The NFL trade deadline comes into effect this Tuesday, November 1 at 3:00 PM CST and teams are already scrambling to make moves while they still can. The New England Patriots have been the biggest hub of activity, shuffling their linebacker and tight end corps. The New Orleans Saints tried to make some trades this summer, nearly reaching a deal for Dallas Cowboys guard Ronald Leary, but an injury to starter La’el Collins made Leary unavailable.
Here’s a few that they should target.
Trent Murphy, Defensive End
Washington’s defense has a wealth of edge rushers at its disposal, getting starter Ryan Kerrigan some help with Preston Smith, Chris Baker, Trent Murphy, and Ricky Jean-Francois. The 6-foot-5, 282-pound Murphy has been the breakout star of the unit with a statline including six sacks, four tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles.
However, it’s possible that Murphy could be available for the right price. He isn’t the starter opposite Kerrigan, and has only played more than 60-percent of snaps twice this season. He was recently taken off of some special teams units to keep him fresh during defensive drives. Murphy played at about 250-pounds in college and 260 during his first two NFL years, so bulking up to this weight took a toll on his body.
The good news is that Murphy is an electric edge rusher with experience at end and outside linebacker. He would immediately be the second-best edge rusher on the roster and is in the third year of his rookie contract, so he wouldn’t be a burden on the salary cap. However, he’s also in the prime of his career at 26-years old and would require a valuable draft pick in compensation; maybe as high as the third round in 2017.
Considering the lackluster pass rush the Saints have put out so far, Murphy should be on the radar if Washington general manager Scot McCloughan is interested in building up draft capital to get a quarterback post-Kirk Cousins.
Tramon Williams, Cornerback
Joe Haden has been a popular name on social media among fans hoping for a move at cornerback, but they may be looking at the wrong guy. Tramon Williams made a high-profile free agent visit to New Orleans with Brandon Browner last year, though he ultimately didn’t sign.
I like Haden, but his reputation doesn’t line up with his recent production. He hasn’t played much due to injury, and hasn’t been very good when on the field (allowing a QB rating of 150+ the last two years). Consider his recent year-by-year snap count percentages:
2014: 29.8-percent of defensive snaps played
Let’s also look at Haden’s salary cap hits if he’s traded, per the @patscap Twitter account (a must-follow source of insight into NFL contract structures and nuance):
That brings us back to Williams, who has been the veteran leader of Cleveland’s secondary this year. Williams missed some time to toe and AC joint injuries early in the year, and has looked his age at 33. But he could be an effective mid-level stopgap for a Saints defense that has rallied around journeymen like B.W. Webb and Sterling Moore in the absence of its top options.
The Browns have prioritized draft capital under their latest front office regime, so picking up Williams for a late-round pick could be a smart, inexpensive move.
Mychal Kendricks, Linebacker
Philadelphia linebacker Mychal Kendricks’ saga has been one of several confusing storylines in head coach Doug Pederson’s first year. Kendricks signed a long-term extension under Chip Kelly’s management last year, but now he’s struggling to get on the field. He’s only played 32-percent of defensive snaps going into this week’s games after seeing 55-percent of snaps or fewer in games only twice last year.
Kendricks has looked miscast in Jim Schwartz’s defense, appearing slow to react to offensive shifts before the snap and confusing his responsibilities in pass coverage. His sharp decline in play seems best-explained by the change in scheme because these weren’t issues for most of Kendricks’ career.
It’s possible that Dennis Allen’s defense would be more amicable to Kendricks’ strengths and style of play. Given the latest injury to Dannell Ellerbe’s quad muscle, which knocked him out of the victory over Seattle after only two quarters, Kendricks would not lack for opportunities in New Orleans.
Nate Stupar and Craig Robertson are the only sure things at linebacker now or in the near future. If Mychal Kendricks could return to his playmaking ways in a different system, Kendricks could well be worth a late-round draft pick.