The final roster cutdown in the NFL is not only a stressful time for players but also for the front offices and coaches of the league’s 32 teams. So many considerations, including salary caps, going with a younger player over a veteran, depth at key positions, player value on special teams, the list goes on and on.
Every year, in the days leading up to the final cutdown, trades are part of those discussions. Before cutting a player outright, can a team get compensation from another club via a swap of assets to shed surplus and add to positional need?
For example, this year:
–The New England Patriots need a cornerback. Are there any available who are looking to be paid right now—high-paid corners teams aren’t happy with or perhaps have a surplus at the position?
—The Green Bay Packers probably would love to add a dependable receiving tight end after losing Davante Adams and going with an inexperienced and very young receiving corps.
—The Cincinnati Bengals need better protection for Joe Burrow, who was sacked a league-leading 51 times last year. Do they look at the surplus of linemen in Miami or Houston for a potential trade?
—The Philadelphia Eagles probably could use an upgrade at safety to push them into a strong contending team?
All 32 teams are going through the same exercise as cutdown day approaches. We asked three former NFL decision-makers on The 33rd Team roster what trades they’d like to see happen this year before final cuts.
Rick Spielman, former Vikings GM
Denver trades for a receiver after losing Tim Patrick
Patrick was lost for the season after tearing an ACL in practice in early August. Two potential trade options would be Laviska Shenault from the Jaguars or the Eagles’ Jalen Reagor. Shenault might be the odd man out in Jacksonville with the signing of Christian Kirk and Zay Jones this off-season to team up with Marvin Jones. Reagor may be the odd man out in Philadelphia because of the addition of A.J. Brown via trade, the rise of second-year sensation DeVonta Smith, and Deon Cain’s strong preseason.
Editor’s note: Shenault was traded Monday to the Carolina Panthers.
Eagles trade for a running back
One potential option might be Alexander Mattison if Minnesota is willing to move him. The Eagles need a big, physical back to team up with Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott. Miles Sanders is currently dealing with a hamstring injury and has had durability problems the past two years. Mattison is in the final year of his contract, and Minnesota has two young backs in Kene Nwangwu and Ty Chandler to add depth behind Dalvin Cook.
Mike Tannenbaum, former Jets and Dolphins GM
Chicago sends OL Cody Whitehair to Tampa Bay for WR Scotty Miller
This move makes a lot of sense in a few ways. First, the Bucs have been dealing with injuries to their offensive line early during training camp and the preseason. Whitehair is a serviceable veteran on the inside who graded out in the top eight of all offensive linemen in 2016. The former Kansas State Wildcat also has a tremendous track record of staying healthy, logging 6,224 snaps in his career, and missing only two games in six seasons. Moreover, Whitehair has experience at guard and center, which provides the Bucs with positional versatility on the inside.
On the other hand, Scotty Miller would walk into a Bears offense devoid of legitimate pass-catchers outside of Darnell Mooney. Cole Kmet can be the next man up, but he does not have more than 650 yards in a season. Enter Miller, who just turned 25, and has flashed in moments for the Bucs, especially in 2020. Miller could provide the Bears with a decent second or third option behind the aforementioned Kmet and Mooney, evidenced by his six-catch, 109-yard performance against the Raiders in Week 7 of the 2020 NFL Season. It was not just a blip on the radar, either. In the first seven games of that season, Miller posted four games of 70 yards or more to go along with two scores.
Whitehair does not fit the Bears’ competitive timeline and is currently the third-highest cap hit in Chicago. Considering Ryan Poles and the new regime has been looking to tear down and rebuild, this move would be consistent with that.
T.J. McCreight, former Eagles player personnel executive
Browns send WR Anthony Schwartz to Eagles for WR Jalen Reagor
Schwartz, a former world-class sprinter, was drafted by Cleveland in the third round of the 2021 draft. Reagor was taken by the Eagles in the first round a year earlier. Both are young and talented wideouts who have not lived up to expectations. This is one of those deals where a change of scenery could benefit both players and teams.