Trade Candidate

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)

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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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