Kalil for added competition at LT this offseason, but Williams is on another level — or three. This would intensify their title hopes.
DE Everson Griffen
Seattle made headline after headline while tearing down its aged and injured “Legion of Boom,” but the team all but admitted to overstepping in that mission by prioritizing upgrades for its depleted D-line this offseason, first with the early selection of L.J. Collier and then the signing of Ezekiel Ansah. While Ansah is now expected to be healthy for Week 1, the Seahawks’ front four is still entering the season rather bare, and Griffen is exactly the kind of proven pass rusher they’d be able to instantly plug in, play and be excited about. As a bonus, he’s got a steep price tag beyond 2019 but can be released without much penalty.
Why, exactly, would Minnesota part with Griffen, though? The answer is twofold: First, because the Vikings’ pass rush is in good, young hands after 2018 confirmed Danielle Hunter as a freak off the edge and indicated that Stephen Weatherly, Griffen’s backup and a candidate for an extension, has untapped potential. Secondly, because the Vikings could really use cap space, especially considering the money they’ve spread around to other parts of a dominant defensive lineup. They’re talented enough to endure Griffen’s loss, take the extra cash and, in this scenario, collect some much-needed right tackle insurance for Kirk Cousins and Co.
CB Josh Norman
Trent Williams might be the only big name openly campaigning for a move out of Washington, but if his team stumbles out of the gate, things could get ugly fast, whether that means a Jay Gruden dismissal or further roster upheaval. Snyder’s front office has reason to purge bloated contracts with Haskins in the fold and the future now a priority, and it’s hard to find a contract that fits that category better than Norman’s. While the 31-year-old is one of the top names in Washington’s secondary, he’s set to count almost $30 million against the cap through 2020, and that’s after already being demoted to the bench on several occasions.
Kansas City isn’t hiding its desperation to upgrade a cornerback group that got toasted week after week in 2018, inking Morris Claiborne to a one-year deal despite the former New York Jets starter expected to serve a four-game suspension. And with loads of cap space entering the season, the Chiefs can afford to take a swing on someone like Norman, who’d likely embrace a change of scenery, would be reunited with former ‘Skins teammate Kendall Fuller and benefit from playing alongside a rangy safety like Tyrann Mathieu. Andy Reid has jettisoned outspoken CBs before (see: Marcus Peters), but this risk might be worth it.