The NFL’s trade deadline is just two weeks away. Over the past few seasons, action has started to pick up around the deadline to make a once boring period of time more exciting. Recently teams have also moved to make some deals in the weeks leading up to the deadline in order to maximize the impact a player can have for his new team. That could especially be the case this season as teams would want to get the players in the building and through COVID protocols as soon as possible.
As the deadline approaches, there will be a number of names floated around as trade targets. While most of them will still not be moved, here are a few moves we would like to see.
Evan Engram to the Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals offense has bounced back a bit from a concerning early season stretch, but even the blowout of the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night didn’t come from a consistent passing game. The Cardinals run the second-highest rate of 12 personnel (30%) behind the Philadelphia Eagles but there’s only so much that can be added to a passing game when Dan Arnold and Darrell Daniels as the two tight ends on the field. The two have combined for just 18 targets.
Enter Engram, who could fit perfectly into Kliff Kigsbury’s spread scheme. With the athleticism of Engram, Arizona’s 12 personnel can function as 11 personnel and 11 can function as 10. Despite being a slot/downfield threat at Ole Miss, Engram has been saddled by being asked to stay close to the line of scrimmage. This year, Engram has the second-lowest average depth of target among any tight end or wide receiver with at least 18 targets per NFL Next Gen Stats.
It’s not just that Engram’s targets have been short this season, but they haven’t even been over the middle of the field where he could potentially run after the catch.
For the Cardinals, Engram could be unleashed down the field, which would be a win for both the player and a team that has lacked a consistent seam threat in the offense. The option up the middle is something Arizona has yet to have in the Kingsbury offense and would create a matchup problem for opposing defenses, especially with Engram lined up as the inside receiver in Arizona’s 3×1 sets with DeAndre Hopkins isolated on the opposite side.
Engram, who just turned 26 years old in September, can be more than a one-year rental with his fifth-year option on the books in 2021 for a manageable $6 million, per Over The Cap.
Bonus: Arizona could also ask about former Cardinal Markus Golden who has been buried on the bench even after the Giants used the unrestricted free agent tag to bring the pass rusher back on a one-year deal.
Myles Jack to the Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have the league’s most devastating pass rush early in the season. Per Sports Info Solutions, Pittsburgh has a league-leading 61.4% pressure rate while the next highest team sits at 49.6%. But that pressure hasn’t fully lived up to its potential because the coverage on the backend has not been on the same level.
There’s an even bigger hole in the middle of the defense now with Devin Bush out for the season. Bush had been solid in coverage and an effective blitzer, two areas the Steelers will now need to fill. Vince Williams isn’t reliable in coverage and filling in for Bush is a big ask for backup Robert Spillane.
After a disappointing season in 2019, Myles Jack has looked like one of the league’s best linebackers in 2020. He’s been all over the field and returned to serving as a plus in coverage. Tightening up the short middle of the field could help and open up players like Minkah Fitzpatrick in the secondary.
This season Jack has combined some great awareness with his athleticism that has allowed him to thrive. Against the Tennessee Titans, he took a pass rush snap that turned into a broken up screen on a third-and-8.
Jack hasn’t been as effective a blitzer as Bush was this season, but Jack also rushed the passer at a higher rate (11.3%) than Bush (7.3%). It’s possible lowering Jack’s blitz rate while surrounding him with Pittsburgh’s edge rushers could increase his pressure rate.
This could serve as either a short- or long-term move for the Steelers. Jack just turned 25 years old and still has three years left on a four-year extension he signed with the Jaguars in 2019. His cap hits for the next three seasons stand at $12.15 million, $13.15 million, and $13.9 million, which would be among the highest hits for an off-ball linebacker, per Over The Cap. However, there is no guaranteed money remaining on the deal starting in 2021.
Jacksonville is rebuilding its defense and while Jack is a young piece to build around, the Jaguars spent a lot of money on Joe Schobert to also play at linebacker and any draft capital received from Jack could be too good to pass up.
Ryan Fitzpatrick to the Dallas Cowboys
With Tua Tagovailoa now the starter for the Miami Dolphins, Fitzpatrick serves as an overqualified backup. Per SIS, Fitzpatrick ranks 16th in EPA among 30 quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts and surprisingly ranks fourth among that group in the rate of attempts that produce positive EPA.
The Dolphins are likely to hold onto Fitzpatrick, but he could be an upgrade for a few teams, especially the Cowboys. When Andy Dalton was signed to backup Dak Prescott, the idea was Dalton was an ideal player to be put in a positive situation with a great supporting cast. While the receivers are still among the league’s best, the Dallas offensive line has been torn apart by injuries and that’s where Dalton truly struggles.
During the start of 2020, Fitzpatrick was able to work around an offensive line that had some struggles in pass protection. Miami’s line ranks just 30th in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate through Week 6. Fitzpatrick worked around that with a quick delivery, averaging 2.4 seconds to throw, the third-fastest rate in the league per Next Gen Stats. Fitzpatrick also managed to have a near league-average aDOT (7.9) and average depth of completion (6.3) will still getting the ball out quickly. On Monday night, Dalton held the ball longer than Fitzpatrick (2.57) had on the season and threw passes significantly shorter (5.7-yard aDOT and 3.2-yard average depth of completion).
Dalton was the ideal replacement for what the Cowboys were supposed to be but Fitzpatrick is a better fit for what the Cowboys currently are.
Jamison Crowder to the Green Bay Packers
A lot was made of the Packers’ decision to not add a wide receiver during the 2020 offseason. That didn’t seem to be an issue over the first few weeks of the season when Green Bay had one of the most explosive and efficient offenses in the league.
The way in which the Packers offense was out of sync this past week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is not likely to be repeated but it did show some flaws. Green Bay had been hit with some injuries at receiver and that showed up against the Buccaneers. Green Bay was also without Tyler Ervin who has been an important part of a successful 21 personnel package, especially on jet motion in Matt LeFleur’s offensive system. If the loss of Tyler Ervin is a big blow to the offense, it’s ok to admit an upgrade could be useful.
Crowder could serve all of these roles. He’s been one of the most productive slot receivers in the league and he’s carried a Jets passing offense that has not had another credible threat on the field with him. He’s been strictly a slot option but that is a place where the Packers could use some help.
Aaron Rodgers has been effective throwing to receivers in the slot this season, but much of that comes from a team-leading 17 targets to Davante Adams. Crowder in the slot does not clog up the slot for Adams and Crowder’s ability to work the short area of the field can be even better as an outlet for Rodgers when the deep shot isn’t there. Part of Rodgers’s early season success came from throwing passes between 1-10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage in the rhythm of the offense.
Currently, Crowder has more yards after the catch (194) than he does air yards (183) on his receptions. The short-middle is a place where the Packers could use some more efficiency.
It’s also likely LaFleur and the Packers could use Crowder in a more creative way than Adam Gase has in New York. He could serve as the jet player, in a Cooper Kupp-type slot role, or bounce around to the backfield with a split-back look the Packers have also used well this season.