NFL Free Agency 2022: Five blockbuster trades that need to happen this offseason

Amari Cooper to the Dolphins? Deshaun Watson in Silver and Black? Those are two of five NFL trades that need to happen in NFL free agency.

The NFL’s offseason madness kicked into high gear more than a week before the start of free agency. But Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos might just be the first of a slew of blockbuster NFL trades in the coming days and weeks. Here are the five deals that we’d love to see ahead of NFL free agency and the 2022 season.

Update 3/9/22: Less than an hour after this column posted, news broke that the Indianapolis Colts agreed to trade Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders for draft compensation. The Colts are now in the market for a quarterback, and should consider all options, including Jimmy Garoppolo.

5 Potential NFL Trades: QB Deshaun Watson to Las Vegas Raiders

First, the necessary caveat: The Texans probably cannot deal Deshaun Watson until his many legal issues are resolved. Watson remains the subject of nearly two-dozen active sexual misconduct lawsuits. And Harris County’s District Attorney’s Office is presenting its criminal evidence against Watson to a grand jury Friday.

Until there’s clarity on whether he’ll even be allowed to play in 2022, Watson will likely remain with the Texans. But if by chance he’s cleared in the coming weeks, the Raiders absolutely should go all-in to get him. Before his legal drama, Watson was one of the five best quarterbacks in the world. Imagine what he could do with Josh McDaniels as his coach.

Watson-to-Raiders trade terms

The Broncos and Seahawks reestablished the trade market for an elite quarterback this week. The Broncos sent two first-round picks, two seconds, a fifth, Drew Lock, Noah Fant, and Shelby Harris to Seattle. Denver got Wilson and a fourth in return.

The Texans should accept nothing less than the Raiders’ first-round pick this year (22nd overall), their second this year (53rd), their first next year, and Derek Carr, who will earn just $19.8 million in the final year of his current contract.

Derek Carr to Tampa Bay Buccaneers

But what if Watson isn’t cleared? Or if the Texans don’t want Carr as part of their compensation? There will still be a market for Carr in 2022. And we can think of no better match than with Bruce Arians and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have a playoff roster at every position but quarterback.

Of course, the Raiders shouldn’t deal Carr without a plan at quarterback. And maybe that plan includes bringing back Marcus Mariota and drafting one in the second half of the first round. But the Raiders are not winning a suddenly loaded AFC West this year, with or without Carr. They might as well move on now and get something for him.

Carr-to-Buccaneers trade terms

The Bucs shouldn’t give up much of anything unless they can extend Carr through 2023, at the very least. Arians turns 70 during the 2022 season, so the idea he wants to draft and develop a QB at this stage of his career seems unlikely. Assuming the Bucs and Carr can agree on a reasonable extension, the Raiders should demand nothing less than the Bucs’ second-round pick (60th overall).

Potential NFL Trades: Jimmy Garoppolo to the Washington Commanders

The San Francisco 49ers will trade Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason. It’s a matter of when not if. And even with all of his flaws, Garoppolo was still a top-15 quarterback in 2021, based on almost every major metric.

Sure, there are legitimate questions about whether Garoppolo’s success was simply a function of Kyle Shanahan’s system. But it’s a gamble worth making for Washington, which has an above-average wide receiver group and offensive line. Garoppolo, who is due an affordable $24 million in base salary, is better than Taylor Heinicke.

Garoppolo-to-Commanders trade terms

Barring an (unnecessary) extension, this would be a one-year rental in the nation’s capital. That means Garoppolo shouldn’t be super expensive to acquire. The pool of teams in need of his services is small, particularly since there’s no way the Niners trade Garoppolo to the rival Seahawks. The Niners need cornerback help. They should ask for William Jackson as compensation from the Commanders.

Amari Cooper to the Miami Dolphins

For Miami, this year is all about determining whether Tua Tagovailoa is the guy or not. Mike McDaniel wants to give him the support system that Brian Flores never did. A big part of that is making sure the offense has enough weapons.

Step 1 came Tuesday when the Dolphins placed the franchise tag on Mike Gesicki. Step 2 is finding a top-tier wide receiver to pair with Jaylen Waddle. Chris Grier loves Alabama players, and while he never lived up to the hype in Dallas, Amari Cooper is still a dynamic wideout.

Cooper-to-Dolphins trade terms

Cooper’s contract is the biggest impediment to any deal and might ultimately be the reason he’s cut rather than traded. He’s due $20 million in base salary this year, and that’s a big number for any non-quarterback. But NFL Network reports there are teams interested, so long as he agrees to a restructure that spreads that cap hit out over a number of years. The Dolphins, with nearly $50 million in cap space, should offer a third-rounder, assuming such a contract redo occurs.

Potential NFL Trades: Tyler Lockett to the New England Patriots

Some moves just feel right. This is one of them. Bill Belichick loves giving veteran, productive stars a fresh start late in their careers.

To be fair, Tyler Lockett isn’t exactly old (he turns 30 in October). But he seems like a Patriots type of player, given his dependability and productivity. Mac Jones needs help to take the next step. Lockett would be an ideal fit.

Lockett-to-Patriots trade terms

Lockett would be a solid value for whatever team acquires him. Presuming his $13 million option bonus would be owed by the team that acquires him, Lockett’s total cash liability in 2022 and 2023 would be just $25.7 million — which is more than reasonable for a player of his caliber. The Seahawks are hoarding draft picks for what looks to be a significant rebuild. Adding New England’s third (85th overall) and sixth (209th) to their total would be a nice bonus.

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