Even though the draft has passed, the NFL offseason could see a few blockbuster moves before the start of the regular season. One major event that is coming up this offseason is the June 1 deadline. After June 1 NFL teams are allowed to spread out the salary cap hit of a player that is traded or released over the course of a couple of seasons. This allows teams to trade or release players with large contracts that appear impossible to get out of.
After the draft, there are a few big-name players who could get moved before training camp. There are a couple of disgruntled stars with large contracts who would like to be moved. The league also has some talented younger players in need of a fresh start and some veterans who have been replaced by younger players. Here are those players that could be on new teams by the start of the 2021-22 NFL season.
Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback
The player that will dominate headlines this summer is Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. On the day of the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke the news that last season’s MVP does not want to return to Green Bay and would like to be traded. He later revealed details that Rodgers has felt this way the entire offseason and that high-ranking officials in the organization have been flying out to Rodgers and trying to convince him to want to come back. Rodgers’ displeasure with the organization seemingly started when the team drafted former Utah State Jordan Love to replace him during the 2020 NFL Draft.
A report came out on draft night that the San Fransisco 49ers reached out to Green Bay about potentially trading for the quarterback, but apparently talks didn’t get very far. Shortly after that news broke, the three teams that Rodgers would like to play for were revealed. Rodgers is interested in playing for the San Fransisco 49ers, Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders. After selecting Trey Lance third overall, the 49ers are more than likely out of the Rodgers sweepstakes. Denver is the most interesting landing spot over Las Vegas because they appear to be a quarterback away from being a contender in the AFC. If Rodgers is added to that roster, Denver arguably becomes a top-three in the AFC and a Super Bowl contender.
Due to Rodgers’ dead cap hit in 2021-22, it is unlikely that he is moved. However, he may get moved if he decides to hold out and not go to training camp. The start of training camp is way after the June 1 deadline. So if the Packers needed to move Rodgers they can the remaining guarantees on his contract over the course of a couple of seasons. It would likely take a haul including multiple first-round picks and potentially a starter or two to land Rodgers in a trade.
Potential Destinations: Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Las Vegas Raiders
Gardner Minshew, Quarterback
If not for the drama surrounding Rodgers the best quarterback available via trade would be Jacksonville Jaguars starter from a season ago Gardner Minshew. Jacksonville selected Minshew in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft and he well-exceeded expectations. After Nick Foles broke his collarbone in Week 1, Minshew became the starter and played well enough to retain the starting role the following season and allow the Jaguars to trade Foles to Chicago. Minshew started nine of the Jaguars’ sixteen games last season including their only victory in Week 1.
After drafting Trevor Lawerence first overall, the Jaguars are likely to slot Minshew in as the team’s backup. But the Jaguars also signed former 49ers backup C.J. Beathard to a two-year, $5 million deal with $2.75 million guaranteed. So it is safe to say that the new Jaguars brass may have other plans for who will be behind Lawerence on the depth chart. Last year’s sixth-round pick Jake Luton is a capable third quarterback on the roster making Minshew expendable.
Minshew should be a player targeted by teams looking to upgrade their backup quarterback position. It seems unlikely that Minshew would be able to land in a situation where he can compete to be the Week 1 starter. However, his 21 career starts, and the development he has shown as a quarterback to this point in his career could make him a high-end backup. Minshew is entering the third year of his extremely cheap rookie contract which is very affordable over the next two seasons. It shouldn’t cost more than a fifth-round pick to acquire Minshew which would be a positive value for the Jaguars considering they drafted him in the sixth round.
