Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings
Coming off back-to-back wins, this one just isn’t happening, even if Minnesota’s odds of making the playoffs remain slim. A Detroit victory and a Minnesota loss this weekend would put three wins between the two teams, all but guaranteeing the Lions to win the NFC North. Even then, it would be far too tight of a turnaround for Minnesota to be pursuing the playoffs on Sunday before shipping off their four-time Pro Bowl quarterback on Tuesday. Cousins also has a no-trade clause in his contract that he would need to waive before being moved. Cousins will almost certainly walk in the upcoming offseason and the Vikings are dogs to make the playoffs, but NFL teams simply don’t operate like Madden GMs. Should the impossible happen and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah decides to pack it in early, the Jets would be at the top of the list of potential suitors.
Derrick Henry, RB, Titans
The Titans are in a similar spot to Minnesota. They remain in the playoff conversation but only on the periphery. A loss in Week 8 could functionally put them out of postseason contention, though their mathematical elimination will come many weeks down the road. Still, down to their backup quarterbacks once again, things are bleak for Tennessee. They have already indicated that they are looking toward the future by trading former All-Pro safety Kevin Byard to the Eagles. Henry, who is about to turn 30 and is an impending free agent, could be the next Titan on the move.
Henry is still performing well in the advanced metrics, averaging .68 rush yards over expected with a 42.7 percent success rate. The Titans also have a potential replacement for him on the roster in rookie Tyjae Spears. A deal would make sense for both sides. The Bills, who have been reluctant to hand the reigns over to James Cook, and the Ravens, who lost J.K. Dobbins for the season early this year, could both be potential landing spots for the Big Dog.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Titans
Hopkins could also be on the move. Even Ryan Tannehill will be on the block for the right price, though the ankle injury that will sideline him for Week 8 should impede a deal from happening before the deadline. Hopkins ranks 21st in yards per route run despite playing on a dilapidated Titans offense.
Kansas City will always be thrown around as a great fit for any receiver given their lack of talent at the position, but they were rewarded for their prudent spending at receiver with a Super Bowl ring last year. Unless the Titans eat some of Hopkins’ remaining contract and part ways with him for a low price, the Chiefs look like an unlikely landing spot. Having lost Mike Williams for the year while also getting nothing out of Quentin Johnston, the Charger would be an interesting spot for the veteran wideout. Detroit and Dallas are teams to watch out for in the NFC.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants
At 2-5 with Tyrod Taylor starting again this week, the Giants should be listing all of their most valuable players on Craigslist if that’s what it takes to get a deal done. New York coach Brian Daboll personally assured Barkley he wouldn’t be moved, though things change quickly in the NFL and roster management is a cold-hearted game.
Barkley is on an expiring contract as the Giants refused to give him a multi-year deal in the offseason. They are either set for another franchise tag plus contract standoff combo or will be forced to let Barkley walk in free agency next spring. Neither option is ideal, so they could opt to move him to a contender. Always looking to spend every pick they have before the draft happens, the LA Rams may make an offer for Barkley if they are concerned with Kyren Williams’ timetable to return from his ankle injury.
Cornerback Adoree Jackson and defensive tackle Leonard Williams are both names to watch out for at the deadline as well. Parris Campbell, who has been benched for Wan’Dale Robinson, could be sent off for a late-round swap. That is the most likely move for the Giants to make, though it’s also the least impactful.
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Broncos
The Broncos, who are definitely not having a firesale at the deadline, are reportedly listening to offers.
They are 2-5 and sitting at dead last in a division led by the Chiefs. Their playoff hopes are all but dead already, so it makes a ton of sense for them to rebuild from the ground up, starting by moving on from veterans from the previous regime. Jeudy wouldn’t incur a large cap hit this year for a team acquiring him and they would keep him on his fifth-year option in 2024. Courtland Sutton is also a possible trade candidate, though out-playing Jeudy through two months under Sean Payton should ensure he stays on the roster.
There are a few other names to monitor for the Broncos. Left tackle Garett Bolles has one year left on his deal and could fetch a pretty penny. Linebacker Josey Jewell is on an expiring contract and rookie linebacker Drew Sanders was drafted as a potential replacement for him in the spring. The Broncos also have a pair of standout players in their secondary—Justin Simmons and Patrick Surtain—that teams will call about, though I don’t see Denver parting ways with either player.
Danielle Hunter, EDGE, Vikings
The second Viking on the list is the NFL’s sack leader through seven weeks. Hunter has nine sacks and a dozen TFLs, which is also the most in the league. Trade rumors have surrounded Hunter for nearly two years, but the Vikings patched things over with a one-year deal in the offseason. Unless they can agree on a new deal in the spring, Hunter will become a free agency and earn a massive contract if he keeps this pace up. If the Vikings want to put the 2023 season to bed, they could send Hunter off as a half-season rental for a team looking to make a playoff push. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Vikings “are at least listening” to offers for Hunter.
