NFL Trade Ideas That Should Happen in 2021
Updated: Feb 15, 2021
The 2021 NFL offseason is just weeks away and so the rumour mill is bound to start churning. Today, we take a look at a few NFL trade ideas and attempt to find a new home for disgruntled superstars around the league. Who could become familiar faces in new places as we head into the 2021 NFL offseason?
By James Pike
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As mentioned, it is the time of the year that the dreaded rumour mill starts to churn. Some of them are exactly what it says on the tin. Rumours. While for others; where there is smoke as the saying goes. There isn’t a season that goes by in the NFL where one big name doesn’t take his talents elsewhere, which in turn can shift the balance of power in the league in a heartbeat. Those will be the players that we look at today.
Now for one of the players on this list, you will be well aware of his displeasure at his current situation. As there has been speculation running rampant ever since the final whistle was blown in Week 17. The other names however are my personal choices. Players who I believe deserve a change of scenery, as well as an opportunity to play football for a winning franchise.
So, without any further delay let’s put on our General Manager caps and try and find a new home for some of the league’s biggest names. Starting off with the biggest blockbuster of them all!
Deshaun Watson, Quarterback - Houston Texans
The Trade: Deshaun Watson to the Miami Dolphins for Tua Tagovailoa, 3rd overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and a future 2022 first round pick.
I’m starting the trend here and now. #SaveDeshaunWatson. It is quite frankly an absolute travesty of the highest order that a player the calibre of Deshaun Watson has a career that is being wasted in Houston. For the first four years of Watson’s career, he has been a member of the Houston Texans, and at first it looked as though things were going perfectly.
A franchise quarterback on an established team with a great defense and weapons on the offensive side of the ball. What more could you have asked for?
Even a season ending knee injury in his rookie year couldn’t slow down the former Clemson Tiger as he bounced back the following year leading his team to 11 wins and a playoff berth. In 2019 the Texans were a force once again and Watson led his team to the postseason once more and even held a 24-0 lead over the eventual champions the Kansas City Chiefs after the first quarter in the divisional round. That is the precise moment where everything started to go wrong for Watson, as Patrick Mahomes and co mercilessly tore the Texans apart to the tune of 51 points while the Texans scored a miserly seven more for the remainder of the game.
It is this game which was the real turning point of the franchise’s fortunes, and in turn, the turning point of Watson’s frustrations. The now infamously bad trade followed which saw star receiver DeAndre Hopkins fly off to Arizona in quite possibly one of the biggest daylight robberies in recent memory. The Texans got David Johnson in return who to his credit looked decent this past season, but apart from that we all know who won that deal. Then came the 2020 season itself, and despite Watson putting up MVP type of numbers the team hobbled to a 4-12 record as one of the worst teams in the entire NFL.
This wouldn’t be too bad, as this is an American sport after all. Being bad one year means you get the chance to pick a great young player for the next. Not the Houston Texans, as another comically one-sided trade back in 2019 saw Houston ship over two future first round picks to the Miami Dolphins for Laremy Tunstil and Kenny Stills. The Texans gave up a boat load of future draft capital for what amounts to two role players. Ouch!! Surely things can’t get much worse for the Texans can they?
Well; if rumours are to be believed they most certainly can. Recent reports suggest that Deshaun Watson is upset by the fact that he wasn’t included in the decision-making process of finding a new General Manager and Head Coach for the team. If giving away all your assets for a bag of peanuts wasn’t enough to upset your best player, then not showing him that you value his input will. It’s as though Houston is actively trying to alienate a franchise quarterback who hasn’t even reached his prime.
Something has to give here. Either the Houston Texans has to fix all the internal problems which have plagued this franchise for years, or Deshaun Watson has to go. And I believe it may already be too late to mend the fences between the Texans and Number 4. Watson needs a change of scenery, and ironically enough, it is the team who was involved in the trade that started the Texans downfall which could be exactly what Watson needs.
The Miami Dolphins are one of the hottest destinations for any player in the league right now, and it’s not just because of the warm weather. Miami have spent the past two seasons building a future juggernaut in the AFC East. This past season things started to take shape for Miami as they went from being the Patriots whipping boys to a potential playoff team. The Fins won 10 games this past season, furthermore Miami will be picking 3rd overall in the NFL Draft come April (courtesy of the Texans) with around $25million in cap space entering the off season. If any team in the AFC has a chance to solidify themselves as a contender for years to come, it's the Dolphins.