Potential Destinations: Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets
Julio Jones, Wide Receiver
At this point, it is no secret that both the Atlanta Falcons and Julio Jones would like a trade to get done involving the former All-Pro receiver. It seems like ever since the conclusion of the 2021 NFL Draft that Jones is closer to getting traded by the day. After selecting Flordia tight end Kyle Pitts in the first round, Atlanta now has the flexibility to move on from Jones and will still have at least two dynamic Pro Bowl-caliber pass catchers on their roster. It seems puzzling for Atlanta to select a win-now player like Pitts over Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields when trading Jones is in their plans. But it makes sense from a financial standpoint. The Falcons will free up over $15 million in cap space this season and will free themselves up to bring in free agents next offseason with the space made from getting out of Jones’ deal three years early.
On Monday major events took place that could accelerate a deal happening. Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe called Jones on his talk show on Fox Sports, Undisputed. During that phone call, he said “I’m out of there.” when asked whether he wanted to continue playing in Atlanta or not. Then when Sharpe asked where he wanted to go he responded with, ” I wanna win.” Then a little later that day NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted that Jones put in a trade request “a few months ago” and that the team is willing to listen to offers to move him.
Since this rumor started picking up steam multiple teams have been reportedly interested in trading for Jones. Even though Jones may still be considered one of the best wideouts in the game, he likely won’t be traded for more than a second-round pick. According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the team that would trade for Jones would be acquiring a 32-year-old receiver on a three-year $38.326 million deal. His $15.3 million for the 2021-22 season is guaranteed, but only $2 million is guaranteed the following season. So there is a chance a team could only be getting Jones for only one season depending on his performance and their salary cap situation. If a team cannot afford Jones’s salary this season they could extend him and his salary but risk having to hold onto Jones and his salary for the next couple of seasons.
Potential Destinations: Tennesee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, San Fransisco 49ers, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens
Jamison Crowder, Wide Receiver
After this offseason Jets’ wide receiver Jamison Crowder has gone from the team’s number one receiver to potentially on the trading block. Not only did they sign Corey Davis to a somewhat large deal, but they also drafted Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore who is the second wide receiver the Jets have selected in the second round in two seasons. The Moore selection is what really made Crowder a potential trade candidate because he is projected to play primarily in the slot for the Jets which is where Crowder lines up a majority of the time.
Second overall pick quarterback Zach Wilson has already publicly shown that he is building a relationship with Moore. By removing Crowder from the equation the Jets would allow Moore to have a full-time role on his offense. A full-time role on the Jets offense for Moore would accelerate his development and relationship with Wilson.
Even if the Jets wanted to run multiple plays four-receiver sets often on offense they have enough talent in their receiving group to line up in that formation without Crowder. An underrated signing the Jets made this offseason was former Jaguars receiver Keelan Cole to a one-year, $5.5 million deal. During his time in Jacksonville, Cole was a reliable option from the slot during his tenure in Jacksonville. He is more than capable of being the Jets’ fourth wide receiver on the depth chart and a great veteran presence for their rookie quarterback.
Also by trading Crowder the Jets would clear over $10 million in cap space. He is set to hit free agency next season and appears to not be in New York’s long-term plans. Depending on how desperate the team is at receiver the Jets could get between a third and sixth-round pick back as compensation.
Potential Destinations: Tennesee Titans, Green Bay Packers, Detriot Lions, New Orleans Saints
Zach Ertz, Tight End
At the end of the 2020-21 NFL season, it seemed like a sure thing that the Eagles’ were going to move on from former All-Pro tight end Zach Ertz. He was almost certain he had played his last snap in Philadelphia that he got emotional after his final home game at Lincoln Financial Field. But at this point of the season, Ertz is still on the roster. After the emergence of tight end Dallas Goedert as a legitimate starting tight end, the Eagles feel that it could be best to move away from the veteran. The team is trying to get younger and less expensive.
Ertz can still be capable of being a first or second option in an offense when healthy. He is only one season removed from a Pro Bowl-caliber 900+ yard receiving season. What has held the Eagles out from moving Ertz at this point has been compensation. Philadelphia believes that may be able to receive a middle-round selection for him. But at this point, the Eagles would likely get a day three selection in a deal involving the veteran tight end.