Left guard Ezra Cleveland gets an honorable mention as a trade candidate as well. Cleveland played right guard as a rookie and was a three-year starter at left tackle at Boise State before being drafted by Minnesota in the second round. The Vikings signed left guard Dalton Risner early in the year and could view him as a comparable replacement for Cleveland. If that’s the case, the Vikings would be better off getting picks in return for Cleveland, an impending free agent, than keeping him on the roster.
Brian Burns, EDGE, Panthers
Burns has been the subject of trade rumors for a while. A struggling Carolina team was reportedly offered a pair of first-round picks for Burns by the Rams last fall. They obviously did not accept the offer and will now receive considerably less in return if they do move their star pass-rusher. Burns has four sacks and a forced fumble through six games. He is dealing with an elbow injury and is questionable for Week 8.
Frank Reich said he’s been told there’s a chance Brian Burns can play Sunday. The Panthers coach said Burns’ elbow injury and status not related to the trade deadline. pic.twitter.com/bg50eUGkml
— David Newton (@DNewtonespn) October 27, 2023
Frank Reich insisted that the injury wasn’t related to the trade rumors, though we should take that with a grain of salt. Set to hit free agency in the spring, Burns is the ideal trade chip for the Panthers to recover some of the draft ammo they lost via the deal to land Bryce Young. Terrace Marshall will also be on the block, though the Panthers won’t get more than a late-round swap for a receiver with 742 receiving yards and one score through two and a half season.
Chase Young, EDGE, Commanders
Per Bleach Report’s Jordan Schultz, the Commanders would need a second or third-round pick for Young or fellow defensive lineman Montez Sweat. Schultz pointed out that keeping both impending free agents is a tall order.
It makes sense for the Commanders to get some draft capital for one of the two now and re-sign the other after the season concludes.
Young has struggled with injuries throughout his career and may not garner as much interest around the league, but he’s playing at an elite level this year. Pro Football Focus has him with a top-15 pass-rush win rate this year. He ranks top-five in total pressures. ESPN’s numbers have a similar view on him and see Sweat as a few rungs below Young.
Pass rush win rate at edge, 2023
Chase Young: 24%
Montez Sweat: 8%
Sweat is 27 and probably (?) viewed more highly by most of the league. Young is 24.
If I’m the Commanders and trading one and re-signing the other, I’d prefer to deal Sweat.
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) October 25, 2023
It would make far more sense for the Commanders to keep Young, who is only 24 years old, and bet on him realizing his upside in 2024 and beyond. But they had the chance to put another year on his contract via the fifth-year option and chose not to do so. They may not view him as highly as the advanced metrics do. Expect The Rich Get Richer teams like the Chiefs, Eagles, and Bills to be circling Washington’s roster like buzzards on Halloween.
Hunter Renfrow, WR, Raiders
After topping 1,000 yards in 2021, injuries derailed Renfrow’s follow-up campaign. Then, in 2023, the additions of Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers buried Renfrow on the depth chart. He has topped out at two catches and 23 yards in a game this season. Schultz described Renfrow’s relationship with head coach Josh McDaniels as “fractured.” He also noted that the Raiders have been looking for a trade partner for Renfrow since last season. Renfrow signed a two-year, $32 million contract extension a few years back and no GM has any desire to take on the remainder of his bloated deal. If he remains on the roster through the end of the season, the Raiders will cut him for $8.2 million in savings with a $5.5 million dead cap hit. Renfrow will need to take a pay cut or Las Vegas will have to take on a large portion of the remainder of his deal to facilitate a trade.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Jets
Despite all signs pointing toward Cook being in the midst of a precipitous decline, the Jets took the plunge on him this offseason with a one-year, $7 million deal. Cook operated as New York’s lead back for a few weeks but was dreadfully inefficient. He currently ranks 47th out of 52 qualified backs (min. 30 carries) in PFF’s rush yards over expected per carry model. Hall has been more explosive than Cook at every turn and the Jets have been dishing out their carries accordingly.
The Jets have limited Cook to 14 carries over his last three games. Unhappy with his role, the veteran runner is seemingly ready to escape New York.
Cook is fully in “washed” territory but could handle the body blows for a team in need of an extra man in their backfield. Ironically, one of the few backfields where Cook would be the best option by rush yards over expected is in Minnesota. Cook obviously knows the Vikings’ system as well.
The Rams have also made a habit of swapping running backs with the Vikings, sending Cam Akers to Minnesota before claiming Myles Gaskin off waivers from them. Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell is a Sean McVay disciple, meaning there is a lot of overlap between the two offenses. The Rams could get Cook for virtually no cost and he would be able to get up to speed in short order, providing a stopgap option until Williams and Ronnie Rivers come off injured reserve.