The NFL trade deadline is quickly approaching, and teams are browsing the league in hopes of finding the one missing piece that could help elevate their rosters.
Last year, we saw a plethora of moves before the deadline that involved big-name players. The San Francisco 49ers pulled off a blockbuster deal for superstar running back Christian McCaffrey. We also saw Bradley Chubb get traded to the Miami Dolphins, Roquan Smith to the Baltimore Ravens and T.J. Hockenson to the Minnesota Vikings. Could this year offer similar activity?
With the deadline set for Oct. 31 at 4 p.m. ET, our writers at The Athletic list one candidate from each of their respective teams who has the potential to be shipped elsewhere.
It’s not a production issue. Through five games, Brown leads the Cardinals in receptions (25), receiving yards (300) and receiving touchdowns (3). He’s Arizona’s top target and has developed decent chemistry with quarterback Joshua Dobbs. But the 1-4 Cardinals are rebuilding, and if they don’t start turning close losses into wins, general manager Monti Ossenfort likely will start making moves.
Brown is in the final year of his rookie deal and makes for a good trade candidate. The Cardinals likely won’t get the first-round pick previous general manager Steve Keim gave up to acquire Brown, but there should be a decent market for a proven playmaker. A potential hurdle: Brown is close with Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray. — Doug Haller
The Falcons’ defense is much deeper than it has been in recent years, but not so deep that it can afford to get rid of good players. Except at safety. Hawkins has started 22 games in his four-year career, including 16 a season ago, but he was forced into a backup role by Atlanta’s offseason signing of Jessie Bates III. Hawkins, who has four career interceptions, responded with the best training camp performance of his career, but he’s still having trouble getting on the field. He’s only playing about 10 percent of the defensive snaps, and rookie DeMarcco Hellams is coming up strong behind him. — Josh Kendall
The Ravens figure to add rather than subtract, but moving on from Duvernay would create a little cap flexibility, which would make bringing in another veteran a bit easier. A two-time Pro Bowl special teams player, Duvernay remains a dangerous return man. However, he’s gotten pushed down the wide receiver depth chart after the offseason additions of Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor. Duvernay has just two receptions for eight yards and three carries for 15 yards, and he’s playing just more than 25 percent of Baltimore’s offensive snaps.
If a team is looking for a quality return man and another all-purpose threat, Duvernay would be a nice addition. — Jeff Zrebiec
It’s been a rough start to the 2022 first-round pick’s sophomore season. Elam finished as a distant third in the starting cornerback battle and began the season as a healthy scratch over the first four weeks. Then in his first appearance, a start against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the opponents targeted him relentlessly when he covered receiver Calvin Ridley.
The Bills likely don’t want to give up on him for nothing. However, if there’s a way for them to improve at linebacker, cornerback or somewhere else at the deadline, and Elam gets put in a deal like Zack Moss was in the Nyheim Hines trade with Indianapolis last year, that’s something general manager Brandon Beane could consider. — Joe Buscaglia
General manager Scott Fitterer held on to the Pro Bowl edge rusher at the deadline last year, turning down an offer from the Los Angeles Rams that included two first-round picks (2024 and 2025) and a future third. The thinking was an elite edge rusher would be more difficult to replace than a running back or receiver, even ones as talented as McCaffrey and DJ Moore.
But after failing to get a long-term deal done with Burns and the Panthers as the NFL’s only winless team, Fitterer might take a different tack. The problem: Given Burns’ unresolved contract situation, the offers don’t figure to match the Rams’ from 2022. — Joe Person
The Bears don’t want to trade Johnson. But they didn’t want to trade Roquan Smith at first, either. Smith eventually forced the Bears’ hand. Johnson isn’t doing that. He’s on the record saying he wants to remain in Chicago. But Johnson is still in the last year of his contract — and the Bears have drafted three cornerbacks in the last two years: Kyler Gordon (2022, No. 39), Tyrique Stevenson (2023, No. 56) and Terell Smith (2023, No. 165). If the Bears don’t see a contract extension in Johnson’s future, it makes sense to trade him. Didn’t the Bills just lose their best cornerback? — Adam Jahns
The Bengals are philosophically opposed to trading players at the deadline. Specifically to a team they expect to battle attrition deep into January. That said, for the sake of this conversation, would another team have interest in tight end Irv Smith Jr.? The free-agent signee has not proven a great fit and battled a hamstring injury through five games. Meanwhile, his replacement off the practice squad, Tanner Hudson, looked much better filling the role. Maybe a transition to Hudson could happen, which would mean moving on from Smith Jr. if a team is seeking tight end depth. — Paul Dehner Jr.
Cleveland is dealing with injury uncertainty at multiple offensive positions, starting with the most important one. Also, the Browns are much more likely to be buyers than sellers at any position given the importance of the season and how they’ve constructed this roster.
