While trading players in the NFL is not done as frequently as in other major sports, a few trades do happen every year. There are five players that the Packers could possibly trade without hurting the integrity of the team, and in the process getting three to four draft picks among the first forty, or so. Moving up and getting some early draft picks has become necessary to fix a porous defense. This is a strong draft for defensive linemen, linebackers and cornerbacks; all needs for the 2012 Packers.
First, let's look at the players who could possibly be traded.
If Thompson can arrange a deal for Matt Flynn, then of course, franchise-tagging him and making a trade is an obvious course of action. Trading Flynn and a pick in order to move into the top 10-15 would be a worthwhile trade.
James Jones signed a new deal last year, which makes him probably the highest paid 4th receiver in the league. Expect to see the more explosive Randall Cobb move past Jones this year. If Donald Driver restructures his contract, and if Gurley is as good as reports from coaches say he is, the Packers would still have a strong receiving corps, even with the departure of Jones. His departure would also open some salary cap space. Still James Jones would be a better #2 wideout than that of at least half of the teams in the league, making a trade a possibility. Again a trade of Jones and a later round pick for an early 2nd round pick could be possible.If finding a suitor for Jones proves impossible, and an arrangement to franchise and trade Flynn can't be made, then the Packers may be able to dig deeper to make a trade and move up into the early picks of the 1st round.
Jermichael Finley has just signed a contract, but it is a short one. Trading up into the top ten of the first round and getting a monster of a defensive lineman would possibly benefit the team more in the long term than keeping the talented tight end. This would be a trade of potential for potential, as Finley, as talented as he is, has still not fulfilled his potential. Finley is an option because the Packers, in Andrew Quarless, D.J. Williams, and Ryan Taylor, have three young TEs with ability to become very good NFL tight ends. Certainly, trading Finley would not be a first option, but solidifying the Packer defensive line for years to come would be the better option.
The Packers also have two very good inside linebackers, however neither one is truly great. The defense would be able to adjust to the loss of either A.J. Hawk or Desmond Bishop. Trading either of these players would be more difficult, because good linebackers are easier to find than other positions.The other problem with trading either Bishop or Hawk is that it would then become necessary to draft an inside linebacker, as a back-up at minimum.
Bishop would probably be easier to replace, since D.J. Smith plays a similar style and position. However, it may also be more difficult to get a high draft pick for Bishop. In any case, given that Smith may be ready to step into Bishop's role, this might be an option that would be worth exploring. A trade of Bishop and a 4th round pick for an 2nd round pick could enable the Packers to draft much needed defensive help.
Hawk, as much as many Packer fans dislike him, is well-respected in the locker room and around the league. He would more likely command a higher pick than Bishop. However, Hawk normally has primary cover responsibilities and Smith hasn't shown this to be one of his strengths. It is uncertain that the Packers currently have anyone on the roster who could take Hawk's role on a full-time basis, possibly making it necessary to find his replacement in the first few rounds of the draft. This would defeat the purpose of the trade. Though it may be possible to replace Hawk at linebacker by playing a rotation system, where Smith played on running downs and a faster LB with cover skills played on passing downs.
Why might it be beneficial to make any of these trades? (Other than the obvious benefit of franchising and trading Flynn?) Our deepest positions are WR, TE and ILB. Despite the rule changes and the record-breaking passing of 2011, NFL championships are still won in the trenches. Other than B.J. Raji, the Packers have either age (Ryan Pickett and Howard Green) or back-ups (Jarius Wynn and C.J. Wilson) or injuries (Mike Neal) on the defensive line. There are several excellent defensive linemen available in this years draft, and moving into the early part of the first round would enable the Packers to pick a top 3-4 DE or NT. More picks, either at #28 or early in the 2nd round, would allow the Packers to draft an OLB to complement Clay Matthews and a CB to help a leaky pass defense.
It would certainly be unwise to trade all five of these players, even to trade three of them would probably be too much. But to make two trades and get 3, or maybe 4 picks in the top 40-50 should solidify the team for the next decade.