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6 NFL Players Who Could Be Traded Before 2023 Regular Season

Training camps open this week, making it a good time to keep an eye on veteran players who could be traded before the season. These players might be considered high-priced or underachievers. Or maybe a team has a younger, quality replacement in-house. A good sign a player is on the market is if teams showcase the player in preseason games or in joint practices with other teams.

Here’s my list of six players — three on offense and three on defense — who could be traded by early September before the regular season begins.

Trade Candidates: Offense

Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers traded a boatload of high picks (three first-rounders and a third-rounder) to move up to No. 3 overall in the 2021 draft and select Trey Lance. He has battled injuries and started only four games during his first two seasons with a 2-2 record and an 84.5 passer rating.

Despite the high cost of moving up for Lance, the 49ers could rationalize trading him after finding 2022 seventh-round steal Brock Purdy. Purdy won his first seven starts at quarterback, leading San Francisco to the NFC title game before his first-quarter injury against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Purdy appears to be coach Kyle Shanahan’s favorite to start at quarterback. Last year's Mr. Irrelvant is progressing toward returning from his elbow injury by the regular season, initially participating in training camp with a reduced throwing schedule. We’ll see how the 49ers handle his workload with Lance and Sam Darnold there taking early reps.

They'll play in preseason games and joint practices with the Las Vegas Raiders to help San Francisco determine who is the better fit to back up Purdy while also showcasing either quarterback for a potential trade.

San Francisco can gain $3.76 million in salary cap savings this year by trading Lance, and they could use that room when all players count against the cap in the regular season. They also can avoid dealing with a potential fifth-year option exercise in 2024 on Lance.

Darnold is also a trade candidate, but if Lance performs well this preseason, he would likely bring a better return in a trade considering his lofty draft status. Darnold would only bring a cap savings of $1.55 million if traded or released.

Potential Trade Partners

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons or Washington Commanders all have questionable quarterback situations with Baker Mayfield (Buccaneers), Desmond Ridder (Falcons) and Sam Howell or Jacoby Brissett (Commanders) as projected starters. All three teams can easily afford Lance’s minimal base salary this season.

Chase Claypool interference Bears vs. Dolphins

Chase Claypool, WR, Chicago Bears

Based on Chase Claypool's performance last year, the Chicago Bears made a poor decision by acquiring Claypool from the Pittsburgh Steelers for a second-round pick at the 2022 trade deadline. That pick turned out to be the first pick in Round 2, which the Steelers used on Joey Porter Jr.

Claypool, a former second-round pick in 2020, had only 14 catches for 140 yards and no touchdowns in seven games with Chicago. He was a three-year starter in Pittsburgh who had his best season as a rookie with 62 receptions for 873 yards and nine TDs.

The Bears have Darnell Mooney and DJ Moore as their top two receivers with Claypool a possible No. 3, but he could be replaced by returning vets Dante Pettis or Equanimeous St. Brown or by fourth-round pick Tyler Scott.

Chicago doesn’t need the cap room but can save $3 million by trading Claypool, who is scheduled to be a free agent next March. I expect the Bears to feature Claypool in preseason games to try and spark trade interest from a team looking for a big receiving target (6-foot-4, 238 pounds).

Potential Trade Partners

One option would be Atlanta pairing him with Drake London and Mack Hollins. Another possibility could be the New England Patriots, who lost out in the DeAndre Hopkins pursuit, or the Indianapolis Colts for another potential quality target for Anthony Richardson or Gardner Minshew. The New Orleans Saints could consider Claypool joining Chris Olave and Michael Thomas and acting as insurance if Thomas can’t stay healthy.

Cordarrelle Patterson, RB/WR/KR, Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta is the fifth team Cordarrelle Patterson — former 2013 first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings — has played for, and the four-time Pro Bowl returner has found his greatest career success as a combo running back/receiver/returner. He produced 1,166 combined yards rushing and receiving in 2021 and a career-high 695 yards rushing (4.8 yards per carry) with eight rushing TDs while averaging 31.6 yards on nine kickoff returns with one TD last season.

Despite his age (32), Patterson’s versatility is attractive to teams looking for a boost offensively and in the return game.

The Falcons have only $9.4 million of cap room under top 51 calculations and will need to free up money. Patterson can deliver $1.25 million in cap savings if he’s traded. His rushing role likely will be reduced significantly with the arrival of No. 8 overall pick Bijan Robinson.  The team also has second-year, fifth-round back Tyler Allgeier (1,035 rushing yards last season) as an inexpensive backup.