So why have I chosen Miami as the team who lands the three-time Pro Bowler? There are multiple reasons as to why Miami would be the perfect trade partner for the Texans. Firstly: Houston would get it’s 2021 draft pick back. Picking at number three in the draft gives the Texans a chance at starting over. They can go out and grab themselves a playmaker who will help turn their fortunes around. Adding another first round pick in 2022 would also help the Texans kick start their rebuild in the post Watson era.
Another key factor as to why Miami would be at the top of the list of potential trade partners for Houston is their quarterback. Tua Tagovailoa is one of the best young QB prospects in the league today, moreover he already has experience playing at the NFL level which would give him a huge edge over any quarterback coming out of college this year. Tua was able to flash some of his considerable talent throughout his debut campaign in Miami, which should give the Texans plenty of incentive to make him the deal breaker in any negotiations. Anything else is a bonus; Tua is the main prize of this trade.
Finally, it would be an absolutely fantastic fit not just for the Dolphins, but for Watson as well. Miami’s current roster is built like a contender. They have an outstanding defense as well as various players on the offensive side of the ball who could make an impact during the course of a game. The only thing holding Miami back from true contention last year was their play at the league’s most important position. Deshaun Watson would provide the team with a significant upgrade. Ask for the fit for Watson? It’s almost perfect.
Everyone knows that Miami is a tax haven for professional athletes in America, as if you didn’t know by now, Florida is an income tax free state. Meaning that players can earn more money in Florida than they could in another state, such as California or New York. Then there is the tropical climate which is attractive to just about anyone, and finally there are the opportunities that generally come around more in marquee markets. There would surely be more endorsement deals waiting for Watson if he were to “pull a Lebron” and take his talents to South Beach.
On paper this trade makes sense for everyone involved. It gives the Texans the chance at a clean slate. Except that things just didn’t work out and that it is time to move on. For Miami they get a quarterback who is more in line with this group’s timeline and the opportunity to compete for a championship next season.
If their Week 17 showing against the Buffalo Bills proved anything, it’s that the Fins are nowhere near ready to challenge them for divisional supremacy. The NFL is an arms race at the end of the day, and if you aren’t moving forwards then you are moving backwards. By acquiring Watson, Miami could complete the rebuild and establish themselves as a powerhouse for years to come.
Matthew Stafford, Quarterback - Detroit Lions
The Trade: Matthew Stafford to the New England Patriots for the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and a 2nd round pick.
This one is a stretch, and yes there is a little bit of bias from my point of view, but exonerating Matthew Stafford from his career sentence with the Detroit Lions is something fans across the league have been clamouring for years.
Stafford deserves the chance to play for a competent franchise before he hangs up his cleats, and what better franchise than the most successful one of the past two decades. The New England Patriots were bad in 2020. Cam Newton simply wasn’t the player he once was, moreover the entire team just felt off this season. Nothing seemed to go right for the Patriots right from the very start.
Although this was probably music to the ears of fans around the league who were fed up with New England domination, for the fans of the team it was like living in hell. Don’t get me wrong, there were positives. Despite losing a whole host of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball due to COVID opt outs, free agency and injuries, the Pats were able to field a pretty formidable defense. On their day they were capable of shutting down any offense they found themselves up against. They gave the team an opportunity to win games, and in the past when they had TB12 under center that was usually enough.
Not this season.
The Cam Newton led offense was a disaster. Granted he unlocked a whole new dimension to New England’s running game, but he was simply awful at moving the ball through the air. All the zip on his throws he once had in his days with the Panthers was gone, furthermore even if Newton’s throws were on target the weapons he had available to throw to weren’t exactly game changers either. Jakobi Meyers led the team with just 729 yards last year, while Damiere Byrd and James White finished in the silver and bronze medal positions with a combined 979 yards between them. That is simply not good enough. Losing Julien Edelman early in the season didn’t help, but all in all the Patriots passing attack was dreadful in 2020.
