After the wave of free-agent signings in March and the NFL Draft in late April, the slowest part of the offseason is upon us. But that doesn’t mean teams aren’t still actively trying to improve their rosters. And while most of the players targeted for post-June 1 releases have already been designated as such, trades remain a roster-building (purging?) option. With that in mind, here are 10 trades that could make sense for the teams and players involved.
(All salary-cap numbers courtesy of Spotrac.)
Ereck Flowers, OT, Giants
The 2015 first-round pick is coming off a forgettable season, which can be said about most of his teammates too. The Giants limped to just three wins in 2017 and Flowers was one of the weak spots on a replacement-level unit; he ranked 63rd out of 83 offensive tackles, according to PFF. The Giants were reportedly open to trading Flowers during the draft; it didn’t happen, but moving Flowers after June 1 would result in $2.2 million in dead money in ’18 and a cap savings of $2.4 million. New York has $8.4 million in cap space (rank: 23rd).
DeSean Jackson, WR, Buccaneers
Jackson, 31, had 50 receptions for 668 yards and 3 touchdowns last season and ranked 45th in total value among all wideouts, according to Football Outsiders. With reports that the team wants to get 2017 third-round burner Chris Godwin more involved (34 receptions, 525 yards, 1 TD as a rookie), moving on from Jackson makes some sense. The Bucs have just $6.5 million in salary cap space (rank: 26th) and Jackson’s set to earn $11 million in base salary next season. Trading him after June 1 wouldn’t cost anything in dead money and would result in a ’18 cap savings of $11 million.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Jets
Yes, it would be odd to trade a player months after signing him, but there were several unknowns when the Jets inked Bridgewater to a one-year deal: 1) how his surgically-repaired knee would respond, and 2) how their depth chart would look heading into training camp. Early indications are that Bridgewater has looked fantastic during the shorts-and-T-shirts portion of offseason workouts. And the team selected quarterback Sam Darnold with the third-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, which means he is the future of the franchise. Put another way: With Josh McCown likely to start the season under center and Darnold not far off from assuming the job, Bridgewater becomes expendable. And he now has value, given how good he’s looked.
ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini explains: “When [New York] made a one-year, low-cost investment in Bridgewater, they did so with the belief that he could be flipped for a draft pick under the right circumstances. That’s still on the table; his trade value is trending upward. Or they could decide to keep him because, if he stays healthy, he might be the best quarterback on the team in 2018.”
The Jets have $21.9 million in cap space (rank: 7th) and trading Bridgewater, who signed a one-year $6 million deal, after June 1 wouldn’t result in any dead money in ’18.
Chris Long, DE, Eagles
The 33-year-old, 10-year veteran is a locker-room leader who can still play at a high level. He ranked 23rd among all defensive ends last season, according to PFF, and could upgrade a unit desperate to improve its pass rush, even if on a part-time basis. The Eagles have $4.2 million in cap space in ’18 (rank: 31st) and trading Long would free up $3 million.
A.J. Klein, LB, Saints
The Saints have depth at the position, and Klein’s contract makes him an attractive trade target for linebacker-needy teams like, say, the Bills. The Saints have just $6.3 million in cap space in 2018 (rank: 27th), and Klein is entering the second year of a four-year, $24 million deal that includes a $4.1 million base salary this season. A post-June 1 trade would leave $1 million in dead money this year and $2 million in 2019, as well as a $4.2 million cap savings.
Kiko Alonso, LB, Dolphins
The Dolphins have $14.8 million in cap space (rank: 12th) but Alonso has a base salary of $7.9 million in 2018 after a disappointing 2017 campaign. He ranked 83rd out of 90 linebackers, according to Pro Football Focus‘s grading system, and a post-June 1 trade would result in only $1.8 million in dead money this season (and $3.5 million in ’19) along with a cap savings of $7.9 million.
Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys
The wideout has a base salary of $3.5 million this season and next, and just $4 million in 2020. He ranked 53rd in total value among all wideouts last season, but should he stay put, will have a chance to be Dak Prescott’s favorite target in 2018 now that Dez Bryant has been released. The Cowboys have $7.1 million in cap space (rank: 25th) and Williams is entering the second year of a four-year deal that carries a dead-cap hit of just $1.25 million in ’18. The team would save $3.5 million in cap space this season by shipping Williams out of Dallas.
Donald Penn, OT, Raiders
Since arriving in Oakland in 2014, Penn has been one of the NFL’s best offensive tackles. He ranked 10th or better in his first three seasons, according to Pro Football Focus, and last season he was 21st. But the Raiders used the 15th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to take tackle Kolton Miller, and doubled down with offensive tackle Brandon Parker in Round 3. New (old) coach Jon Gruden has maintained that drafting Miller had nothing to do with Penn’s status, but should the Raiders be looking to hasten the youth movement — and get some much-needed cap space in the process — moving Penn makes a lot of sense. The Raiders have just $5.6 million in cap space in ’18 (rank: 28th), and trading Penn after June 1 wouldn’t result in any dead money and would free up $8.4 million in cap savings.
Earl Thomas, S, Seahawks
There were numerous reports earlier in the offseason that Seattle would consider trading the Pro Bowl safety. To date it hasn’t happened, in part, because the Seahawks’ asking price was too steep, but also because Thomas, who is in the final year of his current deal, is reportedly looking to make $11 million annually. As it stands, coach Pete Carroll expects the 29-year-old to show up for minicamp later this month. But should the team trade him — and general manager John Schneider didn’t hide the fact that they were trying earlier this offseason — it would leave $1.9 million in dead money. The Seahawks have $11.2 million in salary cap space (rank: 19th), and Thomas is set to earn $8.5 million in base salary in ’18. The Cowboys reportedly offered the Seahawks a third-round pick for Thomas during the draft but never heard back. In case you’re wondering, there appears to be mutual interest; Thomas, who played at Texas, had this exchange with Cowboys coach Jason Garrett last December:
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
The Steelers and Bell remain at an impasse. Last summer, the team reportedly offered a multi-year deal that averaged $12 million annually, and Bell nixed it. Now, he’s reportedly looking for something close to $17 million a year, an exorbitant sum the Steelers almost certainly won’t pay. As it stands, Bell has yet to sign the franchise tender that will pay him $14.5 million next season, but when he does, the Steelers could choose to trade him. It’s highly unlikely, but there would be no dead-money charge to moving on from Bell, and the team would gain that $14.5 million in cap space. Though it would force them to move forward at running back with unproven James Conner and rookie Jaylen Samuels, along with veteran journeyman Stevan Ridley. Pittsburgh currently has $5.2 million in cap space for ’18 (rank: 29th).