With less than two weeks until the NFL trade deadline, there are a lot of rumors swirling around the league. Some teams, who are about to be completely kicked out of the playoff race, may end up selling off soon-to-be free agents in order to acquire a valuable pick in the draft next May.
While today’s games may decide whether some teams go to full-on selling mode, there is already a pretty solid market of available players on the trade block.
Let’s take a look at the recent news surrounding some of these players…
Hakeem Nicks, Wide Receiver, New York Giants
We found out over the past week that the Giants are willing to listen to offers for Nicks, who will be a valuable free agent next spring. At 0-6 and in last place in the worst division in football, New York may as well call this season a complete loss. It signed Victor Cruz to a six-year, $45.9 million extension back in July and has a whole lot of holes to fill before it can even think about giving Nicks the near $10 million he might demand on the open market.
As we reported last week, the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots are willing to make offers for Nicks. Both seem to make a lot of sense with their depleted wide receiver groups, but San Francisco has to be considered the odds-on favorites if general manager Trent Baalke decides to go in that direction. Anquan Boldin is set to be a free agent after this season and the 49ers could use that money to retain Nicks long term. In addition, they will have a minimum of five picks in the first three rounds of the 2014 draft.
Other teams that have reportedly expressed interest are the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens and Detroit Lions. With that said, it remains to be seen if any of these three teams would spend a second or third rounder on what would equate to renting a player for a couple months. None of them have the cap flexibility to retain Nicks long term. If I had to pick where Nicks goes if he is indeed traded prior to the end of the month, it would be the 49ers.
Ben Tate, Running Back, Houston Texans
This is more conjecture than anything else. While reports indicated that the Cleveland Browns planned on pursuing Tate after they traded Trent Richardson back in September, there hasn’t been any evidence that the Texans plan on moving their back-up running back. Ar 2-4 and seemingly in a no-win situation as it relates to the AFC South, Houston may want to get a piece for Tate. It isn’t going to be able to retain the young running back, who is set to hit free agency following the season. With relatively big pay days coming to J.J. Watt and a slew of talented young defenders, the Texans simply cannot afford to pay two running backs starter money. Despite his value to the team, Tate will be the odd-man out next season.
Outside of the Browns, there are a few other teams that could express interest. The Dallas Cowboys have no proven depth behind an injury-plagued DeMarco Murray. Owner Jerry Jones has also indicated that he’s open to checking in on the trade market to improve a team that will be battling for first place today against the Philadelphia Eagles. Tate could be a target. The St. Louis Rams, both New Jersey teams and the Oakland Raiders could all look in on Tate over the next two weeks as well.
Kenny Britt, Wide Receiver, Tennessee Titans
This former first-round pick is seriously in the Titans’ doghouse. He played a total of two snaps last week and is clearly on the trade block. Due to off-field issues and an inability to stay healthy, Britt has been a tremendous disappointment since performing well in 2009 and 2010, his first two seasons in the NFL. Set to become a free agent following this season, the Titans have no plans to retain his services. The asking prices seems to be a mid-to-late round pick for the impending free agent. While head coach Mike Munchak has indicated that the Titans have “no plans to trade Britt,” that has to be more of a smokescreen than anything else.
It’s highly unlikely that the Vikings keep these two quarterbacks behind the newly signed Josh Freeman at quarterback. Common sense seems to indicate that former starter and first-round pick Christian Ponder has more value on the trade market. Despite struggling through two-plus seasons in Minnesota, Ponder still possesses some upside and has a year remaining on his contract at just $1.7 million. Contrary to previous reports, Ponder has not demanded a trade. That doesn’t seem to matter a whole heck of a lot considering that the Vikings are open to trading their former “franchise quarterback.”
While no reports have surfaced about teams that would possibly be interested in Ponder, there has to be a decent market for him. The Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and even the Arizona Cardinals all have needs at quarterback and could show interest moving forward. Ponder will likely bring Minnesota a mid-to-late-round pick.
As it relates to Cassel, he doesn’t seem to have the same value as Ponder. In fact, Minnesota would likely just have to release him if it decides to go with Ponder as Freeman’s primary backup. The Houston Texans, who are struggling big time at quarterback, could show some interest. If Cassel is able to net the Vikings anything of worth, it’ll likely be a conditional late-round pick.
Josh Gordon, Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns
Despite publicly indicating multiple times that they’re not going to trade Gordon, rumors continue to swirl about the Browns possibly entertaining the option. These rumors have cooled off a bit due to Gordon’s ridiculous play as of late, but we could see them heat up prior to the end of October.
Monday Morning Quarterback’s Peter King indicated last week that Gordon to the San Francisco 49ers still has a chance. His report utilized a second-round pick as compensation for the young receiver. This fits tightly into what we’ve heard as it relates to San Francisco’s interest in Gordon and the Browns perceived asking price. Though it must be noted that San Francisco has only upped its likely offer to a third rounder for the talented but troubled receiver. Where this might not seem like tremendous value for a young stud such as Gordon, it’s important to note that he’s one off-field incident away from facing a year-long suspension. Gordon also seems to make more sense than Nicks or Britt for the 49ers because he’d provide a deep threat to mesh with Anquan Boldin and soon-to-be-activated Michael Crabtree.
The Detroit Lions, New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons have also been rumored as potential landing spots. With that said, it is our belief that Cleveland will hold on to Gordon unless the right deal comes along. Will it get equal value with a second-round pick in May’s draft? That’s the primary question here.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Running Back, Jacksonville Jaguars
Pretty much everyone on the Jaguars is available at this point. At 0-6 and in the midst of what could be a historically bad season, the Jaguars are looking to the future and Jones-Drew simply doesn’t fit into that future. The issue here is that he’s regressed a great deal over the past two seasons and might no longer be an above-average starting running back. The hope for any contending team that makes a more for MJD would be that a change of scenery could do him good.
Teams that could use a boost at running back include the Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams and Dallas Cowboys.
Vincent is the head sports editor at eDraft, co-host of eDraft Sports Radio (which airs every Tuesday and Thursday from 3-6 p.m. ET) and a fantasy writer for Pro Football Focus. He’s also the news director at PFC and co-host of Football Debate Central with Ryan Riddle every Friday. He’s also a former league-wide featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a contributor at Yahoo!