Which NFL Players Are Most Likely Being Traded?

With the Nov. 1 NFL trade deadline approaching, prepare to see a lot of reports, rumors and takes about who is likely to be traded.

Midseason trades in the NFL don’t happen often and they seldom involve “name” players unless they happen to be in decline. Speculation about trades often comes from people who believe that teams with losing records are better off getting draft picks than hanging onto players with name value, but they don’t always follow a logical pattern.

If a team is thinking about trading a player, it needs to consider the following factors:

How badly does it want to move a player: The more a team wants to unload a player, the harder it’s going to be find a good offer and the more likely that team will have to take whatever it can get. But if a team isn’t that interested in moving a player, that means other teams may have to raise their asking price to catch their interest.

What is the interest from other teams: If just one or two teams are interested in the player and it seems like they are “just asking,” it’s harder to get a lot for the player. On the other hand, if five or six teams are calling you up and they all sound serious, you can raise the asking price.

What his contract is like: A team-friendly contract makes the player more attractive to teams that want him, while a contract that favors the player or requires a lot of cap space to accommodate means you’re not likely to be able to move him.

Could a compensatory pick come into play: To further explain this point, if you have a player who is in the final year of his contract and you let him depart, what are the chances that you will get a compensatory pick in return? That should weigh into your decision about what you should ask for if somebody is interested in the player. And that, in turn, will cause the other team to ask if the player is worth that pick.

Most of the players you hear that are on the trading block aren’t likely to be moved, so all the chatter you hear is really water cooler talk. But it doesn’t hurt to look at some of the players who have been named as potential trade candidates and ask the question: How likely will this player be dealt?

Likely to happen

Torrey Smith, WR, San Francisco: Smith is easily the best candidate to be traded. That’s because he’s been a disappointment ever since he signed his contract with the 49ers in 2015. The total in full guarantees wasn’t bad ($8M signing bonus, $750,000 base salary in 2015) and he will collect $6M this season, but he does not fit into the Niners’ future plans. He has three years left on his deal, each with a $6.5M base salary with $1M workout and $500,000 roster bonuses due each year. The good news for any team who is interested is they can safely cut him after the season if it doesn’t work out and it only costs them $2.25M in salary at this point. If he proves a good fit, the team can decide whether or not it’s worth keeping him at $8M in 2017. And given that the Niners appear to want to move on from Smith, the final price should be reasonable.

Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee: The Titans picked up Wright’s fifth-year option in his rookie contract, but that happened when Ruston Webster was the general manager. Current GM Jon Robinson had to keep Wright around because Wright suffered a knee injury last season and the option was an injury-only guarantee. Now, it appears likely the Titans aren’t going to bring Wright back after this season, but what compensatory pick he would fetch is not yet known. I would suspect he might get a fifth- or sixth-round comp pick, so the Titans would probably keep the asking price no higher than a fourth. Wright would cost the team who acquires him about $3.7M in salary and that team could be in line for a comp pick if the team doesn’t want to extend him. I think Wright isn’t as likely to get dealt as Smith, because his salary would be higher, but there might be teams who are willing to send a pick to see if he can be part of their long-term plans.

Could happen, but not likely

Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Jets: The 33-year-old wide receiver could be available, considering that the Jets are in need of draft capital given their lack of success this season and the cap issues down the road. A team who acquires Marshall would get a proven No. 1 wide receiver who still has plenty left in the tank and pay about $4.75M in salary, then decide if he’s worth keeping at $7.5M next year. The only issue, though, is the Jets are thin at wide receiver as it is and might not be prepared to deal arguably their best playmaker on offense, thus they may ask for more than he would be worth.

Cameron Wake, DE, Miami: Wake was a candidate to be released in the offseason, but the Dolphins instead gave him a two-year deal to reduce his cap number. He’s been limited to a rotational role this season and is still due $3M in fully guaranteed money next season, though I would imagine there are offset clauses should the Dolphins cut him. Wake is 34 years old, but might be useful in a rotational role for a team in need of defensive help. Whoever trades for him would pay $3.5M in salary this year, which is reasonable. However, because the Dolphins have won back-to-back games, they might not be interested in dealing Wake if they believe they have an outside chance of making the playoffs.

