James Mitchell

Trade Deadline Notes: Burns, R. Smith, 49ers

The trade deadline passed on Tuesday, but reports of near-deals and trade talks featuring high-profile players continue to trickle in. Though the NFL trade deadline may never produce the anticipation that the MLB deadline seems to generate, NFL front offices are increasingly amenable to making deals, and this year’s deadline day brought with it 10 trades and 12 players changing teams, both league records. As Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets, that type of activity is wildly popular among fans and therefore good for business, and Yates’ ESPN colleague, Adam Schefter, says multiple clubs have reached out to the league office this week to discuss the possibility of moving future deadlines to later dates.

In 2012, the league pushed the deadline back two weeks, from the Tuesday after Week 6 to the Tuesday after Week 8. Another move could see the deadline moved to sometime after Week 10 or Week 12, which would presumably produce even more trades. The idea is that, the later the deadline, the more clarity teams will have with respect to their status as a playoff contender, which will lead to more trade activity. Schefter hears that the issue will be raised at the general manager committee meetings later this month.

Now for more fallout and other notes from this year’s deadline extravaganza:

  • Teams were perhaps most interested in improving their receiving talent at the deadline, as players like Chase ClaypoolCalvin RidleyKadarius Toney, and T.J. Hockenson changed hands on or before deadline day, and big names like Brandin Cooks, Jerry Jeudy, DeAndre Hopkins, and D.J. Moore generated conversations as well. According to Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports, the aggression on that front was inspired at least in part by a weak 2023 class of free agent receivers headlined by the likes of Jakobi Meyers, Deonte Harty, Nelson Agholor, Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. On a related note, Joel Corry of CBS Sports believes that, if the Saints choose to move on from Michael Thomas this offseason, they may find a number of suitors, despite Thomas’ recent injury woes (Twitter link).
  • It was indeed the Rams who were willing to trade two first-round picks to the Panthers in exchange for DE Brian Burns, as Jones writes in a separate piece. Confirming prior reports, Jones says Los Angeles offered its 2024 and 2025 first-round selections — the team is without a 2023 first-round pick to due to last year’s Matthew Stafford trade — and he adds that the club also included a 2023 second-round choice in its final proposal. Carolina gave serious consideration to the offer, but it ultimately elected to hold onto Burns, which will increase the player’s leverage in offseason extension talks. Per Jones, Burns is likely to land a deal that far exceeds the $110MM pact that the Dolphins recently authorized for their own deadline acquisition, Bradley Chubb.
  • Speaking of the Panthers, we learned earlier today that the club also turned down a first-round pick for Moore. The Panthers’ reticence to trade its young talent (aside from Christian McCaffrey, of course) was on full display at the deadline, and while the decisions to retain Moore and Burns were certainly defensible, every executive with whom Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post spoke was shocked that the club did not pull the trigger on Burns. “I can’t believe they turned [the Rams’ offer] down. Now they almost have to pay him whatever he wants because everyone knows they turned down two [first-round picks] for him,” one GM said. Apparently, cornerback Donte Jackson also drew some trade interest, though another GM said the Panthers were asking too much for him as well.
  • The 49ersacquisition of McCaffrey will necessitate some “bean-counting creativity” from GM John Lynch this offseason, as Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle opines. The team’s impending cap crunch, intensified by McCaffrey’s $12MM cap hit for 2023, will make it more difficult for the club to retain QB Jimmy Garoppolo — though that may not have been in the cards anyway — and RT Mike McGlinchey.
  • Bears head coach Matt Eberflus acknowledged that one of the reasons his team traded linebacker Roquan Smith is because of Smith’s lack of ball production relative to his peers, particularly the peers who have contracts that Smith wants to top, as Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic writes (subscription required). Compared to fellow 2018 draftee and three-time First Team All-Pro Shaquille Leonard, for instance, Smith has five fewer interceptions (seven), 16 fewer forced fumbles (one), and six fewer fumble recoveries (one) over the course of his career.
  • The Lionstrade of Hockenson will naturally create more playing time for second-year pro Brock Wright — who is expected to step into the starting TE role — and fifth-round rookie James Mitchell, as Tim Twentyman of the team’s official website notes. Mitchell, who is still strengthening and rehabbing the torn ACL he suffered as a collegian at Virginia Tech in 2021, has played just 21 offensive snaps this season but offers big-play upside at the tight end position.

NFC North Notes: Smith, Lions, Vikings

A strange situation may be developing in Chicago. Roquan Smith made his trade request public earlier this week, and the standout linebacker is staging a hold-in effort at Bears camp. Smith does not have an agent, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports a person claiming to represent the fifth-year defender has been contacting teams to gauge trade interest. The person calling teams is not an NFLPA-certified agent, per Florio, and the Bears have not given Smith permission to seek a trade. The team still wants to extend the two-time second-team All-Pro, even though Smith does not have much hope for salvaging this situation. A team that negotiated with this unknown Smith representative would face tampering charges. While teams are interested in the former top-10 pick, Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus does not expect a first-round pick to be offered — if it reaches the point the Bears are fielding offers.

Here is the latest from the rest of the NFC North:

  • The Lions signed veteran wide receiver Devin Funchess and converted him to tight end, a position where he spent some time while a Michigan freshman in 2012. Funchess is not a lock to make the Lions’ roster, and Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes the team may only keep three tight ends. In addition to T.J. Hockenson, Dan Campbell plans to a keep a blocking tight end and an all-purpose player. Funchess would obviously be competing for the latter spot, with Birkett adding Shane Zylstra and fifth-round pick James Mitchell are in that group as well. Garrett Griffin and Brock Wright are vying for the blocking gig. Funchess would still have practice squad eligibility, and teams can still keep 16 players on their taxi squads.
  • Detroit also brought back Jarrad Davis this offseason, but the former first-round pick is not a lock to make the team. Davis has worked with the second- and third-team defenses in training camp, per Birkett, who adds the ex-Florida standout might need to show he can be a productive special teams player to make the team. Davis logged a career-high 46% special teams snap rate with the Jets last season. The Lions are not particularly deep at linebacker, but this regime did not draft Davis, who was brought in during Jim Caldwell‘s final season under GM Bob Quinn. Davis, 27, started 45 games for the Lions from 2017-20.
  • Despite the Vikings selecting Kellen Mond in last year’s third round, they brought back Sean Mannion for another potential run as Kirk Cousins‘ backup. The two have split time behind Cousins at training camp, per the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson. They are listed as co-backups on Minnesota’s depth chart, with Mond — after a year of seasoning — seemingly having a better chance to move into the QB2 role. Under Mike Zimmer, Mond worked only with the Vikings’ third-team offense. The quarterback said earlier this offseason he played at less than full strength throughout his rookie year due to contracting COVID-19 during camp.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/12/22

Thursday has featured several rookie deals finalized. Here are the mid- and late-round draftees to sign their four-year contracts today:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Buffalo Bills

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

  • WR Montrell Washington (fifth round, Samford)

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • RB Snoop Conner (fifth round, Ole Miss)
  • CB Gregory Junior (sixth round, Ouachita Baptist)
  • CB Montaric Brown (seventh round, Arkansas)

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans