Trade Candidate

Trade Candidate: Bears QB Nick Foles

A year ago, there was hope that Nick Foles could guide the Bears to the postseason. Now, the veteran quarterback finds himself on the outside looking in with the franchise.

Chicago has completely revamped their quarterbacks room this offseason. The team first signed veteran Andy Dalton to take over the starting gig, and they surprised many pundits when they traded up to select Justin Fields with the No. 11 overall pick in this year’s draft. As a result of the quarterback refresh, Foles will find himself as the third quarterback heading into 2021. Matt Nagy indicated as much the other day, referring to Fields as “the guy” if Dalton ends up getting sidelined with an injury, and the coach seemed pretty steadfast on the team’s current pecking order.

“There will be a process and a plan,” Nagy said (via Patrick Finley of the Chicago Tribune). “We will stick to that. That plan is not going to change tomorrow. The plan is not going to change in training camp. The plan is a plan — and it’s been thought out.

“All three of those guys know that you need to produce, you need to play well, you need to compete, you need to be the best quarterback you can be. And then it’s going to be really pretty easy for us to see who that is and how that goes.”

Normally, a team would probably let the veteran third-stringer go so he could find his next gig before training camp. However, it’d end up costing the Bears more to cut Foles than keep him. The 32-year-old is still owed $4MM in guaranteed money, and they’d be left with a hefty $6.6MM dead cap charge if they release him. In other words, cutting Foles would just exasperate the Bears salary cup crunch, meaning the only way Foles isn’t on the roster to start 2021 is if he’s traded.

Of course, it takes two to tango, and the Bears front office would need to find a taker for Foles. The former Super Bowl MVP didn’t impress during his first season in Chicago; he guided the Bears to a 2-5 record in his seven starts, completing 64.7-percent of his passes for 1,852 yards, 10 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. Teams probably aren’t lining up for Foles services at the moment, but that could easily change. QBs will surely suffer injuries during training camp and the preseason, and those teams could easily turn to the Bears if they need an experienced arm.

Further, teams will also get clarity on their quarterback depth throughout August. For instance, several pundits have recently suggested that the Jets would be a logical suitor for Foles as a backup to Zach Wilson. The team will surely want to get a thorough look at their current backup options (including 2020 fourth-round pick James Morgan and former UDFA Mike White) before they start exploring the trade market, but they could be at least one suitor who’s uninspired by their current choices.

While Foles disappointed in 2020, he’s not far removed from that iconic 2017 (and, to a lesser extent, 2018) run, and teams would surely take him on as their number-two QB. However, if one of these teams does want to acquire the veteran, they’ll likely have to do so via trade.

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Trade Candidate: Jets LB C.J. Mosley

When C.J. Mosley inked a five-year, $85MM deal with the Jets during the 2019 offseason, the linebacker was expected to lead the team’s defense for at least the next half-decade. He’s certainly looked the part of a defensive stalwart through two games with the organization, collecting nine tackles, a pick-six, and a fumble recovery.

However, Mosley suffered a groin injury that ultimately sidelined him for all but two games during the 2019 season. The veteran ended up opting out of the 2020 campaign, meaning he’s only seen times in two games through two years. The Jets certainly haven’t received a return on their investment, and rival teams believe they may be able to make a move for the former Pro Bowler…we learned back in March that the front office had received calls on Mosley.

To be clear, those reports indicated that the Jets were receiving the trade calls, not necessarily initiating the trade calls. Plus, there haven’t been many developments over the past three-plus months. However, it’s still easy to see a path where the Jets justify moving their former major free agent acquisition, and it’s easy to understand why a rival team would take a chance on the veteran.

From the Jets standpoint, a Mosley trade would be mostly financial. Since he sat out the 2020 season, Mosley still has four years and $56MM left on his deal, including $22MM guaranteed (this remaining commitment is a big reason why Mosley won’t be released any time soon). The Jets aren’t necessarily hurting for money, but as the front office looks to introduce the Zach Wilson/Robert Saleh era, it’d make sense for them to move some future money with the hopes of loading up during future offseasons.

Further, the Jets have a bit of a logjam at the position after the team signed middle linebacker Jarrad Davis to a $5.5MM deal this offseason. The Jets defense is expected to play in a 4-3 scheme, meaning one of Davis or Mosley will either find themselves on the bench or playing (somewhat) out of position at outside linebacker. Sure, Davis probably isn’t the caliber of player who should be pushing a player like Mosley out of the lineup…but we also have no idea what to expect from a player who’s barely seen the field over the past two years.

If the Jets aren’t willing to take a risk on Mosley, why would another team? Well, for starters, the financial ramifications wouldn’t be as severe as you think. The 29-year-old’s 2021 cap hit is only $6MM, so while the future commitments may cause some teams to pause, you could easily see a contender talking themselves into Mosley’s upside (especially if the linebacker has a solid preseason). Plus, the trade costs surely wouldn’t be that high, meaning a team wouldn’t be compromising their future in a deal.

For what it’s worth, Mosley recently indicated that he has no worries about his ability to come back following a two-year absence:

“Yeah, I don’t have any doubts in myself,” he said during an appearance on The Official Jets Podcast (via the team website). “I mean, [Rob Gronkowski] took two years off [only one] and won a Super Bowl, so it is what it is. I’m here, so we’ll let the play do the talking.

“When you’re out for a while, you’re always in your head, thinking, ‘When I get back, how’s it going to feel? Am I going to be able to move like I used to?’ I feel great.”

Mosley has a chance to be a top comeback candidate, or he could emerge as an albatross contract. While the Jets will surely prefer to see the former option, they could ultimately reduce their risk, pivot more toward the future, and trade the linebacker over the next few months.

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Trade Candidates: Patriots RB Sony Michel, WR N’Keal Harry

While Bill Belichick has earned praise for his successful late-round picks, many of his championship rosters have been predicated on early-round draft selections. However, a pair of recent first-round picks have disappointed during their tenures in New England, and the young duo could find themselves playing elsewhere come the start of the 2021 season.

Erik Scalavino of the Patriots website recently discussed the trade availability of edge rusher Chase Winovich (something we looked at yesterday), and the writer believes that running back Sony Michel and wideout N’Keal Harry could also be on the trade block:

“[Winovich] and a handful of other Patriots (Sony Michel, N’Keal Harry?) could be potential trade prospects come August or early September. As always, what their value would be is impossible to predict, but summertime trades often involve player-for-player swaps between teams needed to strengthen certain positions. Something to keep in mind.”

Let’s start with New England’s 2018 first-rounder (No. 31 overall). Michel actually looked like he was well worth his draft stock during his rookie year. He collected 981 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns in 13 regular season games, and he added another six scores during the Patriots’ run to a championship. Michel’s counting stats went up a bit in 2019 thanks to him appearing in three more games, but his yards per carry dropped from 4.5 (2018) to 3.7 (2019). Michel spent much of the 2020 campaign on the IR and COVID list, finishing with a career-low 563 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.

Still, Michel has showed plenty of promise (especially when it matters most), and he’s still only 26 years old. Why would the Patriots shop the young running back? For starters, the former first-rounder is an impending free agent after the Patriots declined to pick up his fifth-year contract. Further, the Patriots haven’t shown any trust in the running back’s ability to catch the ball (26 receptions in 38 games), and it’s clear Michel will never be a three-down back. Considering those two factors, it seems unlikely that Michel will be playing in New England beyond 2021. Finally, New England has plenty of depth at the position; 2019 third-rounder Damien Harris is projected to be the starter, James White will be back in his pass-catching role, and the team also added Rhamondre Stevenson in the fourth round of this year’s draft.

Harry’s spot on the trade block makes a lot more sense. Since being selected with the 32nd pick in the 2019 draft, the Arizona State product has struggled to show much during his limited opportunities. Harry couldn’t find a groove with Tom Brady during his rookie season, finishing with only 105 receiving yards. With much less receiving depth in 2020, Harry only saw a slight uptick in numbers, finishing with 309 yards from scrimmage. The Patriots have done some work improving their pass-catching corps this offseason, including the additions of veterans Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. This will only slide Harry further down the depth chart.

We haven’t done a whole lot to inspire confidence in either of these young players…so why would rival squads be interested? Well, both players are still on their rookie contracts, making them relatively inexpensive, (potentially) high-upside reclamation projects. Further, while the Patriots have a bit of a roster crunch at each position, there’s no real urgency nor financial advantage to cut the players. If a rival team is interested in Michel and/or Harry, they’ll likely have to acquire the player(s) via trade. New England obviously won’t come close to recouping their first-round investment, but the team could net a late-round pick.

One thing is certain: 2021 will surely be a make-or-break year for both Michel and Harry. The big question is if that crucial season will take place in New England or elsewhere.

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Trade Candidate: Patriots LB/DE Chase Winovich

It’s not often that a team would be looking to move on from a soon-to-be third-year player who’s collected 5.5 sacks in each of their first two NFL seasons. However, that’s the position the Patriots may end up finding themselves in come preseason.

Recently, Doug Kyed of NESN.com pointed to 2019 third-round pick Chase Winovich as a surprise cut/trade candidate.

“I’m interested to see what kind of role Chase Winovich can find this offseason,” Kyed wrote. “Linebacker is a crowded position, and Belichick made Winovich expendable a few times last season.”

Winovich would seemingly fit the bill of an ideal Bill Belichick depth piece. The 26-year-old has shown plenty of potential, he’s displayed versatility, he can play special teams, and (perhaps most important to Bill) he’s inexpensive at around only $1.7MM combined for the next two years. In fact, the Patriots head coach was willing to provide some rare praise for the youngster.

“He’s still a young player that’s developing and can continue to grow, both in his understanding of our system and the techniques and some of the assignments that come with it,” Belichick said recently (via WEEI). “His versatility leads to probably, I would say, a wider range of assignments than maybe some other players, including in the kicking game, but he does a good job of trying to manage all that and work on all of the things that will help the team.”

So, with all that said, why would the Patriots consider moving on from Winovich? For starters, the team’s depth at linebacker has seen a massive upgrade. Winovich generally spent the 2020 season serving as New England’s second outside linebacker behind John Simon. In the span of an offseason, the team added both Matt Judon and Kyle Van Noy (who’s back after one season in Miami), and Dont’a Hightower is set to return after sitting out the 2020 campaign. Plus, reports out of Patriots camp indicate that 2020 second-rounder Josh Uche is impressing. While Winovich has the versatility to play defensive end, he’ll be hard pressed to earn playing time at linebacker.

Further, while Winovich has put up some solid counting stats, the advanced metrics paint a different picture. The defender proved to be above-average when it comes to pass-rushing and pass-coverage, but he’s struggled mightily when it comes to stopping the run. If that trend continues, Winovich will have a tough time becoming a full-time player. Those run-stopping deficiencies could explain why he’s often found himself in Belichick’s doghouse throughout his two-year career. Winovich was often in and out of the lineup over the past two years, with the player alternating between frequently used starter to little-used backup.

Because of all those aforementioned positives (versatility, upside, affordability), the Patriots would probably be able to find a taker for Winovich if they decide to ultimately move on. Belichick would probably be more than satisfied with recouping part of the team’s initial investment into the player (third-round pick, No. 77 overall). Perhaps a fourth-round pick could get it done, although that’s just speculation on my side.

There’s a chance that Winovich eventually transforms into yet another all-time Patriots great. However, based on the team’s current roster crunch at linebacker, the young player could instead find himself on the way out of New England.

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Trade Candidate: Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue

Yannick Ngakoue wants out of Jacksonville. He’s made that crystal clear at this point, even taking his gripes to social media in a back-and-forth with co-owner Tony Khan. The Jaguars say they’re keeping him – per the terms of his franchise tag – but they did entertain the idea of trading him prior to the draft. Today, the two sides are still locked in the same stalemate. Ngakoue wants out and management says he isn’t going anywhere.

I think his options are very limited at this point in time,” GM Dave Caldwell said recently. “We’ll welcome him back with open arms when he’s ready to come back, and we look forward to it.”

Caldwell also claimed that he did not receive any offers for the 25-year-old edge rusher, but we’re guessing that it’d be more accurate to say that the Jaguars did not receive any offers to their liking. Ngakoue is a young talent at a premium position with a solid track record of production. He’s posted at least eight sacks in each of his four pro seasons, including a career-high 12.5 sacks in 2017. There’s no team that would say no to having Ngakoue on their roster, but every team is skittish about coughing up lots of draft capital and a top-of-the-market deal for him.

So, what’s next? Ngakoue has no interest in signing a long-term deal with the Jaguars and he wants to get his ~$20MM-per-year payday somewhere else. He hasn’t signed his $17.788MM tender and the Jaguars now find themselves in a tricky situation. Will they blink? If the right offer comes along, they probably will.

The Eagles were eyeing Ngakoue earlier this year and it stands to reason that they’d still like to have him. They’ve got the space to take on his tender amount, too, with ~$24MM free in 2020. Just one problem – the Eagles’ books are a bit of a mess in 2021 and they’ll need to roll over a good chunk of today’s space to make the numbers crunch work. With that in mind, the Eagles are much more likely to sign Jadeveon Clowney on a one-year deal instead, though the veteran’s current asking price is too rich for their blood. You can’t rule out an aggressive win-now trade from Howie Roseman, but he’d have to convince Ngakoue to play out his tender in Philly.

The Browns, another reported Clowney suitor, could be better equipped to take on Ngakoue – they’ve got more cap room than anyone else in the league, plus flexibility in 2021. They have players of their own to take care of, too, but it’s at least feasible. What doesn’t seem feasible is a resolution between Ngakoue and the Jaguars. Despite everything Caldwell & Co. have been saying, we’d be surprised if Ngakoue played out the year in Jacksonville.

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Trade Candidate: Cardinals LB Haason Reddick

In early May, the Cardinals declined the fifth-year option on Haason Reddick‘s contract. The linebacker isn’t on their books for 2021, he’s not a big part of their plans for 2020, and he’s almost certainly on the trade block. 

A few years ago, scouts saw Reddick as a versatile prospect with the ability to play multiple spots on the front seven. But, so far, he hasn’t been consistent as an edge rusher or an inside linebacker. Last fall, they gave him a shot to start at ILB. After five weeks, they turned the job over to Joe Walker. Walker left this offseason, but the Cardinals drafted Isaiah Simmons (another versatile, jack-of-all-trades type) and added De’Vondre Campbell and Devon Kennard to the mix, leaving Reddick without a clear role.

After three years, three head coaches, and 7.5 cumulative sacks, Reddick is left with zero job security in Arizona. Last year, he finished out with just six tackles for loss and one sack and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ lowest ranked linebacker out of 63 qualified players. His stock has cooled considerably, but other teams should be willing to take a small gamble on him and his remaining $2.3MM in salary.

The Panthers would be one logical destination for him. New Carolina head coach Matt Rhule coached Reddick at Temple and saw him at his absolute best. Reddick worked his way up across four years on campus and closed out his collegiate career in 2016 with 9.5 sacks as a senior. Thanks in part to Reddick’s performance, Rhule scored new job and bigger bucks with Baylor. The Giants would also make some sense – they’ve yet to re-sign edge rusher Markus Golden and GM Dave Gettleman was supposedly high on Reddick in his draft year.

Reddick has been here before. In 2018, he was rumored to be on the block before the trade deadline, though GM Steve Keim denied shopping him. This time around, we’d wager that Keim is willing to listen.

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Trade Candidate(s): Buccaneers’ O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate

To say that the Buccaneers are stacked at tight end would be a gross understatement. Even before the Bucs reunited Tom Brady with longtime teammate and bro Rob Gronkowski, they had the formidable 1-2 combo of O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Weeks after the draft, the Bucs still have that ludicrously talented TE trio in place. Logically, at least one of them probably has to go…and it obviously won’t be Gronk. 

The Buccaneers listened on trade offers for Brate and Howard towards the end of last month, but they didn’t get any offers to their liking. Publicly, the Bucs said they were okay with having all three TEs on the roster. Then, before the early May deadline, they exercised Howard’s fifth-year option for 2021. This doesn’t automatically mean that Brate is the odd man out, or that they’ll commit a total of ~$20MM to the position. Howard’s option – guaranteed for injury only – doesn’t hamper the Bucs’ ability to trade him. Also, this surplus of TEs would be opulent, even by Brady’s standards.