If no good offer, no deal

Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland: Everyone seems to assume that because the Browns were collecting draft picks and shipping out other players during the preseason that it means Thomas is as good as gone. Briefly, that’s not really the case, because the players that Sashi Brown traded (Barkevious Mingo, Joshua Gilbert) were players that the Browns had no intention of keeping and simply wanted to move on and take what they could get. And the previous GM, Ray Farmer, seemed more interested in trying to accumulate picks to save his job. With all that said, this does not mean Thomas is not going to be traded, period. Teams would certainly be interested at the right price, given that he’d only cost $4.1M this season. However, with the talk that three teams have already inquired and at least a couple others might be interested, the Browns are in a position to raise their reported asking price of a second-round pick. That makes it a tougher decision for those teams, in terms of how much they might be willing to give up and how it affects their long-term picture. Or if the Browns get five suitors and nobody wants to negotiate, the Browns can just say no to all offers and move on.

Kawann Short, DT, Carolina: With the Panthers’ playoff hopes fading fast, some would think the Panthers would be prepared to deal Short. And at a salary of a little more than $500,000 this season, who wouldn’t want that? Hey, the Broncos should jump right to the front of the pack and get this guy! But there’s a catch, folks… Short is a free agent after this season and he’s likely to command a big contract. Dave Gettleman hasn’t always made the best decisions, but he knows that if Short leaves in free agency, he’s likely to get a high compensatory draft pick, likely a fourth-rounder, but could be a third if Short lands a huge deal. That can only mean one thing: The Panthers can ask for a high pick in return, knowing the comp pick they’ll be risking if they don’t extend him. And while one might argue that a team acquiring him should get him extended, the well-run teams will prefer the draft or looking for value in free agency rather than an eight-game trial and risk a big contract. As for a comp pick teams who trade for him could get, it’s not worth it when you start talking giving up picks of your own that are at least a third-round level, which I’m sure the Panthers would ask for.

Don’t count on it

Joe Haden, CB, Cleveland: Haden seems to be getting mentioned for the same reasons as Thomas – the Browns are stockpiling picks, so of course they’ll trade anybody. Again, I don’t believe Sasha Brown is trading players just to get more picks, but that doesn’t mean he won’t entertain offers. Haden, though, doesn’t have an attractive contract. The team who acquires him will have to pay $5M this year, plus there’s a $4M guarantee in his 2017 salary with $7.1M on top of that if the team keeps him. I suppose a team could acquire him and, if they like what see, get him to convert some of his money into a signing bonus. But I think it’s more likely teams pass on him at this point.

Sheldon Richardson, DL, New York Jets: The thought process is that the Jets have multiple quality defensive linemen and should be prepared to deal Richardson so they can get draft capital. While I would imagine the Jets would be happy to entertain offers, and teams acquiring him would only have to pay about $850,000 this year, there’s a catch: The team who acquires him has to take the $8M in injury-only guaranteed salary next year. We’ve seen teams willing to take chances on former first-round picks, but as the story goes, that pick either needs to have had his fifth-year option declined or not yet picked up, with the acquiring team getting to decide whether or not it wants to exercise the option. Neither applies to Richardson, which makes him a little more difficult to move. Had his option not been exercised, teams might be willing to talk, but the exercised option will force teams to consider not only if he’s worth having for the short term, but the long term – a long-term picture that might require a massive payday in 2018 if he plays at a high level. Most of all, given Richardson’s upside, I suspect the Jets will ask for a higher draft pick in return, which is likely to turn teams off.

Joe Staley, OT, San Francisco: We’ve heard the reports that Staley would be available for a first-round pick. I don’t think the Niners will ever get that much for Staley, He’s 33 years old, which doesn’t make him a player you want to give up a high draft pick for. If the Niners are willing to bring their asking price down, he would be worth considering at a $2.65M salary this season and the ability to cut him after the season with no dead money. But I’m not so sure that teams will be lining up to inquire about Staley, especially if the Niners are seeking too much in return. By far, Staley’s age makes him less desirable, because he’s nearing the point when you have to wonder when decline will set in.

Safe to say it won’t happen

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago: Let’s make this simple – Jeffrey will not be traded. If the Bears don’t want to extend him, they’ll expect at least a fourth-round compensatory pick (possibly a third) will come their way. That makes the asking price for Jeffery too high. On top of that, he’s playing under the franchise tag and would cost the team that acquires him more than $7M in salary. I can’t think of a playoff contender who is in great need of a receiver who has that much cap space available and they would likely be hesitant to give up a third-round pick or higher. Better to inquire about Smith or Wright and see if you can get a reasonable deal at a salary you have an easier time fitting under the cap.

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Bob Morris

I'm a sports writer in real life, though I've always focused on smaller communities, but that hasn't stopped me from learning more about some of the ins and outs of the NFL. You can follow me on Twitter @BobMorrisSports if you can put up with updates on the high school sports teams I cover.