The 2023 NFL regular season hasn’t started yet, but it’s not too early to forecast the beautiful chaos that is trade season.
Based on certain circumstances and their contract situations, each club has at least one notable player who bears watching leading up to the trade deadline. With that said, let’s dive into every NFL team’s best player most likely to be dealt during the 2023 season.
Arizona Cardinals: Zach Ertz
The Cardinals will likely be one of — if not THE WORST — NFL team here in 2023. Doesn’t make sense to keep an injury-prone and fading tight end on the wrong side of 30.
Ertz may be past his prime, but several playoff contenders might be willing to take a chance on the Super Bowl 52 champion with the hope that he’ll be able to rekindle some of that magic come January.
Atlanta Falcons: Cordarrelle Patterson
If the Falcons are out of playoff contention leading up to the deadline, expect them to deal the do-it-all Patterson in his contract year.
Patterson should appeal to any team looking for help in the running game and special teams department, and he’d probably be available at a bargain price. Just spit-balling here, but wouldn’t he be great in Buffalo or Baltimore?
Baltimore Ravens: Patrick Queen
The 2020 first-round pick still hasn’t put it fully together. And with the Ravens extending Roquan Smith before using a third-round pick on Trenton Simpson, it’s clear that it’s now-or-never for Queen in Baltimore.
If Simpson outplays Queen leading up to the deadline, the Ravens should cut bait and trade the latter. The linebacker corps will do just fine without Queen.
Buffalo Bills: Gabe Davis
Davis didn’t have the breakout year that Bills fans and fantasy owners expected in 2022. Buffalo used its first-rounder on tight end Dalton Kincaid, giving Josh Allen another weapon he needs to complement Stefon Diggs.
If Kincaid comes as advertised, that could make Davis expendable.
Carolina Panthers: Brian Burns
Last season, it was reported that Carolina rejected an offer of two first-round picks for Burns. At the time, they obviously felt good about their chances of locking him down to a long-term extension.
But Burns still hasn’t signed a new deal as the regular season draws closer. If the Panthers also aren’t in playoff contention leading up to the deadline, they may as well trade Burns and get that one first-round pick — and potentially more.
Chicago Bears: Chase Claypool
The Bears must be feeling buyer’s remorse by giving up what ended up being the No. 32 pick to the Steelers for Claypool at last year’s deadline.
At any rate, there’s no undoing the past. The Bears need a good year from Claypool, otherwise the Canadian kid will likely find himself trying to revive his career elsewhere.
Just saying Kansas City and Dallas would both be good landing spots for Claypool if the Bears wound up trading him.
Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Mixon
Many expected the Bengals to cut Mixon in a cap-saving move, but they brought the 27-year-old back for another year.
Let’s just say it wouldn’t be a shock if rookie Chase Brown took over for Mixon as the RB1. And if it came to that, the Bengals could look to deal their former Pro Bowler to an RB-needy team for a late-round pick.
Cleveland Browns: Za'Darius Smith
Yes, the Browns just acquired Smith in a blockbuster deal with Minnesota. But what if Cleveland is a) not in the playoff picture and b) gets an offer they can’t refuse?
If the Browns are in postseason contention, Smith isn’t going anywhere. But otherwise, they may have a tough time turning down a good offer for a consistent double-digit sack threat. So don’t be surprised if he’s on the move again before the deadline arrives.
Dallas Cowboys: Michael Gallup
The trade for veteran Brandin Cooks makes Gallup expendable. The latter just hasn’t been able to stay healthy and build off his career year in 2019.
With Cooks and CeeDee Lamb leading the Cowboys’ receiving corps, Gallup might struggle to generate enough targets. And if a Super Bowl contender decides they want a big-bodied receiver to complement their No. 1 receiver, Dallas could look to ship out Gallup and clear his salary off their books.
Denver Broncos: Jerry Jeudy
The Broncos will keep Jeudy and Courtland Sutton together for at least the start of the year with the hope that they’ll help Russell Wilson regain his star-like form. If that doesn’t happen? Then GM George Paton will be entering seller mode once again.
And seller mode could mean dealing away his top receiver. As good as Jeudy is, Denver could definitely fetch a first or second-round pick for him. That might be too much for Paton to pass on — especially if his Broncos find themselves well out of the playoff picture.
