Outlook For Trade Candidates Who Stayed Put

As is typically the case, the 2014 trade deadline was a fairly quiet affair. While the Seahawks and Jets made headlines earlier this month when they completed a swap that sent Percy Harvin to New York, Tuesday’s actual deadline day didn’t feature those sort of fireworks. The Buccaneers were the NFL’s only real seller, shipping former first-round safety Mark Barron to the Rams and linebacker Jonathan Casillas to New England.

Even though Tampa Bay was active at the deadline, the team still held onto several notable players who had been frequently cited as trade candidates in recent weeks, including Vincent Jackson, Doug Martin, and Dashon Goldson. And there were many other players around the league who appeared to be viable trade candidates who weren’t moved, and remain with their teams.

So it’s worth examining what the outlook is for those players as the 2014 season enters its home stretch and the offseason looms. In some instances, the fact that these players were viewed as guys who could – or should – be dealt suggests that their days with their current clubs are limited, but that’s not always the case. Starting with those three Bucs who stayed put, let’s take a closer look at the futures of 10 players who were mentioned at least as trade candidates, but weren’t dealt by Tuesday afternoon….

Vincent Jackson (WR), Buccaneers
Contract situation: Under contract through 2016. Owed base salary of $9.778MM in 2015 ($12.21MM cap hit).
2015 outlook: Jackson’s ’15 base salary and cap hit are nearly identical to his ’14 figures, so if the Bucs were willing to keep him around at those figures this season, it stands to reason that they could do so again next year. Of course, coming into 2014, Jackson had averaged 75 receptions, 1,304, and eight touchdowns during his two seasons in Tampa Bay, making him one of the league’s most productive wideouts. So far this season, he’s on pace for a 59-816-5 line. Even if that dropoff can be blamed on Tampa Bay’s poor quarterback play, that sort of production isn’t worth carrying a $12MM+ cap hit, which makes Jackson a strong candidate to be cut or restructure his deal.

Doug Martin (RB), Buccaneers
Contract situation: Under contract through 2015. Owed base salary of $1.316MM in 2015 ($2.16MM cap hit).
2015 outlook: While Martin is still receiving plenty of carries for Tampa Bay, it certainly seems as if the team would be fine with splitting carries between Bobby Rainey and rookie Charles Sims, when Sims gets healthy. Martin is a former first-round pick, has a 1,450-yard season on his resumé, and is still on an inexpensive contract, so it’s unlikely he’ll be cut before his rookie deal expires. But if he’s not in the Bucs’ long-term plans, a trade would make the most sense — perhaps his name will resurface as a trade candidate in the offseason.

Dashon Goldson (S), Buccaneers
Contract situation: Under contract through 2017. Owed base salary of $7.5MM in 2015 ($4MM guaranteed, $8MM cap hit).
2015 outlook: With Barron out of the picture in Tampa Bay, it may just be a matter of time until the team’s other apparent cornerstone at safety follows him out the door. Since signing a massive five-year deal with the team in March of 2013, Goldson has underwhelmed, receiving a -14.4 grade from Pro Football Focus last season and a -8.3 mark so far this year (subscription required). His ’15 base salary includes $4MM in guaranteed money, so perhaps the club tries to make it work for one more year, but with no prorated bonus money counting against the cap, it also wouldn’t be hard for the Bucs to walk away if they decide he’s not the right fit for Lovie Smith’s defense.

Tony Carter (CB), Broncos
Contract situation: Eligible for unrestricted free agency at season’s end.
2015 outlook: Carter has been a forgotten man in Denver this season, given the team’s depth at cornerback, but he did generate some interest at the deadline and could be a bargain in free agency this offseason. The Broncos will likely do everything they can to lock up cornerback Chris Harris, who has played very well this season, but if the team’s cap limitations prevent a deal with Harris, Carter could remain with the team beyond this season as a less expensive option at nickel back.

Justin Tuck (DE), Raiders
Contract situation: Under contract through 2015. Owed base salary of $3.35MM in 2015 ($5MM cap hit).
2015 outlook: Tuck isn’t racking up huge sack numbers in Oakland, but PFF’s numbers rate him as a top-10 3-4 defensive end so far this season (subscription required). His salary figures for 2015 are about the same as this year’s, so he’d probably represent a decent value, but there are other factors at play here. Most notably, if the Raiders continue to be the NFL’s worst team, it seems realistic that a new GM and head coach could be in place by the spring. In that case, perhaps a new regime would prefer to get out of Tuck’s deal, which wouldn’t have any dead money, opting instead for younger players at the position.

Jermaine Gresham (TE), Bengals
Contract situation: Eligible for unrestricted free agency at season’s end.
2015 outlook: If it wasn’t clear before that Gresham isn’t part of the Bengals’ future plans, the fact that he was identified as a trade candidate even while Tyler Eifert remained on the shelf is an indication that his time in Cincinnati is nearly up. I’d expect to see him sign elsewhere when he hits the open market in March.

Kendall Langford (DT), Rams
Contract situation: Under contract through 2015. Owed base salary of $6MM in 2015 ($7MM cap hit).
2015 outlook: While Langford hasn’t played poorly for the Rams, he’s becoming increasingly expendable given the presence of first-round picks Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers. With only $1MM in dead money on Langford’s contract for 2015, I’d expect to see St. Louis cut him this winter and use that $6MM on multiple players, possibly including a cheaper defensive tackle option to complement Donald and Brockers.

Nate Washington (WR), Titans
Contract situation: Eligible for unrestricted free agency at season’s end.
2015 outlook: Washington has played for the Titans since 2009, so he may want to continue his career with the team when his contract expires at season’s end. But if there’s mutual interest in a new deal, it would probably have to be at a rate less than his current $4.8MM salary, given the presence of Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright, and Washington’s declining role in the offense.

Michael Griffin (S), Titans
Contract situation: Under contract through 2016. Owed base salary of $6.3MM in 2015 ($8.1MM cap hit).
2015 outlook: Griffin’s 2015 cap and salary figures are nearly identical to his 2014 totals, but I’m guessing the Titans will be less inclined to commit to him for next season, particularly with less dead money left on his deal. The veteran safety hasn’t looked like an ideal fit in Tennessee’s new defensive scheme and has struggled to make plays. Releasing him for 2015 would generate $4.5MM in cap savings, and could make real sense for the Titans.

Wesley Woodyard (LB), Titans
Contract situation: Under contract through 2017. Owed base salary of $2.75MM in 2015 ($3.5MM cap hit)
2015 outlook: Unlike Griffin and Akeem Ayers, Woodyard was just signed by the Titans this offseason, so if he’s not viewed as a fit in the team’s defense, the new regime only has itself to blame. Still, the fact that Woodyard was mentioned as a possible trade candidate may have had less to do with his fit in Tennessee, and more to do with the fact that he’s a fairly inexpensive and versatile player who could’ve brought back a moderate return in a deal. The 28-year-old’s base salary isn’t guaranteed for 2015, so the team could consider trading or releasing him, but he seems like a reasonable bet to be back with the Titans next season.

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