But if things don’t improve quickly with the Browns’ passing game and a receiver-needy team comes calling, Peoples-Jones might be available. He’s in the final year of his rookie deal, and Cleveland drafted his likely replacement in Cedric Tillman in April. This Browns’ regime loves collecting late-round picks and could speed up what seems to be an inevitable transition. — Zac Jackson
The Cowboys really don’t have a player who makes much sense to be traded, but because of their defensive line depth, Golston could fit that criteria. He has one year remaining on his rookie contract after being drafted in the third round in 2021. He has averaged 19 defensive snaps and nine special teams snaps per game this season, totaling one sack, a forced fumble and one quarterback hit.
But Dallas needs to be active in trading for players to bolster its roster much more than it needs to be moving any talent out of the building. — Jon Machota
At 1-5 and 0-3 at home, things will likely get worse before they get better in Denver. The Broncos already traded their highest-paid edge rusher, Randy Gregory, and more dealing could be on the way. The Broncos dangled Jeudy in trade talks during the offseason, but they couldn’t find a satisfactory deal.
Jeudy, the 15th overall pick in the 2020 draft, has averaged 6.9 receptions and 73.1 yards across his last 10 regular-season games. He could help a contender lacking at the position, and Denver needs more draft capital as head coach Sean Payton goes about the business of reshaping a talent-deficient roster. — Nick Kosmider
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For the first time in a long time, the Lions are positioned to add — not sell — at the deadline. Given the wave of injuries we’ve already seen, they probably aren’t likely to move key reserves. But with the pass rush getting healthier, perhaps a sack-needy team should look to add a player like Okwara. He’s just now getting back into action after starting the year on injured reserve, so teams will have a few weeks to evaluate him.
Again, the Lions are probably buyers this year, but they do have some depth at edge, and Okwara is in the last year of his rookie deal. — Colton Pouncy
The 30-year-old outside linebacker doesn’t flash much for a team that isn’t anywhere near a contender. If the Packers lose another game or two before the trade deadline, it might be time to ship off a veteran and continue with the offseason’s theme of getting younger.
Green Bay has first- or second-year players in Lukas Van Ness, Kingsley Enagbare and Brenton Cox Jr. behind Rashan Gary and Preston Smith, and it might be worth giving them an extended look as general manager Brian Gutekunst builds for the future. — Matt Schneidman
The emergence of younger players caused Hughes to lose his starting job this season, despite his nine sacks in 2022. That was the highest total in eight seasons for the 2010 first-round pick. Hughes, 35, just restructured his deal to give the Texans more cap flexibility, but the lower cap number also could make him more attractive to teams in need of a rotational pass rusher. — Mike Jones
The Colts are in a weird spot where they’re better than expected at 3-2, but their best trade asset, backup quarterback Gardner Minshew, probably isn’t available since promising rookie Anthony Richardson just landed on injured reserve with an AC joint sprain.
Beyond Minshew, there are slim pickings among Indianapolis’ next trade candidates. But one player who could potentially be moved for a late-round pick is Alie-Cox. He has one year left on his contract, and with Andrew Ogletree and Kylen Granson stepping up, perhaps Indianapolis would shop Alie-Cox to teams looking for tight end depth. — James Boyd
Jacksonville Jaguars: Devin Lloyd, LB
I don’t believe the Jaguars are looking to trade anyone, and moving on from Lloyd doesn’t actually make much sense. However, Jacksonville has linebacker depth, and the 2022 first-round pick would have nice trade value if an NFC contender such as the Lions, Cowboys or Philadelphia Eagles were looking for an athletic presence in the middle of their defense.
Again, the Jaguars don’t have anyone with a big contract who is worth trading, and there’s no way they’d move on from their best pass rusher, Josh Allen, because of his expiring deal. So if the Jaguars were desperate to fill another hole and don’t want to give up a future draft asset, Lloyd has the trade value to get something done. — Jeff Howe
This year, the Chiefs don’t have an ideal candidate who could be traded. Their roster is young around quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce and defensive tackle Chris Jones. This exercise, though, makes you look at the roster and wonder if Kansas City could get a low-round pick in exchange for a player who is not likely to be a part of the team next season.
A year ago, cornerback Rashad Fenton was in the final year of his rookie contract and was sent to the Falcons just before the deadline. A similar player this season could be Edwards-Helaire, who is in the final year of his rookie contract while starter Isiah Pacheco and veteran Jerick McKinnon have been more effective contributors. — Nate Taylor
Renfrow signed a two-year extension last offseason coming off a Pro Bowl campaign in 2021, and it hasn’t panned out the way anyone expected. The slot receiver missed seven games because of injury last season and didn’t play well even when healthy.
