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The first full week of the 2019 NFL preseason is in the books. That means fans are inching closer to regular-season games, while teams are still trying to sort out their final 53-man rosters.
Teams have to be down to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on August 31, which will be a disappointing day for many NFL hopefuls and a difficult day for many team decision-makers. Figuring out the last few roster spots is never easy, as every team must release quality players.
Teams don’t like to let good players go for free, which is one reason why the NFL trade market tends to pick up during the preseason. The other is that some teams start to realize the glaring holes that need to be filled.
We’ve already seen one notable preseason trade, as the Cleveland Browns dealt running back Duke Johnson Jr. to the Houston Texans for a conditional fourth-round pick that could become a third-rounder. Cleveland had a surplus of backs, Houston had a need at the position, and the result was a win-win exchange of assets.
More recently, the Baltimore Ravens sent backup kicker Kaare Vedvik to the Minnesota Vikings for a 2020 fifth-round pick.
Johnson and Vedvik won’t be the only players traded before the end of the preseason. Here are some others who are likely to be on the move in the coming weeks.
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Laquon Treadwell, who the Minnesota Vikings selected with the 23rd overall pick in the 2016 draft, came into the NFL with plenty of promise and potential. However, he’s failed to live up to that, catching only 56 passes for 517 yards and one touchdown across his first three seasons.
Treadwell is now listed as a third-team receiver behind Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Chad Beebe and Jordan Taylor.
“That’s been the rotation since we came back (for training camp),” Treadwell said, per Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “I’m not really worried about the depth chart too much. As long as I continue to do my job and help us win, everything will work out.”
At this point, Treadwell may need a fresh start.
While the Vikings have room to carry him on their roster, they likely aren’t interested in paying more than $3 million to a backup receiver who rarely sees the field. Releasing him is a possibility, but it would only save Minnesota roughly $650,000 since most of his salary is guaranteed.
The better option would be to trade Treadwell to a team willing to take a chance on his potential.
While Minnesota might not get much in return for Treadwell, some team out there should be willing to give him a chance. That’s how the market often works for former first-round picks.
Fellow 2016 receiver disappointment Corey Coleman and 2015 draft bust Breshad Perriman both have gotten opportunities to salvage their careers with different teams. Treadwell figures to as well.
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Like Treadwell, Green Bay Packers safety Josh Jones has not lived up to expectations.
The 2017 second-round pick has failed to maintain a starting job across his first two seasons and appears poised for an even more reduced role this year. That’s largely why he requested a trade early in the offseason, although the Packers didn’t accommodate him.
“I think it’s more about what our team desire is, and right now we’re kind of working through that,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said in June, per ESPN’s Rob Demovsky. “But he’s a very talented player. He’s shown that on the field at the times. We’ll go along and see where it goes.”
So far, it’s been going downhill for Jones.
He missed the preseason opener with an unspecified injury, while fellow safety Raven Greene started and racked up three tackles and a forced fumble. Green and rookie first-round pick Darnell Savage Jr. are competing for the starting job opposite Adrian Amos, so Jones is likely eying a backup role at best.
The could prompt the Packers to get something in return for Jones while they can, much like they did when they send Damarious Randall to Cleveland last offseason.
Projected starting linebacker Oren Burks suffered a torn pectoral muscle last week, which could speed up the process of moving Jones. If the Packers can land an inside linebacker for Jones, they likely wouldn’t hesitate.
The MMQB’s Albert Breer mentioned Browns starting inside linebacker Joe Schobert as a possible trade option on ESPN’s The Russillo Show back in April.
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While the Browns might not deal Schobert to the Packers, they could still move the 2017 Pro Bowler before the start of the season.
“Joe Schobert from Cleveland is another linebacker name I’ve heard,” Breer said in April when discussing trade targets.
While Schobert remains on Cleveland’s roster, he may already be set to lose his starting job. The Browns drafted a pair of linebackers in Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki, both of whom could be headed toward the top of the depth chart in the near future.