Detroit Lions: C.J. Gardner-Johnson
The Lions somehow got the Swiss army knife safety on a cheap one-year deal in free agency. Of course, Gardner-Johnson’s stint in Motor City could be short-and-not-so-sweet if the Lions aren’t playing up to expectations in the first half.
If that’s the case, Brad Holmes will have no problem garnering interest for CJGJ. A return to the Eagles or even the Saints would make sense. But really, any Super Bowl contender should have interest if Detroit puts him on the block.
Green Bay Packers: Rashan Gary
The best possible outcome is a long-term extension for Gary, who’s emerged as a star on that Packer defense. If the two sides can’t reach a deal, Green Bay could always place the franchise tag on him next offseason.
But it might also be hard for the front office to turn down a good package for Gary at the deadline. What if a club offers a first-rounder or even a pair of day two picks? It’d be hard to turn such an offer down…
Houston Texans: Shaq Mason
Houston may have given Mason a three-year deal after acquiring him from Tampa Bay, but that doesn’t mean he’s definitely here to stay long-term.
Never underestimate the power of a desperate GM. Teams are always looking to beef up their pass protection for their star QBs during trade season. If a team endures shakiness in the trenches, Houston could garner a ton of offers for Mason — and a bidding war could lead to the front office trading him before he finishes a full year here.
Indianapolis Colts: Jonathan Taylor
Taylor requested a trade in July following a meeting with Jim Irsay. Not sure if the Colts would wanna trade Taylor before Week 1, though. They might be better off showcasing him again for a month or so before fielding offers.
If Taylor stays healthy and gets back to his 2021 form, the Colts would be looking at a very shiny return for their star weapon.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Zay Jones
Jones had a career year in Duval County last season, finishing with 82 catches for 823 yards and five touchdowns. But the arrival of Calvin Ridley means less targets for Jones. Expect Ridley and Christian Kirk to be the go-to guys here for Trevor Lawrence.
And if Jones’ role in Jacksonville reduces, the front office should be willing to give him a change of scenery while also clearing his giant $11 million cap hit for 2024.
Kansas City Chiefs: Jerick McKinnon
A team in win-now mode like the defending champs won’t be trading any of their starters during the season. Pure and simple.
Isiah Pacheco is the lead running back entering 2023, with Clyde Edwards-Helaire behind him. If injuries mount in the backfield for another team, they could give KC a call and pick up a serviceable veteran like McKinnon for a late-round pick.
Las Vegas Raiders: Josh Jacobs
Jacobs left the Raiders after the two sides failed to reach a contract extension. Unless the Raiders are a playoff team — and they likely won’t be — they’re better off trading Jacobs as opposed to losing him for nothing next year.
The 2022 rushing champion could be the final piece needed for several contenders to round out the offense. Quite frankly, which bonafide Super Bowl favorites wouldn’t want Jacobs? Trading him during the season makes all too much sense now that we know the Raiders aren’t keen on committing to him long-term.
Los Angeles Chargers: Keenan Allen
Many wondered if the Bolts would cut or trade the oft-injured Allen, but he agreed to a restructured deal that opened up cap space.
But Mike Williams has taken over as the Bolts’ new WR1, plus they used a first-round pick on TCU product Quentin Johnston. If Allen isn’t playing up to his usual standards, the Chargers could look to unload him and build around the receiving core of Williams and Johnston.
Los Angeles Rams: Cam Akers
Hard to see the Rams competing with a top-heavy roster that lacks sufficient depth. Hard to think they’ll trade Matt Stafford, Cooper Kupp or Aaron Donald during the season, but running back Cam Akers is very much on trade watch.
Akers is the Rams’ RB1. When healthy, he’s elusive and explosive and can lift the offense at any given point. Dealing Akers for a late-round pick — of course provided they’re out of the postseason race — feels like the likely outcome here.
Miami Dolphins: Cedrick Wilson Jr.
With Miami likely to contend for a playoff berth, there’s no reason to think they’ll trade any of their key starters. But ex-Cowboy Cedrick Wilson Jr. could be available if he underperforms the way he did in 2022 following a career 2021 campaign in Dallas.
You even wonder if Dallas would be keen on a Wilson Jr. reunion if Miami decided to shop him. Of course, several clubs should have interest in a 6-foot-2, 200-pound wideout who could flourish as a WR3 elsewhere.
