The NFL trade season usually isn’t as wild as it can be in other sports, but there’s always the potential for a season-changing transaction.
On Monday, the first domino fell when the Jacksonville Jaguars sent cornerback C.J. Henderson and a 2022 fifth-round pick to the Carolina Panthers for tight end Dan Arnold and a 2022 third-round pick. Henderson was the ninth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, which makes the trade even more surprising.
The 2021 NFL trade deadline is set for Tuesday, Nov. 2 at 4 p.m. ET, just after Week 8 concludes. There’s sure to be a handful of other moves involving potential playoff teams, like the Panthers, and teams looking to jump-start their rebuild, like the Jaguars.
Here are nine players who would benefit from a trade to a new team:
The San Francisco 49ers are 2-1 to start the season, and they would’ve been 3-0 had it not been for Aaron Rodgers’ heroics in Week 3. Even though Jimmy Garoppolo has been solid (five total touchdowns to one interception), it’s clear that he’s a bridge to rookie Trey Lance. Head coach Kyle Shanahan has deployed Lance in different sets through the first three games.
While Garoppolo is still the starter for now, it’s only a matter of time before Lance is handed the keys. Both sides would benefit from ripping off the band-aid and letting Garoppolo move on with a new team. Jimmy G is 26-9 in his career as a starter, including leading the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV. He would likely have multiple suitors on the open market.
The Chicago Bears’ seemingly eternal search for a franchise quarterback continued over the offseason when they traded up in the draft for Justin Fields. Head coach Matt Nagy insisted on starting veteran Andy Dalton before he got hurt. Fields started Week 3 in place of Dalton, but neither quarterback has been able to unlock Allen Robinson’s potential in the Windy City. The Pro Bowl wide receiver had 98 and 102 receptions in 2019 and 2020, respectively, but has just 10 catches for 86 yards through three games in 2021.
Robinson hasn’t played with a good quarterback his entire career. While the jury is still out on Fields, the other quarterbacks who have thrown passes to Robinson include Dalton, Mitch Trubisky, Nick Foles, Chase Daniel and Blake Bortles. The veteran pass catcher deserves a chance to play with a better signal-caller.
Fields to Robinson sounds nice but given how limited Chicago’s offense looked against the Cleveland Browns, is it realistic? It could be best to move on from Chicago -- especially since Robinson is playing on the franchise tag in 2021.
Michael Thomas will miss the first six weeks this season after being placed on the physically unable to perform list with an ankle injury. The 2019 NFL Offensive Player of the Year had ankle surgery in June -- oddly late in the NFL offseason, which drew some criticism from head coach Sean Payton. He also missed nine games last year due to the nagging ankle injury, which made the decision to delay surgery even more questionable.
When Thomas is on the field, there’s no denying his talent. He surpassed 90 receptions in his first four NFL seasons, and led the league in catches with 125 in 2018 and 149 in 2019. Thomas was named First-Team All-Pro each of those years. The Saints could use him in 2021, but bad blood with his coach might be enough to force a trade once he’s healthy.
When JuJu Smith-Schuster hit free agency in March 2021, he showed his loyalty to the Pittsburgh Steelers by signing a one-year, $8 million deal. He reportedly turned down more lucrative offers from the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs. It might be time for both parties to move on before he hits free agency again next spring. Since bursting onto the scene with 917 receiving yards as a rookie and 1,426 yards in Year 2, Smith-Schuster has struggled to step up without Antonio Brown.
The Steelers have a loaded receiving corps with Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and James Washington. They also have rookies in Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth, who have been impressive through three games. If the Steelers don’t intend to reward Smith-Schuster with a long-term deal this offseason, it would be best to execute a mid-season trade.
O.J. Howard entered the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a first-round pick in 2017. He was paired with former top pick Jameis Winston after a strong career at Alabama. In the pros, though, he hasn’t been consistent or healthy for long stretches. Howard played just 42 of a possible 64 games in his first four seasons, amassing 105 catches for 1,602 yards and 14 touchdowns. Last year with Tom Brady, Howard only played four games before suffering a torn Achilles.
The 2021 season hasn’t been kind to Howard, either. He’s buried behind a plethora of weapons, including Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski. Howard has two catches for 32 yards in the first three weeks. Now in the final year of his rookie contract, Howard and the Bucs likely won’t be long-term partners. A trade in the next few weeks makes sense, as Howard potentially could shine in a different uniform.
The run on tight ends continues with the New York Giants’ fifth-year veteran. Evan Engram was selected just four picks after Howard in the 2017 draft. While he’s had slightly more success, there are still plenty of reasons to believe Engram needs a trade out of New York. He struggled with 11 drops in 2020 despite making his first Pro Bowl. Giants fans grew increasingly frustrated, as some of those drops led to key turnovers and New York lost the NFC East by one game.
Engram’s 2021 season started off even worse, missing the first two games due to a calf injury before returning in Week 3 with a tough performance. He had two catches (on six targets) for 21 yards and lost a fumble on his second touch of the game. Giants fans at MetLife Stadium loudly booed Engram for the rest of the game. At this point, it seems like both sides would be happy to part ways.
One of the most disappointing picks of the Bill Belichick era, N'Keal Harry has been a complete bust since being picked No. 32 in 2019. The former Arizona State wide receiver has 45 receptions for 414 yards and four touchdowns in 21 career games while missing 11 due to injury. The stats are bad, but the fact is Harry was selected ahead of some of the best wideouts in the NFL today -- DK Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, Deebo Samuel, Diontae Johnson and Mecole Hardman. He will never compare in the eyes of Patriot fans.
Harry requested a trade over the offseason, then missed the first three weeks of 2021 after being placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Belichick said Monday that he could return to practice this week, and it might be just in time for a trade.
Despite the Patriots’ obvious need for wide receivers, it’s hard to imagine things working out after how poorly the last two years have gone.
The then-Oakland Raiders selected Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 in 2019, which seemed too high at the time and has only proven to be a reach after two-plus seasons. Ferrell was a healthy scratch in Week 1 and played less than 25% of the Raiders’ defensive snaps in Week 2 and 3. He’s clearly out of the rotation in Las Vegas, as 2019 fourth-rounder Maxx Crosby has emerged as a budding star pass rusher.
Ferrell has just 6.5 sacks in 28 career games, but someone would likely take a chance buying low on the 24-year-old. The Raiders need to ship Ferrell out of town before his fifth-year option deadline next offseason, which makes him a perfect candidate to be dealt at the 2021 NFL trade deadline to a pass rush-needy team.
Mims, a second-round pick in 2020, played just three snaps in Week 1 (registering one catch for 40 yards) and hasn’t seen the field since. To make matters even more strange, Mims has “destroyed” the starting unit at practices this season. The Jets’ offense hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1 and was shut out by the Denver Broncos in Week 3.