Howard, ostensibly, holds more trade value than Brate. The Alabama product hasn’t lived up to his first-round billing, but he’s flashed serious ability and uncommon athleticism for a 6’6″ receiver. The Bills saw that first-hand last year, as Howard went off for six catches, 98 yards, and two scores in Buffalo. And, roughly one year earlier against the Eagles, he got nearly as many yards, just with better efficiency – three catches for 96 yards, mostly thanks to a 75-yard connection with Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Teams aren’t sleeping on Brate, either. It’s true that he’ll turn 29 in July (Howard won’t be 26 until November), but he’s a proven playmaker and blocker. Between 2016 and 2017, he averaged 52 catches for 625 yards and seven TDs. After that, the Bucs rewarded him with a six-year, $41MM deal, including $18MM guaranteed. He’s been slowed by a surgically-repaired hip, but he’s more than a year removed from the operating table. It also helps that the Bucs restructured his deal in January. The exact terms of the restructure aren’t clear, but he’s probably on the books for less than the $4.5MM in guaranteed dollars he was slated for.

Howard wouldn’t be especially pricey for other teams, either – his rookie deal calls for a 2020 cap hit of just $3.5MM. The Bucs, meanwhile, would carry a $1.5MM charge for trading him.

The Bucs didn’t find any worthwhile deals for them in April, but interest should pick up between now and September. Even after drafting Cincinnati’s Josiah Deguara in the third round, the Packers could use a high-end TE to pair with Marcedes Lewis. The Bengals may also want to give the Bucs a call as they look to surround Joe Burrow with extra artillery. The list goes on. Depending on the asking price, the Bucs could have a market of 20+ teams for either Howard or Brate.

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Teams Monitoring Dolphins Defensive Ends

Rival teams are keeping an eye on the Dolphins’ defensive end situation, according to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald (on Twitter). With the 53-man roster crunch looming, teams know that Miami will be forced to cut at least a couple of intriguing bookends, Beasley hears, and he wonders aloud if that could make for a trade possibility. Dion Jordan (vertical)

[RELATED: Dolphins Haven’t Ruled Out Reworking Reshad Jones’ Deal]

Of course, Dion Jordan stands as the Dolphins’ most notable reserve defensive end. Reinstated just days ago, the Dolphins got an unpleasant surprise when they learned that Jordan got knee surgery during his time away from football. As the former No. 3 overall pick recovers, Miami has placed him on the NFI list. Jordan is expected to be back on the field within two to three weeks, but there’s no guarantee that the Dolphins will want to carry him on the roster this season. In theory, Jordan could be a release or trade candidate and one has to imagine that there will be teams with interest given his innate talent.

The Dolphins plan on using free agent additions Mario Williams and Andre Branch in the starting defensive end roles. Behind them should be the newly-restructured Cameron Wake and another recent free agent pickup in Jason Jones. After that, Jordan, Chris McCain, Terrence Fede, Jordan Williams, and Julius Warmsley are all fighting for a spot on the team, as shown on Roster Resource.

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Trade Candidate: Michael Roos

As our Luke Adams wrote at the end of May, Titans offensive tackle Michael Roos told Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean that he will be in Tennessee for one more year. As Adams observed, Roos’ statement certainly indicates that an extension is not on the horizon for him, which is not surprising given the four-year deal the team handed out to Michael Oher in free agency and the fact that the team selected Taylor Lewan in the first round of last month’s draft.

Michael Roos

However, whether Roos will, as he says, stay in a Titans uniform for one more season may still be in doubt. Unless someone in the Tennessee front office told Roos that the team planned on keeping him on board, Roos remains a prime candidate to be traded or released. As our Ben Levine pointed out several weeks ago, Roos checked in at number four on NFL.com’s Chris Wesserling’s list of the top 10 players most likely to be traded this summer.

Roos, 31, is entering the final year of a six-year, $43MM deal, and he carries a 2014 salary cap hit of $6.62MM. That salary would make it difficult for Tennessee to deal him, and considering that the team would not take on any dead money by simply cutting Roos, a release is probably more likely than a trade at this point.