Minnesota Vikings: Danielle Hunter
Hunter briefly popped up in trade rumors before the Vikings agreed to give him a pay raise. That soothes things over for now, but it doesn’t mean the relationship is fully prepared.
Minny traded away disgruntled sacks specialist Za’Darius Smith, so what’s stopping them from dealing Hunter during the season — especially if they find themselves out of the playoff picture?
Minnesota could still be a buyer and deal Hunter, too. That would be ideal as opposed to watching him walk for no compensation in 2024 free agency.
New England Patriots: Mike Onwenu
Even when his Pats are in title contention, Bill Belichick often likes to trade a player for draft compensation rather than lose them for nothing. So don’t be shocked if Onwenu is on the move come trade deadline season — regardless of New England’s record.
Onwenu has been a rock on the Patriots’ o-line, but they’re unlikely to extend him in his contract year. The Pats know they can draft and develop a cheap replacement, and if someone comes forward with a lucrative offer for Onwenu? Belichick will likely take it.
New Orleans Saints: Cameron Jordan
Jordan probably wants to finish his career as a Saint, but it’s going to depend on a) his contract demands and b) where they lie in the standings.
The franchise’s all-time sacks leader is a free agent after 2023 and will be 35 next year. If the two sides can’t reach an agreement on a new deal, the Saints may be better off trading Jordan and getting SOME compensation for him.
New York Giants: Saquon Barkley
Full stop: Barkley only hits the trade block IF the Giants are out of playoff contention.
Big Blue doesn’t seem keen on the idea of extending Barkley long-term. So if they fail to build off their magic from last year, GM Joe Schoen may feel pressured to deal his star running back for valuable draft compensation instead of watching Barkley walk away for nothing as a free agent.
New York Jets: Carl Lawson
Lawson is entering the final season of a three-year, $45 million deal he signed with the Jets in 2021.
After missing the entire ’21 campaign to injury, Lawson returned to form and posted seven sacks. But do the Jets really need Lawson?
They used 2022 and 2023 first rounders on edge rushers Jermaine Johnson and Will McDonald, respectively. If Robert Saleh and company decide to give the kids ample playing time, it’ll make Lawson expendable.
Philadelphia Eagles: Quez Watkins
He showed promise in 2021 with 647 receiving yards, though, so another team out there could be interested in giving Watkins an expanded role.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Allen Robinson
Pittsburgh took a flier on A-Rob following a disappointing one-year stint with the Rams. We’re skeptical that he’ll do much with George Pickens, Diontae Johnson, Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth rounding out a deep set of weapons to begin with.
So…does that mean Robinson gets traded for the second time in one year? Don’t bet against it. Especially if another club suffers a rash of injuries at receiver. Hey, what if the Bears decided to bring him back?!
San Francisco 49ers: Trey Lance
If Brock Purdy stays healthy and builds off his incredible underdog story from 2022, then Lance is a safe bet to get traded. If another club loses its starting QB for the year to injury, they could be enticed to place a call for Lance.
Seattle Seahawks: Jamal Adams
The Adams trade hasn’t gone as hoped for Seattle. And the thing is, they don’t really need him with stars Tariq Woolen, Quandre Diggs AND promising rookie Devon Witherspoon headlining the secondary.
Adams couldn’t wait to leave the Jets. He might be dying to leave Seattle, especially if his role and playing time are reduced in 2023.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans
Evans would land Tampa at least a third-round pick. Maybe more. Maybe even a first if he agreed to an extension with his new team. He’d fit in just about anywhere. We’d love to see him in Buffalo or Kansas City, especially.
Tennessee Titans: Derrick Henry
The two-time rushing champion is entering the final year of his contract. Tennessee should be hesitant to extend Henry long-term, since he’ll be 30 in January.
If the Titans return to contention, he’ll stay. If they’re out of the playoff race, he could be the most sought-after guy on the market — meaning the Titans will most definitely trade him. It all depends on where they are standings-wise.
Washington Commanders: Chase Young
The Commanders stunned many by declining the fifth-year option on Young’s rookie deal. So if he doesn’t stay healthy and regain the star-like form we saw in 2020, you can bet Washington will look to trade him.
Who do you think will be the biggest NFL player traded during the 2023 season?
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