And this year, the Raiders just flat out aren’t using Renfrow. The 27-year-old has only six catches for 59 yards on nine targets in five games, and he’s been losing playing time to rookie Tre Tucker. The Raiders have already paid Renfrow a big chunk of his 2023 salary in a roster bonus, but they might as well move him and get something in return at this point. — Tashan Reed
The Chargers already made one of the biggest trades of the season when they dealt cornerback J.C. Jackson to the New England Patriots for a late-round pick swap. They don’t really have any other expendable pieces on the roster at the moment. Especially considering the stakes of this season, it’s hard to see a scenario in which the Chargers are sellers. Even if the season unravels before the deadline, would ownership really allow this brain trust of general manager Tom Telesco and coach Brandon Staley to make any significant moves for the long-term future?
I think the Chargers are going to do everything they can to contend until they are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. One position they could add to is at tight end, particularly a run blocker. If the Chargers do make a move to bolster that group, McKitty could be the odd man out. He has not developed the way the Chargers hoped when they drafted him in the third round in 2021. — Daniel Popper
My initial pick was receiver Van Jefferson, who found himself the odd man out of the Rams’ predominantly three-receiver offense behind rookie Puka Nacua, third-year receiver Tutu Atwell and the return of veteran star Cooper Kupp. Outside of trading Jefferson to the Falcons, the Rams have extra offensive linemen at a couple of spots (left tackle and right guard), but would they move a player such as Noteboom? They aren’t far removed from their catastrophic injury situation along the offensive line in 2022, so they may not be active at this position out of caution. But if a team called, they would listen. If traded, the Rams would incur $5 million in dead money off of Noteboom’s contract in 2023. Sean McVay suggested Wednesday that the Rams won’t be very active at the trade deadline, saying, “you kind of have to have resources … for those to be options.” — Jourdan Rodrigue
The 4-1 Dolphins won’t be moving any pieces that can help them win a championship. That takes a lot of players out of this particular equation. And rookie running back De’Von Achane’s knee injury could take Ahmed out of that equation, too. Achane was placed on IR and will miss at least four games. However, if that’s all he is expected to miss, Miami could consider moving on from Ahmed following its Oct. 29 game against New England — two days before the deadline.
Assuming Raheem Mostert remains healthy and Jeff Wilson Jr. returns soon, Ahmed could quickly become expendable. He’s only 24 years old and has been productive in spurts (4.0 yards per carry or better in two of his three seasons entering 2023) throughout his career. A running back-needy team could seek him out for some depth, while Miami would probably be happy to replenish some draft stock. — Jim Ayello
The Vikings are teetering toward sell mode, and the most realistic premium option is Hunter. The three-time Pro Bowler signed a one-year contract before the season worth $17 million guaranteed and is tied for second in the NFL with six sacks. His pressure rate and pass-rush win rates are less rosy, but they’re affected by the team’s tendency to give up quick completions. Hunter is the one high-end impact player on Minnesota’s defense and is a fan favorite.
That said, if the Vikings are beginning to turn the page toward the future, prioritizing premium draft position and overall draft capital, Hunter makes sense as an obvious trade candidate. — Alec Lewis
If the Patriots continue playing like they have, they’ll have a lot of players to offer to contending teams. Left tackle Trent Brown, right guard Mike Onwenu, edge rusher Josh Uche and safety Kyle Dugger all come to mind. But the return for those players would have to be meaningful since the Patriots would likely get a compensatory draft pick if any of them sign elsewhere next offseason.
That may not be the case for Bourne, which could make him easier to acquire. Teams probably only view Bourne as a depth receiver, maybe a No. 3 or 4 option, but for a contending team dealing with some injuries, he could be an acceptable replacement. — Chad Graff
The Saints don’t have too many obvious tradeable candidates. You could mention guys such as quarterback Jameis Winston, guard Andrus Peat or Baun — all of whom could hit the free-agency market in the 2024 offseason.
