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2015 Trade Deadline Candidates: AFC

NFL News
October 17, 2015

The NFL’s November 3 trade deadline is the next major event on the league’s calendar, and with a bit over two weeks left for clubs to make deals, it makes sense to scour each team’s roster and identify which players might be on the block. The NFL certainly doesn’t see the amount of trade activity that does MLB or the NBA, but there have already been a fair number of deals worked this calendar year. Additionally, in 2014, there were four trades in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline — two of those four players were in the final year of their contracts, so for this exercise, we’ll mostly focus on players who are on expiring deals.

We’ll start off by taking a look at the AFC clubs, with an obvious focus on teams who aren’t currently, or don’t figure to remain, contenders…

Baltimore Ravens

  • Courtney Upshaw, LB: Upshaw is playing a larger role than the Ravens originally intended, as he’s been forced to step in as a starter due to Terrell Suggs‘ season-ending injury. However, Upshaw, strikes me as the type of player that Baltimore usually lets leave via free agency (see: Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Pernell McPhee). If the 1-4 Ravens continue to fall further out of contention, it could make sense for them to trade Upshaw to a club looking for pass-rush help, and give that playing time to rookie Za’Darius Smith.

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Marcedes Lewis, TE: Though the Jaguars do try to run a good amount of two tight end sets, Lewis’ role will steadily decrease now that Julius Thomas has returned from injury. Given that Lewis, 31, is earning $2MM in base salary, and doesn’t figure to be re-signed, he could be an option to get traded in the coming weeks. He probably wouldn’t bring back much, but perhaps a team like the Saints could opt to bring in reinforcements at tight end as they try to claw back in the NFC South race. Elsewhere, the Jets, Cardinals, and Washington could all use some depth at tight end.

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Marcus Cooper, CB: As noted by Mike Reiss of ESPN.com earlier today, the 25-year-old Cooper could make sense as a trade target, specifically for a cornerback-depleted team like the Patriots. Cooper has only managed 77 defensive snaps on the season, and hasn’t played a single defensive snap in the two weeks since Sean Smith returned from suspension. The Chiefs have been utilizing a three-safety look in recent weeks, lessening the need for Cooper of fellow depth corner Jamell Fleming, so perhaps Cooper (and his minimum salary deal, which runs through 2016) could be on the move.
  • Mike DeVito, DL: A rotational 3-4 defensive end, DeVito probably wouldn’t bring back much in a trade, but he is cheap, as he’d be owed just the remainder of his $870K base salary. The Chiefs would probably be wise to deal the 31-year-old now, clearing out playing time for youngsters Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Nicholas Williams. Clubs such as the Patriots, Packers, Eagles, Cardinals, and Colts — all of whom employ a 3-4 look — could be interested.
  • Sean Smith, CB: Kansas City sits at 1-4 and just lost its best offensive player in Jamaal Charles to a season-ending injury, so if the club wants to “blow things up,” trading Smith becomes a consideration. Smith, 28, isn’t cheap, as an acquiring club would owe the rest of his $4.25MM base salary, but he’s an underrated player, and if the Chiefs have no intention of re-signing him, dealing him now could be the smart move. I’d guess only one of Smith or Cooper gets moved (if either does).

Miami Dolphins

  • Rishard Matthews, WR: If the Dolphins subscribe to the basic economic theory of “buy low, sell high,” there might never be a better time to trade Matthews, who is in the midst of his best season at age 26. There are a myriad of reasons to deal Matthews, but chief among them is probably that his current production is likely unsustainable. Additionally, he’s in the final season of his rookie contract, and with Miami already committed to Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker, there might not be room on the roster, or more specifically, in the salary cap, for Matthews.
  • Derrick Shelby, DE: Miami already has a large chunk of assets devoted to its defensive line, so Shelby, who is earning $2.56MM as a restricted free agent, could be on the trade block. He’s actually played in more than 50% of the club’s defensive snaps so far this season, but with Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake already earning sizeable money, and Olivier Vernon likely to follow, Shelby probably won’t be a priority in free agency.

New England Patriots

  • Aaron Dobson, WR: Dobson seems to be a complete afterthought in the Patriots’ offense, as he was a healthy scratch last week against the Cowboys, playing behind even special teamer Matthew Slater. Dobson’s removal from the offense only figures to accelerate once Brandon LaFell, New England’s No. 2 receiver a year ago, returns from the PUP list. A team with a need at receiver, such as the Browns or Panthers, could take a look at Dobson, who is signed through 2016 at cheap rates.

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