Potential Destinations: Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals, Tennesee Titans
Brandon Brooks, Interior Offensive Lineman
Another Eagles veteran who could be moved this offseason is interior offensive lineman Brandon Brooks. Last offseason, the at the time 32-year-old former Pro Bowler tore his Achillies way before training camp and missed the entire 2020-2021 regular season. Philadelphia dealt with a depleted offensive line all season facing injury issues at four of the five offensive line positions last year.
Weeks before the 2021 NFL Draft the Eagles considered trading Brooks. Then with the 37th overall pick in the second round, Philadelphia selected Alabama center Landon Dickerson. At first, some thought Dickerson was the potential replacement for solid starting left guard Issac Seumalo or former All-Pro center Jason Kelce. But Dickerson’s position versatility points that he is more likely to replace Brooks over the previous two mentioned. Seumalo and Kelce have been two of the more consistent pieces along the Eagles offensive line, it would be foolish for them to consider moving on from them in the near future.
A potential Brooks deal would not make much sense before June 1. The Eagles would have to take on a $14.6 million deal cap hit if they moved Brooks before that date. But if Philadelphia waits till after that date, Brooks would only account for just over $1 million in cap next season and the team could stretch out his remaining guarantees over the next couple of seasons.
Trading for Brooks is a risky deal considering the financial implications. After this season Brooks has three more remaining years left on his deal where he is paid like an elite caliber interior offensive lineman. If Brooks could return to his form from the season prior he would be well worth the money. But if Brooks shows that he cannot return to 100% after that serious of an injury at that age he would be a prime cut candidate at the end of next season. It is hard to imagine a team giving up more than a sixth-round pick to acquire Brooks due to his age and remaining contract.
Potential Destinations: Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Interior Offensive Lineman
Following the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl loss this past season it was clear that the Chiefs needed to upgrade their offensive line. After losing Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher to season-ending injuries the Chiefs offensive line was exposed as a bellow average unit during the playoffs. So the Chiefs let go of Schwartz and Fisher and completely gutted their offensive line. After all the moves made along their offensive line, the Chiefs may be able to afford to move off of one of their best interior offensive lineman, Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff.
The Kansas City Chiefs got a steal when they selected Duvernay-Tardif in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. They got themselves a borderline Pro Bowl-caliber player who has been an extremely solid starter for them the last couple of seasons.
Besides making the blockbuster deal for two-time Pro Bowler Orlando Brown Jr., the Chiefs’ largest addition to their offensive line was adding former New England Patriot and All-Pro Joe Thuney to hold down the left guard position. The Chiefs also re-signed right tackle Mike Remmers this offseason and added a couple more players on the interior. The interior offensive linemen Kansas City added this offseason include former Ram Austin Blythe, second-round pick Creed Humphrey out of Oklahoma, sixth-round pick Trey Smith out of Tennesee and former Chicago Bear Kyle Long.
Each of the interior lineman that Kansas City has added this offseason have experience or are capable of playing Duvernay-Tardif’s position at right guard. The one player who can very well take Duvernay-Tardif’s job is Long. During his time in Chicago Long was an All-Pro caliber right guard when healthy. But due to health concerns Long retired early in 2019. He is expected to compete for both the right guard and right tackle positions and could land one of those jobs if he is healthy.
It seems unlikely that the Chiefs would move on from Remmers after signing him to a 1 year $3.3 million contract this offseason that is almost guaranteed. But there is uncertainty about Duvernay-Tardif’s status on the team after he opted out of playing last season to help out in his home country of Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chiefs wouldn’t add a lot of cap space from trading Duvernay-Tardif, but they need all the available space they could get to keep this team intact while Mahomes’ massive contract is on the books. Kansas City will need to lock up key free agents like Tyrann Mathieu and Orlando Brown Jr. next season.
A team trading for Duvernay-Tardif would land a solid veteran who can fill a final void on and complete an offensive line. It would be hard to imagine a team giving up anything more than a day three selection in a deal for Duvernay-Tardiff.
