The Detroit Lions were in familiar circumstances as the NFL trade deadline approached last year. The Lions are the same old Lions. Failure, failure, failure. The same old cycle of rebooting, retooling, rebuilding, and repeating an appeal for patience.
After a 1-5 start, team owner Sheila Ford Hamp met with media to express her faith in a process that appeared to be on the verge of catastrophic failure. The team had just suffered back-to-back defeats at the hands of the New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys. The administration of head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes had a roughly comparable overall record to the dark ages beginnings of former head coach Marty Mornhinweg and former GM Matt Millen, according to local media. Fans were once again wearing bags on their heads. At the first evidence of failure, there was booing. The dam of newfound optimism was breaching once more.So Hamp stepped forward to try to fill the gaps, using all the traditional jargon to argue her argument.
“I know this is difficult,” Hamp said to reporters. “Rebuilding is difficult. But we are confident in our method. We have a strong belief that we can turn this thing around through the draft. Patience is required. It’s infuriating. Am I irritated? Absolutely. Are the fans dissatisfied? Absolutely. Are you guys fed up? But I believe we are making headway. You’ve witnessed it. It’s just that this was a massive deconstruction and turnaround. And the season is barely a third of the way through. We still have 11 games left. I really don’t want to panic and abandon the ship because I believe we have the right people in place to pull this out. That is something I sincerely believe.”A few days later, the Lions were defeated at home by the Miami Dolphins, dropping their record to 1-6. Campbell’s position was under jeopardy. And just when supporters thought it couldn’t get much worse, the team dealt away rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson… to the Minnesota Vikings, who play in the same division as them. Nothing looked like tanking and a season being completely flushed down the toilet.
Yet here we are, a year later. Approaching the NFL’s trade deadline on Oct. 31 at 4 p.m. ET with extraordinary foresight. That Hockenson deal, which appeared to be the end of the road for the 2022 season, was actually the start of a revival that practically no one could have predicted. Since the deal, the Lions have gone 13-3, led the NFC North, and are currently regarded as a Super Bowl contender and one of the most promising tales of the 2023 season. Meanwhile, remember the Vikings that signed Hockenson? They went on to lose in the first round of the playoffs and now appear to be a franchise in the process of rebuilding. These teams’ new positions as buyersThis year’s deadline for buyers and sellers has been completely overturned.
That is something to bear in mind as the next deadline approaches. When it comes to NFL trade momentum, the end can be a new beginning, and a new beginning can be the beginning of the end.Some of these clubs that appear to be sellers and plug-pullers ahead of the Oct. 31 trade deadline may actually be tying up some of the business that will turn them around. Others may be recruiting players in order to maximize a window that is far narrower than everyone predicts.Keep that in mind as trade speculation heats up and phones start to ring in front offices over the following few days. Particularly for these franchises…
I’m not sure who has been saying what inside the organization, but there is definitely a notion in some other front offices that Dallas will make a defensive addition. It might be a depth piece for a linebacker or cornerback. I’ve heard that the Broncos adore cornerback Pat Surtain II as a player, but it feels like the Cowboys adore Justin Jefferson as well: It’s worthless and makes little sense in light of the compensation (which has to be massive) and the upcoming contract extension (which will make Surtain the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL). Is that mix appropriate for Dallas? No. Is it attracting attention and media attention? Sure.
If anything, I believe Dallas will be looking for a fair mid-level deal that can assist with depth at linebacker or in the secondary. I don’t think it’ll be a big deal.This is certainly one of the more intriguing teams heading into the deadline because there’s a lot of talk around the league that the Lions are now in the same position as the Vikings were last season, one year after trading Hockenson to them. They have lightning in a bottle and, with certain injuries healed, might have a legitimate look at a great postseason run.With that in mind, Detroit may be the team that goes all-in on top-tier pass rushers, mid-to-high-level cornerbacks, and even a wide receiver if a decent deal is available. Another name that came up with a line drawn to the Lions by another front staff is Cardinals wideout Marquise Brown. And one team that has been working on the Carolina Panthers’ edge is Brian Burns appeared to believe that Detroit could be a trading partner for his services. Given how it would suit Detroit’s projected defensive pay stack, they may be the only team that makes sense in a blowout offer for Surtain.
The Packers’ offense is struggling, and I believe they are still interested in getting backup quarterback Jordan Love if the price is right. I don’t think it’ll be that eye-catching. However, a trustworthy mid-level veteran wideout could pique Green Bay’s interest, especially if the price is only a late-round draft pick.According to one league insider working on the receiver market, Raiders wideout Hunter Renfrow could be handy in Green Bay. He has about $3.9 million left on his contract through 2023, but nothing is guaranteed after this season. It would simply be a test run.
The Rams are clearly looking around. After the Matthew Stafford trade, they finally have some draft picks to burn, including their own picks in the first three rounds. A couple of events have occurred here that make the Rams a prospective purchase. First, they’ve discovered success with two young wideouts in Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell, which eliminates the need to go wideout hunting in the next draft (which seemed likely until the aforementioned pair emerged as viable assets). Second, defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is ahead of plan with the Rams’ young core. Perhaps unexpectedly, the Rams have a better window here than predicted, implying that they can still take advantage of Stafford’s and defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s remaining juice.They also have two more games before the deadline, against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys. If they finish 5-3 after the next two games, I wouldn’t rule out another call on Burns, whom the Rams pursued to the extent of providing two first-round picks (plus a third) last year. With another year of Burns burnt off and the extension required, the price would be lower this time. Don’t rule out the Rams in a Burns pursuit.
