Right now, the topic of conversation surrounding the trade market is mainly focused on the quarterbacks. Now, this is to be expected, as quarterback is the most important position in all of sports—and this year, it just so happens that there are a lot of them who could be on the move. Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold, and Marcus Mariota are all players whose names have been linked in potential trades, while other players such as Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Kirk Cousins have been floating around in rumors as well. Plus, Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff have already been traded for each other. It's rare we have this many quarterbacks being discussed as potential trade options, but in today’s NFL landscape where general managers and owners are growing more impatient than ever, the win-now and aggressive mindsets have completely altered the thinking as it pertains to trading away top players.
While the quarterbacks have been getting much of the attention, we shouldn’t neglect other positions when it comes to trading for impact players who could be a major difference-maker for a potential club next season. As a matter of fact, one could argue that the trade which had the biggest impact on last season was the Buffalo Bills trading for wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
The Bills acquired Diggs from the Vikings prior to the 2020 draft and traded away a 2020 first-round pick, a fifth-round pick, a sixth-round pick, and a 2021 fourth-round pick. At the time, the trade was met with some pushback as there were questions regarding Diggs' work ethic and supposed diva-like personality. However, those concerns were immediately put to bed as Diggs was a sensation in his first year in Buffalo. Almost instantly, Diggs proved to be well worth the draft capital given up, and he and quarterback Josh Allen quickly became one of the best quarterback-receiver duos in the NFL. Diggs finished the season first in the NFL in receiving yards and receptions, firmly establishing himself as a top-five receiver in the league.
With Diggs in the fold, the Bills' passing attack took a massive step forward from 2019, and because of this, they became a true threat to win the Super Bowl. Diggs' impact coming over via trade is one that many NFL teams across the league could only hope to obtain. There may not be another Stefon Diggs out there, but there are definitely some star players around the league that could be available via trade and could have a very similar type of impact on their new team as Diggs did on the Bills.
Here are five players who could have a Diggs-like impact if they are indeed traded.
Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots
There were rumors earlier that the Patriots had tried to trade Gilmore prior to the trade deadline but couldn’t find any trade partners at their asking price. The Patriots could look to move the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year for a few reasons—one being his contract. At a $15 million cap hit, it's hard for the Patriots to justify spending this much on a 31-year-old corner while the rest of their team is far from competing. Additionally, New England has J.C. Jackson waiting in the wings who is due a new contract this offseason and is much younger than Gilmore. Trading Gilmore would make a lot of sense and allow New England to acquire more capital to improve the many holes on this roster.
Gilmore should have no shortage of suitors as long as the price New England is asking in return isn’t too insane. Gilmore is still a top-three corner in the NFL and is one of the true lock-down corners who can travel with opposing No. 1 receivers. He had a bit of a down year last season, but that was mainly due to injuries. Gilmore would make a ton of sense for teams like the Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, or even the Las Vegas Raiders.
Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Gallup is a player who is on the verge of blowing up if given the opportunity to do so. Coming into the league as a third-round pick back in 2018, Gallup has taken a step in his progression every year in his career. Gallup finds himself in trade conversations not because he is a bad player, but because his value will be significantly higher on another team than it is on the Cowboys.
Gallup is set to become an unrestricted free agent after next season in 2022, and it is a virtual lock that the Cowboys will not sign him to a long-term deal with CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper on the roster. It makes a lot of sense for the Cowboys to trade him now, before letting him walk for nothing. Gallup may not be a No. 1 receiver on his new team, but he is easily one of the best No. 2 receivers in the NFL. Receiver-needy teams should absolutely call the Cowboys.
Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati Bengals
One of the most underappreciated stars in the NFL for most of this decade, Atkins deserves his time in the sun. After spending 11 years in Cincinnati, the eight-time Pro Bowler deserves his shot at chasing a Super Bowl. From the Bengals' perspective, trading a franchise legend like Atkins is definitely a tough thing to do, but it also could make a lot of sense. Atkins dealt with injuries last season and is on the wrong side of 30. He may only have two or three years left of really good football, and the Bengals aren’t two years away from making a serious run in the playoffs. Shedding Atkins' high salary could make sense as the team looks to build around Joe Burrow and their young nucleus—there's even talk Atkins could be a cut candidate.
If Atkins is traded and comes back next season fully healthy, whichever team acquires him is getting one of the best interior rushers in the NFL. He has the ability to truly take over football games and could be the missing piece for a Super Bowl-ready football team.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns
Could the Browns really trade a talent like OBJ? Well, at this point it’s certainly possible. Beckham’s Browns career hasn’t gone according to plan, and he has failed to play at the level that we were accustomed to seeing while he was with the New York Giants. A lot of this has to do with the circus that was the Browns back in 2019, as well as chemistry issues with quarterback Baker Mayfield. After Beckham went down with an ACL injury early this season, Mayfield’s passing efficiency quickly went up and the team found its groove as a run-first, heavy play-action offense out of 12-personnel formations. This led many to believe that Mayfield would be better long term without Beckham and the external pressure to feed him the football. I’m not sure how much truth there is in terms of Beckham having a negative impact on Mayfield, but I do know if I am a team that needs a receiver, I’m calling the Browns to at least check in on his availability.
Say what you want about Beckham, but when healthy he is still one of the best playmakers in all of football. He showed flashes of his dominant play early in the season when Mayfield was able to get him the football, and the talent is still there to be worth the risk of trade for him.
Orlando Brown, OT, Baltimore Ravens
It’s very rare that we see franchise offensive tackles traded, but it appears very likely that Brown has played his last snap with the Ravens. Brown has reportedly requested a trade as he wants to play solely left tackle after playing right tackle for the first three seasons of his career with the Ravens. Brown did get his shot to play on the left side this season when he filled in for usual left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury halfway through the 2020 season. Brown played well at left tackle and had made it apparent he has no intention of playing on the right side any longer.
Should the Ravens give in to his trade demands, teams should be lining up to acquire him. He has the ability to solidify the left tackle position for teams, and outside of quarterback, there may not be a more important position in the NFL.