NFL Analysis


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NFL Trade Ideas To Fix Broken Teams In 2024

Justin Fields Atlanta Falcons jersey swap
Justin Fields Atlanta Falcons jersey swap. Credit: The33rdTeam.

Trades can be a way to jump-start a roster, either by shipping a player off for draft picks or grabbing a veteran for a draft pick. Trading for a veteran can be one of the biggest market inefficiencies in the league — a way to add a player at a below-market price. That’s usually a better move for contending teams or one looking to get there quickly.

Today, we’re not focusing on those teams. Instead, we’ll look at some trade ideas for teams that struggled in 2023 and could use a boost for the upcoming season. 

Trades To Help Struggling Teams

Los Angeles Chargers — Trade Khalil Mack back to the Bears

When the Los Angeles Chargers were building a star-studded defense, they acquired Khalil Mack from the Chicago Bears for a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 third-round pick. Mack did his part, starting all 34 games in the past two seasons after injuries cut short his final year in Chicago.

Now, the Chargers are in transition. Many of the team's big cap hits must be altered by trade, release or restructure. Mack is at the top of the list, with a $38.5 million cap hit on the final year of his contract.

If the Chargers trade him before March 16, when a $5.5 million roster bonus is due, the team would clear $23.25 million in cap space. Clearing that space is necessary because the Chargers are about $35 million over the cap in effective space.

Trading Mack would create more playing time for 2023 second-round pick Tuli Tuipulotu, who was second on the team in pressures and sacks behind Mack. 

The Bears have cap space and could use another pass rusher to pair with Montez Sweat. Chicago showed it has no problem making aggressive trades when it acquired Sweat at the deadline.

Mack shouldn’t cost more than a Day 3 pick due to his age (33) and one year remaining on his contract. Chicago would take on his $17.55 million salary for 2024 and potentially the roster bonus. 

Mack is not the 17-sack player his raw totals would suggest from 2023, but his 22 quarterback hits ranked 17th. He added 10 passes defended as a way to create more disruption. 

Chicago doesn’t have much edge depth outside of Sweat, and Mack's addition would not force them to forgo drafting a pass rusher. That's crucial since that value comes more in the Day 2 range rather than the top-10 picks the Bears own. 

Atlanta Falcons — Trade for Justin Fields

The Atlanta Falcons are in a precarious spot when it comes to quarterback. With the likelihood the new coaching staff wants to move on from starting Desmond Ridder — even the old coaching staff soured there — Atlanta will need a new quarterback without a clear path to grab one.

Atlanta has the eighth overall pick, which could put the Falcons in a place to move up. Trading for Justin Fields would take less draft capital and would insert a veteran into an offense with impressive offensive pieces.

Fields' compensation could be around the Sam Darnold price. That included a second- and fourth-round pick in the following year’s draft when the Jets traded him to the Panthers in April 2021.

Those future picks are often diminished a round in value. However, Fields is a better player to this point in his career than Darnold was, which should keep the present-day value closer to a second-round pick this year.

Fields has 2024 and a 2025 fifth-year option at $26.6 million remaining on his contract. A decision on that option will be needed by March.

It’s possible an acquiring team could take a Green Bay Packers-Jordan Love approach. That would mean agreeing to a two-year contract that gives a bit more money now in a signing bonus and lessens the fully guaranteed 2025 figure in case things don’t work out.

In Atlanta's offense, Fields and Bijan Robinson would form a dangerous duo, while Drake London and Kyle Pitts could see more downfield targets. New offensive coordinator Zach Robinson comes from the Sean McVay tree. His offense could include a lot of motion, play-action bootlegs and creating open lanes in the middle of the field.

Denver Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy
Denver Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (10) stiff arms Detroit Lions cornerback Cameron Sutton (1) at Ford Field. (Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports)

Denver Broncos — Trade away Jerry Jeudy

There is no firm destination for this trade — though there are a few receiver-needy teams that could be interested — because this is more of a “pave the path for the future” move.

Jerry Jeudy is set to play the 2024 season on his fifth-year option at $12.99 million. Trading Jeudy would clear that entire guaranteed salary for a team more than $20 million over the cap.

WR Tim Patrick, who had back-to-back season-ending injuries, could also be moved, but he's more likely to be cut. Because of Jeudy’s draft stock, teams will be interested in his services, even if he has not lived up to the billing of a 15th-overall pick.

Jeudy's agile movements haven't translated into crisp route running, throwing off timing with multiple quarterbacks. He struggled to consistently beat man coverage when not just running past cornerbacks, especially out wide. 

His skill set could be better suited as a complementary piece in a more established offense. Still, if he’s traded, the destination would more likely be a desperate team hoping to unearth a No. 1 receiver. 

Trading Jeudy would also clear more playing time for younger receivers like Marvin Mims, who can act as the vertical threat Jeudy is in the Denver Broncos offense.

Mims had a limited route tree as a rookie, but he was explosive as a returner. The Broncos invested in him by trading up in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft. In a limited sample, Mims had the highest yards per route run on the outside among Broncos in this past season.

Brandon Johnson, a 2022 undrafted free agent, also flashed in his limited snaps. He had six catches for 20 or more yards and four touchdowns on just 22 receptions. 

Cortland Sutton could handle a bigger role rather than splitting targets with Jeudy (both had less than 19 percent of the team targets in 2023). Sutton’s raw numbers were down, along with the struggles of Denver’s offense overall, but he was insane in the red zone. 

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) warms up before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 2024 AFC Wild Card Game at Highmark Stadium. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Arizona Cardinals — Trade for Tee Higgins or Stefon Diggs

You could throw Brandon Aiyuk in here too, but that would be an unexpected intradivisional trade. The idea is for the Arizona Cardinals to add another wide receiver on top of potentially drafting Marvin Harrison Jr. Arizona could use the 27th or 35th overall pick to swing a trade.

The Cardinals have about $40 million in cap space, allowing them to absorb the cost of the franchise tag for Tee Higgins or the salary for Stefon Diggs, which will be around $21.8 million for 2024.

Even after the Bengals tagged Higgins, they could trade him with no dead money and use the high draft pick to replace him while the team prepares a top-of-the-market extension for Ja’Marr Chase. Diggs and the Bills' relationship is rocky, and the receiver might want a fresh start. 

Arizona should try to extend Higgins, which would lower his cap hit for next season. Diggs still has four years remaining on an extension signed in 2022 but will only have $3.5 million in guarantees after 2024.

Either receiver would give the Cardinals a boost in the downfield passing game, which was lacking upon Kyler Murray’s return during the second half of the 2023 season. Murray was 13th in EPA per play among quarterbacks from Week 10 on but was 32nd on throws of 11 or more air yards.

Some of that was rust on timing throws to the intermediate area of the field, but it wouldn't hurt to add a receiver who can dominate in that area.

Having a group of Diggs or Higgins to pair with Harrison Jr., Trey McBride and Michael Wilson could give the Cardinals an offense with enough firepower to hang in the NFC West. The division featured three of the top 10 offenses by EPA per play in 2023.

Trading for and drafting a wide receiver would allow the Cardinals to go heavy on defense in free agency and after their top pick in the draft. That is where the depth and value line up to fix a defense that tried some fun things but ranked 32nd in EPA per play last season.