Potential Destinations: Detriot Lions, New York Giants
Jordan Hicks, Inside Linebacker
One player whose name has appeared in trade rumors after the 2021 NFL Draft was Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Jordan Hicks. Even though Hicks was a captain this past season and overall a solid veteran over the last two seasons Arizona drafted his replacement in the first round of the draft. Former Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins is expected to become one of the teams starting inside linebackers pairing with their 2020 first-round pick Isaiah Simmons. Following the draft, Arizona has given Hicks permission to pursue a trade elsewhere.
During his first few seasons in Philadelphia, Hicks was a major playmaker for their defense who made key plays and forced turnovers during game-changing moments. As a part of the Cardinals, Hicks still has been a turnover threat but has had over 100 tackles in each of the past two seasons. He was third in the league in tackles during the 2019-20 season with 149 then followed it up with a 118 tackle season this past year.
A team trading for Hicks may not give up more than a day three pick in the deal but could get an impact player who could be a boost to what they already have in place on their defense.
Potential Destinations: Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens
Leighton Vander-Esch, Inside/Outside Linebacker
One of the most talented players that could float around trade rumors that no one is talking about is Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander-Esch. Last season the Dallas Cowboys got atrocious play from their linebackers despite being loaded at the position from a talent standpoint. Jaylon Smith struggled all season transitioning to Mike Nolan’s defense, Sean Lee hasn’t been the player he was at his prime for a couple of seasons and Vander-Esch missed six games due to injury.
This offseaso,n Dallas invested a decent amount of assets into the linebacker position. After Lee retired, Dallas reunited Keanu Neal with his former head coach in Atlanta and Dallas’ new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Neal signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the Cowboys. During Neal’s time in Atlanta, he lined up at strong safety but is transitioning to weakside linebacker this season. Then in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Dallas selected Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons. Then with their fourth-round selection, the Cowboys selected LSU linebacker Jabril Cox who many viewed as a day two prospect.
Parsons told the media that he expects to play Mike (middle) linebacker. Which is where Vander-Esch lines up. Shortly after the draft, Dallas declined the 2018 first-round picks fifth-year option. It appears that the plan for Dallas is to replace Vander-Esch with Parsons and the reasoning behind it is Vander-Esch’s availability. After a stellar rookie season where he had 140 tackles and was voted to the Pro Bowl, he has only played 19 games over the last two seasons due to major injuries.
For the last decade, Dallas’s defense has hinged on the availability of Lee. When Lee was on the field Dallas’s defense played at its best, but at times when Lee was hurt and unavailable they have put up historically bad numbers. The Cowboys appear to have made the decision that they do not want to hitch their wagon to another elite linebacker that is a major gamechanger on defense that cannot be relied upon to consistently be available for them. When healthy Vander-Esch is a top-10 linebacker in football. But for Dallas, it doesn’t appear worth it to make him a centerpiece of their defense.
There are those who feel Dallas may redshirt Parsons and go into the season with Smith, Vander-Esch and Neal as their starting linebackers. But it wouldn’t make much sense for Dallas to bench a player for the second year in a row since he sat out last season at Penn State to get ready for the NFL Draft and because he is supposed to be the gamechanger that keeps this defense from being mediocre. It makes more sense to get Parsons in the lineup as soon as possible and redshirt Cox and treat him like a prospect who can potentially replace Neal or Smith if one or both is not on the team in 2021-22.
It doesn’t make much sense for Dallas to carry four capable starting linebackers when the league has shifted away from playing three linebackers in base formations and relies more on nickel packages that feature two defenders in the middle of the field. Since Dallas is ready to move on from Vander-Esch they should attempt to move him to a team for a third-round pick instead of waiting to receive their compensatory pick they will receive two offseasons from now when he leaves in free agency. His trade value could have been potentially higher if they moved him before declining his fifth-year option.
Potential Destinations: Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos