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The Matters of Matt: NFL Players on the Move

Matt McEwan

by Matt McEwan in NFL Football

Nov 1, 2016 · 5:55 AM PDT

Welcome to The Matters of Matt, where I (Matt McEwan) get to tackle what I care about most: sports. Here I will take on the hottest topics in the world of sports, weighing in with my unexpurgated opinion while predicting future outcomes. If you prefer your sports news to be mild and respectful, then this recurring feature isn’t the place for you.

When it comes to the “big four” North American sports, the NFL is the loner of the bunch that doesn’t make a big deal out of its trade deadline. This isn’t because they don’t care about the trades being made before the deadline; it’s due to the lack of trades being made – and I’m not just referring to meaningful trades.

Not only do very few trades happen, but players of similar caliber to Troy Tulowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, or Ray Bourque would never get moved midseason in today’s NFL. Why, you ask? Well, when a team trades a player, it is basically the same as releasing him in terms of his contract. Often, teams don’t have the space to take on the dead money that would result from trading a good player away. Not to mention, contending teams are often hovering pretty close to the salary cap, and would have to clear out money themselves to take on a bigger salary.

But, that hasn’t stopped the New England Patriots from providing us with a little entertainment by trading Pro Bowl linebacker Jamie Collins to the Browns. Will that be the only big trade we see before the deadline on Tuesday (November 1)? As much as I’d like to build the suspense, we all know it’s very unlikely that another big-name player is moved this year. However, here are some names who may be traded before the 2017 NFL season starts.

NFL Players on the Move

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys

With every game that Dak Prescott plays, it gets harder to imagine the Cowboys giving the keys back to Tony Romo. But, this doesn’t mean Dallas will be trading Romo before Tuesday’s deadline.

“But Matt, why wouldn’t they trade him now if he’s not going to start?”

That’s a very good question, active listener. Well, the answer is simple: dead money. Romo’s cap number in 2016 is just under $21 million, and due to the guaranteed money he is still owed, a trade would bring that number up to almost $32 million. Basically, the Cowboys would be taking on an extra $11 million by trading Romo before the deadline, which would result in them needing to free up further cap space to get back under the league’s cap.

However, if the Cowboys wanted to trade Romo in the offseason, it would save them $5.1 million. Should they decide to keep Romo, he would count for $24.7 million against the cap, which is far too much for a backup quarterback – Chase Daniel’s $8 million cap hit as a backup is unheard of.

The trade may make sense for the Cowboys, but is there a team that would be willing to take on a quarterback who is nearing 40, and coming off back-to-back seasons where he has been held out for lengthy periods with injuries? The answer is yes.

Two teams that would love to acquire Romo’s services are the Jets and Vikings. Romo would make both teams better right away, and might be the piece that puts Minnesota over the top. Then you have teams like Miami, Jacksonville, Houston, Chicago, and San Francisco, who may be looking to add a QB in next year’s draft. Romo could provide all of these teams with a solid option for the next year or two while they groom their quarterback of the future. And we can’t forget the Browns and Rams, who have potential – but not-yet-ready – franchise quarterbacks on the roster. Not only would Romo be a great mentor for a young player learning the pro game, but could also provide both teams with a couple wins to keep fans happy and coaching staffs intact.

Whether Jerry Jones is serious about going back to Romo this year or not, there is no way Dak Prescott is on the bench next season.

Odds Romo plays for the ______ in 2017

New York Jets: 7/2
Chicago Bears: 11/2
San Francisco 49ers: 13/2
Cleveland Browns: 7/1
Minnesota Vikings: 9/1
Dallas Cowboys: 12/1
FIELD: 13/3

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

By Jeffrey Beall (Wikimedia Commons)
By Jeffrey Beall (Wikimedia Commons)

Due to the uncertainty regarding Charles’ knee, as well as Spencer Ware suffering a concussion in Week 8, the Chiefs will not be trading away their all-time leading rusher this season. But, as is the case with Tony Romo, it would make a lot of sense for Kansas City to turn the backfield over to younger, less expensive options next season.

Trading Charles in the offseason would relieve the Chiefs of his full $7 million cap hit, which could be used to acquire another pass rusher to pair with Justin Houston, something which Houston’s extended absence has shown they need.

But is there a team willing to take on a soon-to-be 30-year-old running back who’s only played in eight games in the last season and a half for that price? If so, they won’t be giving up much more than a late-round pick for him. It’s more likely that Charles will be cut than traded, but either way, it is very likely that he will be in search of a new team next season.

Teams like the Colts, Giants, and Packers all possess great passing offenses but are in need of a back to take some pressure off their quarterbacks. One will take a flyer on a running back who’s averaged 5.5 yards per carry for his career.

Odds Charles plays for the ______ in 2017

New York Giants: 7/3
Indianapolis Colts: 4/1
Green Bay Packers: 7/1
Kansas City Chiefs: 9/1
FIELD: 8/3

Joe Thomas, LT, Cleveland Browns

When you think of the best left tackles in football, Joe Thomas is one of the first names that comes to mind. Since being drafted third overall in 2007, Thomas has been one of the most reliable players in the NFL. Not only has he never missed a start, but he has also done one hell of a job protecting the laundry list of names the Browns have put under center in that time.

But Thomas will be 32 years old before the seasons ends, and it would be a shame to see such a talented player never enjoy any team success in the league. While around half of the league is selfishly supporting that same sentiment, the Browns aren’t just going to give away their best player, especially considering his cap hit over the final two years of his contract is very team friendly: $10 million in 2017 and 2018.

Thomas is one of the best at a crucial position. There are enough contenders who are desperate for help at left tackle, so one may offer the king’s ransom Cleveland would be seeking.

Odds Thomas plays for the ______ in 2017

Cleveland Browns: 2/5
Seattle Seahawks: 12/1
Arizona Cardinals: 25/2
Denver Broncos: 15/1
Minnesota Vikings: 18/1
FIELD: 30/1

Joe Staley, LT, San Francisco 49ers

Shockingly, Thomas isn’t the only bookend left tackle that is rumoured to be on the trading block, as fellow 2007 draftee Joe Staley’s name is being floated around the league as well.

The five-time Pro Bowler is under contract with the 49ers through 2019, but his services are being coveted by many Super Bowl contenders. With San Francisco looking to rebuild, and possessing holes everywhere, the draft pick(s) Staley would net may be more valuable to the team.

Trading Staley would result in some dead money; the 49ers would have to eat $6.6 million in 2017, $4.4 million in 2018, and $2.2 million in 2019. However, that kind of money won’t scare San Francisco out of it, as they have a ton of cap space and virtually no players demanding big salaries.

The market for Staley is pretty similar to Thomas, but the former is a slightly cheaper option. Of all the players on this list, Staley is the most likely to be moved before the trade deadline. If a deal can’t be struck before Tuesday, however, it may be revisited before the 2017 draft.

Putting all that aside, when it comes to good left tackles, teams are very hesitant to give them up. Unless a team is prepared to send an early round pick in exchange, Staley will remain a 49er.

Odds Staley plays for the ______ in 2017

San Francisco 49ers: 2/3
Minnesota Vikings: 4/1
Denver Broncos: 15/1
New York Giants: 18/1
FIELD: 23/2

Robert Griffin III, QB, Cleveland Browns

By Erik Drost (Flickr)
By Erik Drost (Flickr)

When Griffin injured his shoulder in Week 1, it was the worst thing that could have happened for the Browns. Please realize that I’m not suggesting RGIII under center would result in wins for the Browns. What I’m trying to say is that the injury has prevented the organization from getting a good look at the former Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Fortunately, Griffin does not require surgery for his shoulder, and should be ready to return before the end of the season. I fully expect Cleveland to throw him back under center when healthy, as they need to figure out if Hue Jackson can resurrect his career and make him worth the $8.5 million cap hit next season.

In the one game Griffin played this season, he did not impress. The Baylor product completed 46.15-percent of his passes for 190 yards and one interception, boasting a horrendous 55.0 passer rating. But, Cleveland will have a hard time giving up on him after just one game, especially with that game coming against one of the best pass defenses in the league (Philadelphia).

Should Griffin continue to disappoint when he comes back, though, the Browns could save close to $7 million by parting ways with the pivot. Unfortunately, there is no way any team in the league will offer Cleveland any sort of compensation to take on that contract and, as was the case with Jamaal Charles, it is far more likely Griffin will be cut than traded.

Even if Griffin shows glimpses of his 2012 form, the Browns may still choose to move on with Cody Kessler and Josh McCown. The market for Griffin continues to dwindle, and I would be shocked if any team brought him in as a starter. He’s not a player that can adapt to any system, either; so, in order to be signed as a backup, he’d have to find an offense that caters to his strengths. (Cough, Chip Kelly.) It certainly seems the end is drawing very near for the former second-overall pick.

Odds Griffin is (a) ______ in 2017

San Francisco 49er: 4/1
Cleveland Brown: 9/2
Tennessee Titan: 9/1
FIELD: 17/3
out of the league: 7/4

Photo Credit: Bigcats lair at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.

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