With so few kickoffs returned due to excessive touchbacks, Patterson is a luxury the Falcons could move on from and try to garner a late-round pick in return. His $4.25 million base salary could make a trade more difficult. Perhaps, Patterson would renegotiate to go to a team that presents a better opportunity for playing time rather than face a release on the final cut.

Potential Trade Partners

The Seattle Seahawks could bolster the run game and kickoff returns as they try to unseat the 49ers atop the NFC West. The Denver Broncos had a league-worst 17.5 yards per kickoff return in 2022, and the Miami Dolphins were the second-worst at 18.9 yards per kickoff return. The Broncos and Dolphins could use his running skills, too.

Trade Candidates: Defense

Chase Young, Edge, Washington Commanders

The Commanders have invested heavily in defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne and have another first-round defensive end in Montez Sweat, who will be a free agent in 2024 after he plays under his fifth-year option this season.

Sweat (29 career sacks) has been more productive than Young (nine career sacks), who was the No. 2 overall pick in 2020 and the Defensive Rookie of the Year. However, injuries derailed him, as he has missed 22 games in the past two seasons. An ACL tear cut his 2021 season short and limited him to three games in 2022.

The Commanders declined Young’s fifth-year option, so he’ll be a free agent next year unless he’s extended or franchised. The team will unlikely keep Young and Sweat, so Young is more likely to be traded (with no dead money hit) because Sweat has a better NFL track record.

If Young looks good this preseason (which he enters healthy), he could bring a good trade return in draft choices and/or players to help the Commanders down the road under new ownership.

>> READ: Will Commanders Regret Young's Fifth-Year Option Decision?

Potential Trade Partner

Chicago clearly makes the most sense. The Bears were last in the league with 20 sacks in 2022 and have the most cap space available at $31.6 million to absorb Young's nearly $11 million cap hit. They could pair Young with free agent signee DeMarcus Walker in the same 4-3 scheme Young plays in Washington.

NFL Draft Trade Rumor

Budda Baker, Safety, Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals are in rebuilding mode under their new general manager and coach, as shown by their release of Hopkins. Budda Baker is reporting to camp after requesting a trade in April but wants a new deal to make him the highest-paid safety or close to it, which doesn’t appear to be in the cards (pardon the pun). He has two years left on his contract with no guaranteed money and a base salary of $13.1 million in 2023.

The Cardinals’ defensive leader is 27 years old, putting him at an age where he should have an interest in trading for him, especially since he is a four-time Pro Bowler, including the last three years. He’s been a consistent producer throughout his six-year career (111 tackles and two interceptions last season).

Potential Trade Partners

The Philadelphia Eagles have $12.5 million in cap room, and their highly-ranked defense could use a star safety. General manager Howie Roseman is a deal-maker when a difference maker like Baker is available and knows how to work the cap with voidable deals to make high-salaried players fit.

The New York Giants are also an option. Baker would bolster the Giants' secondary as they compete in the tough NFC East, but the team would have to work some cap magic to make it happen with only $3.2 million in room (before Wednesday's Andrew Thomas extension).

Baltimore Ravens Patrick Queen

Patrick Queen, LB, Baltimore Ravens

After giving big deals to quarterback Lamar Jackson and linebacker Roquan Smith, it’s unlikely the Ravens will extend or franchise Patrick Queen when his contract expires next March. There already are plenty of signs Queen could be traded. The Ravens paid big money to Smith, declined Queen’s fifth-year option and drafted Trenton Simpson in the third round of this year's draft. Simpson is Queen’s likely replacement, which could happen sooner than later.

Queen was a durable and productive player for the past three years, and his ability to blitz effectively increases his value. He had his best year in 2022 with 117 tackles, five sacks, 14 quarterback hits and nine tackles for loss.

Trading Queen has no effect on the Ravens' cap and would save the team $2.3 million in his base salary this season.

Potential Trade Partners

The Minnesota Vikings are an interesting option. Queen would stay in a 3-4 defense and upgrade the Vikings' linebacker corps for last year’s 31st-ranked defense. He’s seven years younger and a better player than Jordan Hicks.

The Pittsburgh Steelers know Queen well from playing in the same division, and he would bring another playmaker to their 3-4 defense in that tough AFC North.

Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM, former Tennessee Titans President and was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the NFL agent group IFA based in Minneapolis. Follow him on Twitter at @jeffdiamondnfl.