NFL trade deadline: Buyers/sellers for four intriguing targets

A lot goes into midseason trades, but one particular technique I learned from Hall of Fame coach George Allen has always stuck with me.

When it came to inquiring about players on other rosters, Allen routinely would call teams after a loss. In the wake of a defeat, some front office staffers view their rosters more negatively than after a win. Some decision-makers become more emotional, and thus more vulnerable to getting rid of a player on the spur of the moment. Allen’s strategy of staying in close contact with teams to benefit his own roster worked well.

The New York Jets are a team I would be in regular communication with right now for several reasons. At 0-6, the Jets are clearly not a playoff team in 2020, and head coach Adam Gase is known to get rid of players pretty frequently (SEE: Le'Veon Bell’s release). Bell should have been part of the solution, not the problem, as he’s still a good player. Another talented Jet other teams should inquire about (but I personally wouldn’t let go of): shifty slot receiver Jamison Crowder.

There are a lot of questions surrounding the Jets organization ahead of the trade deadline, but they aren’t the only organization that might be wheeling and dealing. After connecting with my sources across the league, I’m zeroing in on four particular players who could be on the move:

SELLER: Cincinnati Bengals. Watching the All-22 Coaches’ Film, it’s clear the 11th-year pro still has some juice left in the tank. Not a read-and-react player, Dunlap can get to the quarterback with his outside rush and plays best when allowed to be aggressive upfield from the DE position. In six games (four starts) this season, Dunlap has logged only one sack. But from 2016 through 2019, he averaged just over eight sacks per season, so he does have recent production. As the Bengals continue to rebuild under second-year coach Zac Taylor, I don’t see Dunlap having a future in Cincinnati. 

BUYER: Seattle Seahawks. A number of teams are desperate for a proven pass rusher — or, at the very least, need their pass rush to improve. But Seattle seems like a good fit because Dunlap is best in a four-man front. The Seahawks emphasize getting off the ball and to the quarterback, and their pass rushers get plenty of opportunities to rush the passer these days, as they’re often playing with a lead.

Potential compensation: I would trade a fifth-round pick in exchange for Dunlap and sixth-round pick. If I were Seattle GM John Schneider, I’d be willing to change that compensation to a fourth-rounder if the Seahawks advance deep in the playoffs and Dunlap has at least six sacks over the remainder of the season.

SELLER: Cleveland Browns. Njoku, who’s played in seven of a possible 22 games over the last two seasons, asked for a trade back on July 3 then rescinded the request a month later, but there’s reason to believe he may find a new home before the deadline if Cleveland can get something in return that makes sense. Spending Weeks 2 through 4 on injured reserve with a knee issue, Njoku has taken the third-most snaps among Cleveland tight ends in two of the three games in which he’s played, with his highest percentage of single-game snaps (42.6 percent, per Next Gen Stats) coming in Week 6. Watching the film, I saw a very good athlete who routinely gets open due to his speed and quickness. Njoku does a good job reading the blitz to know when to break his route to catch the football, and he has good instincts to find the open area against zone defenses. The issue with the fourth-year tight end is he’s a receiving tight end with questionable hands. Njoku isn’t viewed as a blocker. He has the athletic ability, but not the strength. 

BUYER: Philadelphia Eagles. Still very much in the division hunt of the downtrodden NFC East, the Eagles desperately need a tight end due to ankle injuries suffered by Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. With Ertz becoming a free agent after this season, there might be some value to trading for Njoku, who’s more of a question mark than a sure thing as a player.

Potential compensation: Give a sixth-round pick in exchange for Njoku and a seventh-round pick.

SELLER: Cincinnati Bengals. Ross has underperformed throughout his career. On tape, Ross doesn’t seem to have the top speed he had coming out of college — remember, he holds the NFL Scouting Combine record with a 4.22 40-yard dash — but still shows quickness in his routes. The 5-foot-11, 194-pound wideout doesn’t win many contested catches and often uses his body to catch the ball. There are also questions about his competitiveness. 

BUYER: New England Patriots.

Potential compensation: Give a sixth-round pick in exchange for Ross and seventh-round pick. But New England could make the compensation reliant on Ross hitting certain benchmarks.

SELLER: Houston Texans. After the addition of Randall Cobb in the offseason, Stills is the odd man out in the wide receiver rotation, with just eight receptions for 104 yards and one TD. Stills can still help a receiver-needy team as a speedster and polished route runner. He has good instincts in knowing when to break off his route against the blitz. Stills is regarded as an average WR2, but a very good WR3. 

BUYER: New England Patriots. I would definitely make a call to Houston about Stills. He would be the most dangerous wideout on New England’s roster, giving Cam Newton a deep target he doesn’t have now.

Potential compensation: Sixth-round pick.

Follow Charley Casserly on Twitter.

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