“Frankly, Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert look like lame-duck starters,” Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland wrote early in training camp. “It’s just a matter of time before Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson take over. It may be a year—or a month into the season.”
Wilson was one of the stars of the Browns’ preseason opener, He logged three tackles and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. If he and Takitaki continue standing out in the preseason, Schobert could indeed be expendable.
While it wouldn’t hurt to keep multiple starting-caliber linebackers on the roster, the Browns have already shown this preseason that they’re willing to part with premium players for the right price.
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For the Buffalo Bills and running back LeSean McCoy, it’s all about the numbers.
- 3.2: The number of yards McCoy averaged per rush in 2018.
- 31: McCoy’s age.
- 3: The number of other backs likely to make the 53-man roster.
- $9.05 million: What McCoy is scheduled to earn in 2019.
McCoy wasn’t effective for most of the 2018 season. While he could rebound this season, there’s no guarantee that he can still carry the load, which is why the Bills brought in Frank Gore, T.J. Yeldon and rookie Devin Singletary this offseason.
McCoy’s contract makes it a little harder for Buffalo to move him, but if the compensation is cheap enough, the Bills can likely find a suitor. The trick will be allowing McCoy to prove himself in the preseason, which could convince a running back-needy team to pull the trigger.
That could be the plan for McCoy in Week 2 of the preseason. He didn’t appear in the preseason opener—Gore got the start—but that was by design.
“What we’re going to do is give Frank most of the work this week and give LeSean most of the work the following week,” head coach Sean McDermott said on the team’s radio show (h/t Nick Wojton of Bills Wire).
If McCoy shows that he has regained the burst and explosiveness that he lacked for most of last season, some team is likely to kick the tires on a trade. With a crowded backfield and with McCoy hitting free agency next season, Buffalo should take whatever it can get in return.
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Running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon are both holding out for new deals this offseason.
Of the two, Gordon is the most likely to be traded before Week 1.
While the Dallas Cowboys offense is centered around Elliott, the Los Angeles Chargers offense is not built around Gordon. Gordon is valuable to Los Angeles as a talented runner and receiver, but the Chargers also have a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback and numerous receiving weapons on the roster.
The Chargers also have other somewhat proven options at running back.
Gordon missed four games in 2018 due to injuries. The Chargers won all four of those contests while getting valuable contributions from Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson.
Ekeler was a critical offensive piece even when Gordon was in the lineup, and the Chargers seem increasingly confident that Jackson can take on a bigger role.
“He’s definitely an elite back,” linebacker Melvin Ingram said of Jackson, per Gilbert Manzano of the Orange County Register. “His vision, you can’t coach what he has. Man, his vision. His vision and the way he runs the ball is great.“
Jackson gained 22 yards on five carries in the preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals. Ekeler added 40 yards on five carries and hauled in three passes for 29 yards. The Chargers offense should be fine with those two leading the backfield, which decreases Gordon’s leverage.
At some point, a team will likely come calling about Gordon. The Chargers would be smart to pull the trigger on a trade.
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While Gordon has been holding out for a new contract, Washington Redskins offensive tackle Trent Williams has been away for an entirely different reason.
“Sources explained that the situation is not all about money, rather his contract status along with the series of allegations that the seven-time Pro Bowl tackle has lost faith in the team’s front office and medical staff,” JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington wrote. “Still, money might be the only way to fix the holdout.”
“He’s not coming back. Period,” an unnamed source told Finlay.
If the Redskins believe that Williams won’t suit up for them this season, a trade makes sense.
Williams is 31 years old and has missed time in each of the past five seasons, but the seven-time Pro Bowler is still a starting-caliber offensive tackle. There is a major shortage of those in the NFL, as several clubs learned last season.
Four quarterbacks—Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott, Derek Carr and Russell Wilson—were sacked at least 50 times in 2018. Seven others were sacked at least 40 times.
Plenty of teams could use a player like Williams and should be willing to give Washington a future draft pick or two to get him.