While teams will use the 2023 NFL Draft to add young prospects to their roster, the draft also presents opportunities for veteran player trades. In 2022, wide receivers A.J. Brown, Marquise Brown, and cornerback Troy Hill were moved during the draft. The 2021 draft was quiet, but offensive tackle Trent Williams, running back Matt Breida, and cornerback Quincy Wilson were dealt during the 2020 draft.
Which veterans will we see change teams in 2023? Let’s run through the players who could get traded on draft night.
Who Will Be Traded During the 2023 NFL Draft?
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
It’s been nearly a month since Aaron Rodgers stated his intentions to play for the Jets in 2023, but a trade between New York and Green Bay is still not completed. Everything points to Rodgers heading to Gang Green at some point.
The Jets signed Rodgers’ friend and former teammate Allen Lazard (likely at Rodgers’ behest), while general manager Joe Douglas told a New York crowd over the weekend that Rodgers is “gonna be here.”
Although the Packers were originally thought to be targeting the Jets’ No. 13 pick in exchange for Rodgers, Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst recently said that a first-round selection “isn’t necessary” to complete a Rodgers trade.
Instead, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that the “feeling around the league is that multiple high picks, but not necessarily a first-rounder,” could get the trade done. The Jets now have two second-round selections after trading wide receiver Elijah Moore to the Browns, and they could potentially package one of those picks plus a 2024 choice to land Rodgers on draft night.
DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals
DeAndre Hopkins has been on the trade block for the entire offseason, but the Cardinals haven’t found a taker as of yet. Hopkins doesn’t fit with Arizona’s rebuild, but his remaining salaries — and his likely request for a new contract — have reduced his potential suitors.
The Cardinals may end up having to release Hopkins instead of trading him, as Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported last week. However, there might still be a possibility that Hopkins could be traded during the draft, even if the compensation is something like the 2023 fifth and 2024 sixth the Texans received from the Cowboys in exchange for Brandin Cooks.
The only problem? Teams with a need at wide receiver have filled those holes in recent weeks. The Patriots signed JuJu Smith-Schuster during the opening days of free agency, while the Ravens just signed Odell Beckham Jr. for $15 million.
The Chiefs and Bills might be interested in Hopkins, but if there’s a chance he’s going to be released, those clubs may wait and hope they don’t have to give up a draft pick in order to add him to their roster.
Allen Robinson, Los Angeles Rams
The Rams gave Allen Robinson permission to seek a trade more than a month ago, but there’s been no known movement on a deal. Robinson is guaranteed a $10 million base salary and a $5.25 million roster bonus in 2023, but Los Angeles is willing to pay down some of that total to facilitate a trade.
Robinson has dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness over the past two years and will turn 30 years old before next season gets underway. He hasn’t topped 40 receptions, 400 yards, or three touchdowns since 2020.
Given the state of the Rams’ rebuild, they’ll likely be open to trading away Robinson for virtually any level of compensation, even if it’s a conditional seventh-rounder in 2025. Even then, it might be difficult for Los Angeles to find a suitor, but a team could theoretically get desperate if they don’t find a pass catcher in the draft.
Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
Austin Ekeler remains one of the best running backs in the NFL, having averaged nearly 1,600 yards and 19 touchdowns per season over the past two years. But because he wants a raise over the $6.25 million he’s scheduled to earn in 2023, the Chargers have granted Ekeler permission to seek a trade.
No teams have stepped up to pursue Ekeler, who last week said the “worst-case scenario” is that he plays out the final year of his contract in Los Angeles before hitting free agency in 2023.
Ekeler will want a contract extension as part of a trade, drastically reducing his appeal. He’ll turn 28 years old in May, and NFL teams are increasingly wary of signing running backs to long-term deals when cheaper options are readily available. Finding a club willing to sacrifice draft capital to acquire Ekeler and offer him a new deal feels like a tall task.
Still, a team that misses out on a top-end running back prospect could target Ekeler in the later stages of the draft, especially if they feel he could be the missing piece of their offense. Whether the Chargers would be open to accepting a Day 3 pick for a player of Ekeler’s caliber is another question.
Jonah Williams, Cincinnati Bengals
Jonah Williams no longer wants to be a Bengal. After Cincinnati signed Orlando Brown Jr. and subsequently announced that Williams would be moving from left to right tackle, the former first-round pick requested a trade out of the Queen City.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported in late March that the Bengals “had trade conversations centered around” Williams, but Armando Salguero of Outkick later indicated that no team was willing to give up a “high pick” for Williams. It’s unclear where Cincinnati’s asking price for Williams stands, but I think they’d be open to trading him for a third-rounder.
Still, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if no rival club wants to give up a top-100 selection for a player who has struggled at times and is now entering the final season of his contract. There just aren’t that many teams searching for left tackles, while potentially interested parties like the Patriots, Jets, or Bears would probably move Williams to the right side.
Ed Oliver, Buffalo Bills
Ed Oliver has been a solid defensive tackle for the Bills over the past four seasons, but he hasn’t quite lived up to his draft billing as the ninth overall pick in the 2019 draft. Now that he’s entering the final year of his rookie deal, could Buffalo move on?
It’s easy to see why the Bills would be amenable to trading Oliver. They have significant money invested in Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Von Miller, Matt Milano, and a host of others. Buffalo is currently projected to have just $1.5 million in cap space in 2024. With so much cash tied up elsewhere, they might not have the wherewithal to extend Oliver.
Oliver is still only 25 years old, and there could be enough teams that had pre-draft interest in the Houston product to stir up a trade market. Although he’s undersized, Oliver’s testing numbers were out of this world, and clubs could be willing to send a draft pick Buffalo’s way to land that sort of interior upside.
Montez Sweat, Washington Commanders
The Commanders continued building through their defensive line this offseason, placing the franchise tag on Daron Payne before extending him at $22.5 million per year. Fellow defensive tackle Jonathan Allen is already under contract at $18 million annually.
Washington will have to make a decision on defensive end Chase Young’s fifth-year option after the draft, and it’s unclear if the Commanders will add another season to Young’s contract, given that he’s appeared in just 12 games since 2021.
And that’s not all! Montez Sweat, who has totaled 29 sacks over four years in Washington and ranked 13th in the NFL in pressures in 2022, will become a free agent after the 2023 campaign.
Can the Commanders afford to keep all these talented defenders? “We’ll have to find that out,” general manager Martin Mayhew said at the Scouting Combine. “It would be great, wouldn’t it?”
The 2023 edge class is considered one of the best position groups in this year’s draft, but teams that don’t land a premier pass-rushing prospect might be wise to give the Commanders a call. At age 26, Sweat could become a building block of his next team’s defense if Washinton determines it can’t retain all of its linemen.