There are very few meaningful trades in the NFL every season. Unlike the NHL, the NBA and MLB, NFL teams tend to pretty much ride with the team they had from the start of the season for the entire season. There are exceptions, but they are almost never the ones people saw coming.
There are teams that absolutely should be selling players but will not. Chicago and Cleveland have front offices that need to show as much improvement as they can to have jobs next year. The Bears would not likely have helped a division rival, and frankly are a bad team because they lack assets anyone would want. The team on the opposite end of that spectrum are the 49ers. Their GM and coach just signed five year contracts, and have been actively shopping players since January.
In between are teams where the head coach and general manager are not nearly so tightly tied together. If the Giants start moving out assets that will be the end of this head coach. Ben McAdoo has lost his locker room, but the assembled roster looks half way decent. It would be an appealing landing spot for an incoming coach and that may make the Giants reluctant to make major moves. The Raiders also never expected to be in this situation, but here they are, at the bottom of their very good division. They may be looking to reload on the fly.
The New York Jets were expecting to be in a rebuilding year, and have crashed after their early season surge. The Indianapolis Colts are also just a bad team, and in the first year of their new GM’s tenure. At this point he likely knows who he does and does not want. that makes the list of teams I can see selling off players: The Jets, Colts, Raiders, Giants, Buccaneers, and 49ers. I will also add a few players rumored to be available and a little bit of rampant speculation.
Lions Mid-Season Needs
The Lions need to improve their pass rush on defense. They need to do that from the edge, and up the middle of their defensive line.They could also stand to add a decent coverage linebacker, because that group is just not getting it done in 2017. The former is a long term need that I could see the team spending to take care of, the latter likely the kind of thing they might go after a rental on. Unfortunately there have been few rumors regarding linebackers, and the teams in question don’t have much to offer that makes any sense.
The Lions offense could also use a talent injection to the inside of the offensive line. To be perfectly blunt about it Graham Glasgow and Travis Swanson have been getting bullied week in and week out. Swanson has played better, but Glasgow’s claim to fame is that he is not Laken Tomlinson. That is good, but not good enough. They also need some running back help. The group lacks power, and has far too much reluctance to drop a shoulder and take a two yard gain.
The offense also needs need a receiver. The big guy who handles the physical corners and shows up in the red zone that they have been missing since Megatron retired. Kenny Golladay may be that guy in 2018, but he is not that guy right now and he is not on the field. Alternatively a deep threat who could stretch the field and give the current crop of Lions receivers room to work underneath would also be a good addition. The Lions have tons of cap space in 2018, so they can make moves without being particularly concerned about the long term salary structures of their targets.
Pass Rush Help
A lack of edge rushers that can finish features strongly among the universal reasons that teams struggle. The Browns are the only terrible team with a plethora of pass rushers, but the Lions would likely have to give something up that they’re not willing to lose. Also the current brain trust has somehow managed to make the Browns worse than they were when this group took over. That is Millen like ineptitude. I would make the call and try to pry one CArl Nassib or Emmanuell Ogbah from the Browns clutches, but I don’t see that as a productive conversation.
The best option on the edge is likely the 49ers defensive end Elvis Dumerville. He is 33 years old, but is only half a sack behind Ziggy Ansah on the year. He is under contract for next year as well and could likely be had for a late day three pick, the sort that was used to select Jimmy Landes of Brad Kaaya. Dumerville is strictly a rotational pass rusher, btu he is still a very good one. Mario Edwards would be appealing because he is a 23 year old player already in his third NFL season. He is on pace for a career high, but that is also the reason the Raiders might be reluctant to deal him.
Interior Offensive Linemen
Evan Smith is a free agent next season. He has also been one of the few Buccaneers to have a decent season in 2017. He is by no means a great player. Smith has been a competent starter this season, however, and that would be a step up for the Lions. Some Lions fans may recall Smith. He was the Green Bay Packers lineman who found himself under the shoe of Ndamukong Suh in the 2011 thanksgiving day game. If the Buccaneers are going to move on rom Smith in 2018, getting a day three pick back to help them reload for the future might be an option.
Richie Incognito has not been the subject of any trade rumors. He does fit the profile of the “older veteran players” that the Bills have reportedly been willing to consider unloading. Incognito is of course most famous for having bullied a player out of the league. Having someone with a bit of a nasty streak and the ability to help out the run and passing game wouldn’t be a terrible option.
Running Back Help
Teams generally do not want to part with good running backs. They are perfectly happy to part with fumblers (Jeremy Hill) or unproven veterans (Cameron Artis-Payne) but it takes a special circumstance to bring in someone that could actually help the team. That circumstance exists in San Francisco with Carlos Hyde. Hyde is no stranger to a bad line in front of him, the 49ers are starting former Lions Laken Tomlinson after all. Yet in what is his worst season so far in his career he is still managing four yards per carry. He can do this because his 6′ 230 lb body is capable of a rare blend of speed and power. For those fearing a one-dimensional power back fear not, Hyde is also on pace for 62 catches in 2017. He is a good pass blocker, has good hands coming out of the backfield, and loves to drop his shoulder to pick up an extra yard or two after impact.
The Jets brought in Elijah McGuire to replace Matt Forte eventually. The Lions should make a call to investigate whether that time is now. Forte is not the every-down back that he once was, nor is he a true power back. He is, however, the kind of player that is willing to do whatever is necessary to win a football game. If that means playing a late career Marcus Allen type role for the Lions he will. Forte has more sand in his pants than any of the Lions running backs, with elite vision. He could fill the role if the asking price was reasonable. Whereas Hyde has more long-term potential, Forte would be a stop gap.
T.Y. Hilton is available for a day high mid-round pick according to Mike Florio. Hilton’s salary cap numbers for the next few seasons get a little bit ridiculous. He has recorded four consecutive 1000 yard seasons for the Colts though. Hilton has the 4.37 speed that puts him just a single standard deviation above the Lions fastest receivers. The only knock on Hilton is his size at 5’10” and 178lbs. Despite his size Hilton has been a remarkably durable player. He has missed only two games in his career. Hilton’s salary however is $11 million in 2019, $13 million in 2019, and $14.5 million in 2020.
Martavis Bryant wants out of Pittsburgh. The 6’4″ 215 lb wide receiver was a healthy scratch last night after having been extremely critical of the team on social media. Bryant is a legitimate deep threat in the NFL with his combination of size and 4.42 speed. The Steelers are not in the habit of bowing to the wishes of a player. They are known, however, for getting rid of players before they become problems. Bryant has missed an entire season as part of the NFL’s drug policy. He is a dangerous pick up both as a locker room influence, and as a suspension risk. His upside however is incredible. He is the big bodied red zone threat that could have allowed the Lions to convert even one field goal in to a touchdown last night.
The Lions need to do something, and they need to do it soon. The team is simply not getting the job done. The trade deadline is Tueseday.