So why would Matthew Stafford want to go to New England? If the biggest issue with the Patriots was that they couldn’t move the ball, why would Stafford go from throwing the ball to Kenny Golladay, Mavin Jones and TJ Hockensen to Jakobi Meyers and James White? Well, he might not have to. New England will enter the NFL offseason with a ridiculous amount of cap space. They could create even more by trimming the fat on their roster to free up even more spending power in the offseason, and frankly I think they absolutely should. The franchise finds itself in a position it hasn’t been in since the Brady-Belichick era began. Having to make moves to stay relevant.
By creating as much cap space as possible going into the 2021 NFL season, New England could realistically find room to absorb Stafford’s cap hit (roughly around $21million) for next season, as well as having enough room to make another splash in the free agency market and acquire more high end talent. Giving Stafford as many weapons as possible would be the only way to convince him that New England is the place to be. Luckily for the Patriots there will be no shortage of difference makers available this off season.
Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay, Chris Godwin, Juju Smith-Schuster, T.Y Hilton, AJ Green, Will Fuller and a whole host of premier pass catchers are set to hit the open market in Spring, which means the Patriots have an opportunity to improve their receiving corps instantly this off season.
It is usually against New England’s philosophy to make big splashes in free agency, however as previously mentioned if this team is to become a contender once more they have to make moves. They have made moves in the offseason in previous years, which resulted in instant success. Everyone remembers the offseason of 2007 when the Patriots acquired Randy Moss and Wes Welker, resulting in the first undefeated regular season in the 16-game era.
I’m not suggesting that if the Pats were to nab both Stafford and one or two of the top receivers on the market they would emulate that team, but it would certainly give them a much better chance of establishing their dominance of the AFC East once more.
Adding a player the calibre of Matthew Stafford at quarterback would obviously improve the Patriots going into the 2021 season, but what’s in it for the Lions? Well for starters they get more draft capital. Adding the 15th overall pick as well as already having the 7th overall pick means that Detroit will have two picks in the top half of the first round. They could use both of these picks to acquire talent and add depth to a roster that absolutely needs it.
Or they could use the 7th pick along with the 2nd rounder they acquired in the Patriots trade to move ahead of their rivals and grab one of the premier quarterback prospects in the draft. Who knows what the Jets have planned at 2nd overall, as many have predicted that the Jets could potentially trade down adding more assets to their treasure chest.
The Falcons, Bengals or even Miami could potentially be persuaded to move back if the Lions throw enough sweeteners in a potential trade deal meaning they could get their quarterback of the future. In that scenario they will also have the 15th overall pick to fall back on to add another player at a position of need.
For the Lions, something has to give. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is a sign of insanity, and this organisation has been doing the same thing over and over for decades now. Maybe it is time for a complete overhaul once again. Losing Stafford would hurt there is absolutely no question about that, however it might be a necessary one. With Aaron Rodgers showing no signs of slowing down, the Bears having a commanding defense and the Minnesota Vikings still being competitive the Lions aren’t going to be climbing to the top of the NFC North anytime soon.
Detroit would improve their chances at a brighter future and give themselves two opportunities in the first round to find a difference maker for their franchise. New England would acquire a franchise quarterback in his prime and once again put themselves in a position to contend in the AFC once more. It isn’t as much of a win-win trade that the aforementioned Watson/Dolphins trade would be, but it would give the Lions some hope going into the future.
Julio Jones, Wide Receiver - Atlanta Falcons
The Trade: Julio Jones to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2021 2nd and 5th round pick.
Just a couple of seasons ago, the Atlanta Falcons were the most explosive team in all of football. They blew away all who stood before them with a potent passing offence all built around two men. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Jones had one of the most dominant seasons of any wide receiver in NFL history during the 2016 season, where he showcased his breathtaking speed and athleticism on a weekly basis. He had almost reached Megatron levels of game breaking ability, as he often found himself being double or even triple teamed on the outside. It simply didn’t matter: you knew that Ryan and Julio were going to get theirs regardless of the opposition they were facing.
Fast forward four years later, and well, not much has changed. Whenever Jones is healthy Matt Ryan plays like an elite quarterback. Putting up ridiculous stat lines which would make regular season Peyton Manning proud. Julio Jones is still one of the best wide receivers in the league despite being in his 30s and is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses to have to deal with. The major change in this time? The Falcons are no longer a good football team.