It is odd, though, that the team would consider cutting ties with him at all. Although he finished in the middle of the pack among offensive tackles in 2013 according to Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required), he finished as the third-best tackle in 2012 and has anchored the team’s offensive line for years. If nothing else, he provides top-quality depth if Lewan should struggle out of the gate–or if the team wanted to bring Lewan along more slowly–or if Oher should falter (although Roos has not played right tackle since he was a rookie in 2005, it is difficult to believe he would be a downgrade from Oher at that position).

In sum, then, the Titans are in full control of the situation at this point. If they hang onto Roos, they have either a quality starter or an excellent insurance policy. If they need to create come cap space for whatever reason, they can release Roos with no negative cap ramifications. Or, if a team gets desperate enough later on in camp–Wesserling listed the Ravens and Panthers as potential landing spots for Roos if Tennessee were to trade him, and both teams are still unsettled at at least one tackle position–it is possible that the Titans could end up with a late round pick in 2015. A rare win-win-win scenario in today’s NFL.

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Trade Candidate: Brandon Flowers

Days before last month’s draft, reports surfaced indicating that Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers was a trade possibility as Kansas City looked to acquire more picks. Such a deal never occurred, but rumors persist that Flowers is a poor fit for Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s scheme. Flowers wasn’t present for last week’s OTAs, leading many to wonder if he was angling for clarification regarding his role and future with the team.NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Philadelphia Eagles

A trade of Flowers would have to clear several hurdles, first of which would be his play in 2013. Though Flowers, who accrued one interception and 65 tackles in 13 games last season, was selected as a Pro Bowler, advanced metrics show he was anything but — his -5.9 Pro Football Focus grade (subscription required) ranked him as just the 87th-best CB in the league last year. However, PFF rated Flowers as a top-10 corner in both 2011 and 2012, so perhaps the scheme concerns are valid (2013 was Sutton’s first year in Kansas City).

The Chiefs, having gone 11-5 in 2013, are a team in win-now mode, so ridding themselves of a talented player like Flowers might not be the most ideal route. Sans Flowers, Kansas City would be left with Sean Smith and Marcus Cooper as starters, with rookie Phillip Gaines manning the slot — not exactly the most exciting trifecta. Another season learning Sutton’s defense could only help, and with more experience in the system, Flowers might flourish and begin to exhibit his prowess once again.

The final, and most pressing, issue regarding a trade of Flowers is his contract, which is set to pay him base salaries totaling $18MM over the next three seasons. He is also due $4MM in roster bonuses and $500K in workout bonuses during that span. It could be tough to find a team willing to assume that responsibility, especially given Flowers’ lackluster play last year. Additionally, Flowers hasn’t been the most durable player over his career (having played the entire 16-game slate only once, in 2011), so a team probably wouldn’t feel comfortable paying for a player who can’t stay on the field.

For the Chiefs, a trade of Flowers could help alleviate their salary cap situation. Currently sitting at about $3.5MM under the cap, Kansas City could use the money saved by trading Flowers on extensions for quarterback Alex Smith or linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. While Flowers has a pretty good track record, and is still young at 28, the value of freeing up cap room cannot be overstated. While cornerback is certainly a premier position in today’s passing league, the ability to retain Smith is probably more enticing in Kansas City.

Most teams could use another talented corner on their roster, but Flowers’ salary limits his potential destinations. The Jets have the cap room to bring in Flowers, but he probably wouldn’t fit in Rex Ryan’s scheme. Two teams that pop out as fits are the Buccaneers and the Titans, each of whom lost an excellent corner during the offseason (Darrelle Revis and Alterraun Verner, respectively). Both franchises have the financial wherewithal to make such a move, and Flowers would be a welcome addition to either team’s defensive backfield.

Having said that, I still think a trade is unlikely. The salary obligations and Flowers’ subpar 2013 season make him a risky investment. If a trade were to occur, I wouldn’t expect Kansas City to receive more than a fifth-round pick, at the very best.

Data from Over The Cap was used in the creation of this post.

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