Overheard as NFL trade deadline ‘listeners’
The Panthers are a touch strange. Other teams perceive them as both buyers and sellers as the deadline approaches. As much as they’d like to keep pass rusher Brian Burns long term, sources close to team owner David Tepper have told Yahoo Sports that the organization’s aim in the short term is to deploy assets to help strengthen quarterback Bryce Young’s future. They’d like to add a nice young offensive piece to assist Young (ideally a skill position player). That will come at a price. Listening to offers on Burns, who will carry a huge $11 million salary cap hit for any team that acquires him, as well as need a contract extension, is part of that cost.
The most likely scenario is a trade in which some of the draft capital used to choose Young is recouped, with the key deal structure being a “first round, plus” model. Either a first-round pick plus a solid, young offensive player, or a first-round pick plus extra draft assets, including at least one second-day pick. Wideout Terrace Marshall has also been given permission to look for a trade. You can read between the lines there, knowing that the Panthers already regard themselves as having a need for the position. Marshall will get almost nothing in a deal, and they’d take anything at this point.Another guy to watch is cornerback Donte Jackson, who may be a valuable experienced addition to a competitive club. There is some interest.
Without a doubt, the Broncos are a team that will consider offers on practically any veteran. But it’s also intriguing because the veteran that practically every club in the league wants — cornerback Pat Surtain II — is the one asset that would be nearly impossible to rip free. So much so that I feel anything less than two first-round picks plus another asset would be considered a non-starter. That isn’t to say that a team like the Detroit Lions couldn’t be proactive and take a shot, but Surtain is the one player the Broncos see as an unequivocal “no.” Even so, I’m sure they’ll be questioned about him.
The “open for business” sign is up for the remainder of the roster… But I don’t think it’s the fire sale that people expect once Randy Gregory and Frank Clark go. Those were decisions about culture and production as much as anything else. Given price vs. production, Sutton is the more plausible trade prospect of the two available wideouts, Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton. His pay is not outrageous for a solid No. 2 wideout, but it is also easily cuttable. He might be obtained for a second-day draft pick, whereas I believe the Broncos will continue to pump-fake for a first-round pick in exchange for Jeudy. At that pricing point, I’d be shocked if anyone is interested.Another player to keep an eye on is offensive lineman Garett Bolles, who has been vocal about his dissatisfaction with the Broncos’ season. He could talk his way out of Denver, and I believe the Broncos could get a late-round pick out of him if they wanted to, but they’d also have to eat some of his $8.6 million salary for this season.
The Raiders have an available receiver… It’s just not the one everyone thought was for sale.Hunter Renfrow no longer appears to fit and would almost certainly be dealt for nearly anything at this point. Some have suggested strange compensation for Renfrow, but until a team goes insane, this isn’t going to be a player who gets a second or third-round pick. Two receiver-needy teams told Yahoo Sports that he’s being marketed as a single late-round pick trade, regardless of how many times people refer to his 1,000-yard receiving season in 2021.Davante Adams, on the other hand, I don’t see the appetite unless he drops a hammer and says he needs to be traded. The Raiders had a strong start and realize they’ll need him if they want to make a playoff push. Dealing him makes sense only if the team was completely in the tank at this moment, which they aren’t.
With Ryan Tannehill out for the season and the Titans’ troubles with pass protection likely to continue, logic dictates that it’s time to open the value window on some of the veterans who don’t make sense in what now appears to be the start of a rebuild. I hesitate to use that word because I know head coach Mike Vrabel doesn’t want to frame his squad in that way and probably won’t in the future.Derrick Henry, the running back, still has juice and value. However, speaking with the Titans, it does not appear that they are keen to trade him. And I believe this is because Vrabel does not believe the Titans’ 2-4 season is over. The mid-round pick he’d receive (at best) might not be worth the risk of allowing rookie quarterback Will Levis to start. The same is expected to be said for safety Kevin Byard, who will be pursued but is likely to be more important to the organization than a low-end draft pick.
I thought there could be some interest in DeAndre Hopkins coming into the deadline, but after speaking with a few wideout-interested teams, I don’t see the Titans getting much in return.Aside from Burns in Carolina, Vikings edge Danielle Hunter is the other notable player who will be contacted about a contract extension.
Other executives interested in a pass rusher, like Burns, would need first-round compensation in a deal. According to one executive familiar with Minnesota’s staff, if the Vikings are “locked into” transferring him rather than losing him next offseason, they are acting strangely slow. There’s basically no chance they’d get a first-round selection as a rental from Hunter, so anyone interested in that kind of negotiation should have a framework for an extension ready. If it isn’t there, he becomes a short-term piece for a contender with some second-round draft picks to burn.
Linebacker Jordan Hicks is another man to keep an eye on in this situation. Outside interest exists, but given that he recently won NFC Defensive Player of the Week and that trade compensation for the 31-year-old would be little, it stands to reason that the Vikings will turn it down.