Catching a 40, 50 or even 60-yard bomb for a touchdown has less meaning when your team trails by 21 with three minutes left on the clock. It’s harder to motivate yourself to return from injuries when your team boasts a 3-10 record and are no longer in playoff contention. It’s harder to get excited about the upcoming season when your team is in salary cap hell with no realistic way of making things better. That is the situation that Julio Jones finds himself in with this current version of the Atlanta Falcons. It is a bleak reality for a player who was once well on his way to a Superbowl MVP award before the Falcons blew a 24-point lead (sorry Falcons fans. I couldn’t resist!).
So, what now for Jones? Does he decide to stick it out with Atlanta hoping that new management and a new head coach can turn things around? Does he hope that Matt Ryan can continue his elite play as he heads into his late 30s? Is the emergence of Calvin Ridley enough to alleviate the pressure on him and open up the passing attack even further? In my opinion: absolutely not.
Julio Jones is simply too good to waste his final prime years on a Falcons team who are years away from contention once more. If Julio truly wants to play for a contender, then the time is now to ask for a trade away from Atlanta and find a new home for the 2021 season.
Where might he go you ask? As there aren’t many true contenders with the cap space to facilitate a Julio Jones trade out there. They most certainly don’t grow on trees, but one of those teams does exist, and the one thing that could take them to the next level just so happens to be an elite wide receiver.
The Indianapolis Colts are a team who recently made it to the playoffs. Not only that, but they gave the high-flying Buffalo Bills all they could handle on wildcard weekend in a game that came down to the wire. The Colts had a chance to win the game on the final drive, but they lacked a definitive weapon to throw the ball to when the game was on the line. Adding a player like Julio Jones who has made a career of making a spectacular catch or two would have given the Colts a much better chance in that game, as well as throughout the regular season.
Now this trade just became a whole lot more unlikely earlier this week when Colts quarterback Phillip Rivers decided to call it a career after 17 seasons, but who's to say what will happen during the 2021 off season? There will be quarterbacks on the market, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton or even a player on their current roster Jacoby Brissett could show drastic improvement after a year of study behind Rivers.
The Colts will always have Brissett to fall back on if they don’t manage to find a better option at quarterback. It’s not the situation at quarterback that Jones should be interested in with the Colts however, it is the roster around them that is the selling point for the Colts.
Indianapolis have built arguably the best defense in the entire league. This unit can keep the Colts in games against almost any competition, but the positives don’t end there. The Colts also have one of the best offensive lines in all of football, and enough complementary pieces on offense to help relieve the pressure off of Jones if he were traded to the Colts. TY Hilton would be one hell of a number two receiver, and Michael Pittman showed flashes of his potential during his rookie season for Indianapolis. Not to mention fellow rookie Jonathan Taylor who was one of just four running backs to top 1,000 yards on the ground in 2020.
The short answer as to why the Colts would be a great option for Julio Jones is this: The Colts are absolutely stacked. If they can work their magic once again this offseason and acquire a quarterback better than Brissett to lead the offense, then Indy might be an even more enticing prospect for Jones to consider this Spring.
For the Falcons, a 2nd and 5th round pick would feel like little consolation for a player who has become the greatest receiver in franchise history, however it is the price you have to pay to get better in the long run. That 2nd or 5th round pick might develop into a contributor moving forward, furthermore this Falcons organisation needs all the help it can get when it comes to finding talent to add to its roster. Eating Jones’ approximate $23 million cap hit would hurt, and the team would be much worse without Julio than they would be with him. However, the Falcons are going to be bad in 2021 regardless.
They simply lack the salary cap flexibility to drastically improve their roster regardless of whether they keep Jones or not this Spring. In my opinion it makes sense to cash in on their superstar receiver now while he still has value. If Jones was to have another injury prone season in 2021, his value won’t go any higher, especially considering the fact that he will be 33 years old by the time the 2022 offseason rolls around. It will be an incredibly bitter pill to swallow to trade Jones away, but maybe a necessary one for the Falcons to make if they are to build this team up for the future.