But Winston probably would have been gone by now if a team like the New York Jets wanted him as a fill-in. Peat has been pushed to a reserve role. Baun has never really fit within the Saints’ defense as a traditional linebacker (listed as a strongside LB), and maybe a team might want to use him in more pass-rush situations. Baun’s price tag isn’t high at all, so absorbing his contract wouldn’t be problematic. Trading him might be a reach since he’s basically a special teams player with spot duty on defense. — Larry Holder
If the Giants’ dismal start to the season continues, you can make the argument for a few players, including cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who could make an impact for contenders. But we settled on McKinney here, given that the 24-year-old’s future with the organization remains up in the air. Playing in the final year of his rookie contract, the 2020 second-round pick had been looking for a new deal, but general manager Joe Schoen has said they will wait until after the season to talk about extensions. If the Giants decide he’s not part of their future core, they could try to cash in now. Plenty of teams chasing a title could use some help in the secondary. — Charlotte Carroll
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Wide receiver Mecole Hardman is already reportedly being shopped, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Lawson was on the block, too. The Jets signed the 28-year-old to a $45 million deal in 2021 with high hopes. He was a healthy scratch against the Broncos after playing sparingly in the first four weeks. Lawson missed the 2021 season with a torn Achilles but came back last year and played well (seven sacks, 24 quarterback hits) while still not healthy. Seemingly ready for a big 2023, he hurt his lower back early in training camp and missed the entire preseason. Lawson took a pay cut this offseason, so he wouldn’t cost an acquiring team much money. — Zack Rosenblatt
The Eagles have used the 2017 first-round pick sparingly, yet have resisted Barnett’s trade requests because they like the depth he offers. Barnett, who suffered a torn ACL in Week 1 of last season, believes he can now effectively contribute more than the dozen or so snaps a game he’s getting from Philadelphia. If a team in need of pass-rushing help is willing to give up draft picks for the 27-year-old, maybe the Eagles should make the move. — Mike Jones
Honestly, there is nobody currently on the roster who needs to be moved or, frankly, good enough to be in demand. Wide receiver/kick returner Gunner Olszewski could spark interest as a punt return specialist, but after two fumble-happy years with the Steelers, a team would have to be desperate to come calling.
Rudolph is interesting because he’s an expendable veteran third-string quarterback who is playing out a minimum deal he signed in the spring. With Kenny Pickett suffering a pair of concussions and a knee injury during his 17 career starts, the Steelers aren’t likely to be actively seeking to move Rudolph, who is also behind Mitch Trubisky. But if the right deal is offered, general manager Omar Khan has proven not to hesitate. — Mark Kaboly
The 49ers, who already acquired Gregory, probably remain importers, not exporters, in the trade market. But they do have an abundance of running backs. Even with Elijah Mitchell out of action recently with a knee injury, Davis-Price has had trouble seeing the field. His first carries of the season came at the end of Sunday’s blowout win over the Cowboys.
The 49ers like Davis-Price and think he’s a talented runner. The issue is he’s been leapfrogged for the No. 3 role by Jordan Mason, who went undrafted the same year Davis-Price was a third-round pick. Mason is good on special teams and actually led all rushers Sunday with 69 yards on 10 carries. — Matt Barrows
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The Seahawks aren’t in position to be sellers, but one spot they could feel good about making a move is inside linebacker. Seattle has a surplus of talent at tight end and cornerback, though a trade at the former wouldn’t be worth it — and the cornerback room is too banged up to dump anyone right now.
At inside linebacker, Seattle has Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks playing at a high level, making Bush, who has played well in his limited opportunity, an expendable player. He’d immediately help a team in need of a coverage linebacker. — Michael-Shawn Dugar
The truth is the Bucs are too good to be in fire sale mode. They won’t be looking to dump veterans for draft picks, barring the unforeseen. Even if they lose their next three, they still will be 3-4 and probably in the thick of contention in the NFC South. But White is in the last year of his contract and requested a trade in the offseason before saying he realized the request was selfish. There is precedent for a Pro Bowl-caliber linebacker like White with an expiring contract being dealt near the deadline, as the Bears traded Roquan Smith to the Ravens last year for second- and fifth-round picks. — Dan Pompei
Fulton was called out by Mike Vrabel after last season for being a “repeat offender” in terms of soft-tissue injuries, then the 2020 second-round pick didn’t get offered an extension entering the final year of his deal. And his fourth season has seen perhaps more brutal mistakes than his first three combined. Is he pressing? Is he thinking too much about what’s next? Is he acclimating poorly to new defensive backs coach Chris Harris?
Whatever it is, Fulton is much better than he has played. He’s the Titans’ most talented corner, which means a move is only considered if they’re clearly out of it at the deadline. But he needs a change of scenery, and this team needs draft capital. — Joe Rexrode
I know picking two names is cheating, but they are intertwined in several ways. Namely, both play the coveted edge rusher position and are 2024 free agents. They also should provide a decent-to-strong trade return if the Commanders go that route. (They probably have to lose the next three games for fire sale consideration, and there are several notable upcoming free agents to consider.) Regardless, it’s highly unlikely Washington would seek to retain Sweat and Young depending on who in the organization makes such future calls.
The Commanders are 2-3 amid a three-game skid that included the recent 20-point home loss to the Bears. If the slide continues and there’s a decision to prep for the future by the deadline, choose whether Sweat (4.5 sacks) or Young (tied for third in the NFL with 27 quarterback pressures) gets the contract extension offer and let the other one know there are no hard feelings upon trading him. Washington is also deep enough on the line to maintain a strong level while adding long-term help. — Ben Standig
(Top photo of Preston Smith, Jerry Jeudy and Brian Burns: Stu Forster, Dan Mullan, Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)