The NFL’s trade deadline is approaching - November 1st is the last chance for teams to deal players, and while that date does not have nearly the flurry of activity of deadlines in other major sports, speculation still flies as it approaches.
This week, ESPN looked at each team’s roster to find the player most likely to be traded - or to at least be on the trading block. With the Green Bay Packers still facing major questions at cornerback and running back due to injuries, we looked at the four players listed at each of those two positions to see if any of them might be interesting to Ted Thompson.
(Also, it’s worth mentioning that right tackle Bryan Bulaga was listed as the choice for the Packers, likely due to Jason Spriggs’ arrival.)
What we found at both corner and running back on ESPN’s list was a mix of youth and experience, of players who could come over on the cheap and those with big contracts. The beauty of trades is that the team receiving the player is not on the hook for any dead money from a signing bonus; however, some of these players still have big deals that would need to be adjusted.
Still, there are a couple of names here that could hold some small amount of appeal for the Packers, and with Thompson’s latest delve into that area of player acquisition, it’s fun to think about who he might make some calls on next.
Darqueze Dennard, Bengals
Dennard is an interesting specimen - he has decent size for a Packers corner (5’11”, 199) and acceptable speed (4.51 Combine 40). He also played in a scheme at Michigan State that calls for almost exclusively press-man coverage - the same type of coverage that the Packers prefer. Furthermore, he is young and cheap - his rookie contract runs through 2017.
However, Dennard does not have great change-of-direction ability (4.41 shuttle, 7.07 3-cone), something that the Packers are typically high on in their corners. Think of Casey Hayward, who had similar size and speed - but his shuttle and cone times were each about a half-second quicker. That might not make Dennard a candidate to play in the slot for the Packers, which is probably where he would make the most sense at present.
Byron Maxwell, Dolphins
Maxwell is not cheap - he has a huge contract that pays him $8.5 million this year and nearly $10 million each of the next two years. However, he would come with no dead money, as the Eagles absorbed the hit from his signing bonus when they dealt him to Miami this offseason.
The bigger issue with Maxwell is his play and scheme preference. He was excellent in the Seahawks’ cover-3 scheme when working with Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman; however, he was not good in Philly last year or in Miami this season when asked to play more press.
Joe Haden, Browns
Like Maxwell, Haden would be expensive. His base salaries are even higher than Maxwell’s. However, he has played at a higher level and done so more consistently than Maxwell. As such, he would command a higher price, possibly an early day-three draft pick.
His measureables are reasonable and he has two picks this year, but his injuries are a major concern - he has missed three games with groin pulls, and the Packers have probably had enough of those in their cornerback unit this year.
Robert Alford, Falcons
This is probably the most intriguing name of any of the cornerbacks mentioned - Alford has terrific speed, good change-of-direction skills, and leaping ability (40” vertical, 11’ broad jump) that could help overcome his 5’10” frame. Alford is also on his rookie contract; however, that deal expires this offseason, and would leave the Packers with another free agent decision to weigh (but another compensatory pick if they lose him to a big deal).
Still, Alford is has played on the perimeter in the past and is in the slot this season, and he improved significantly in 2015 from his first and second years in the league. As ESPN notes, penalties are an issue with him as he refines his technique. Of all of these options, he has the best combination of skills, production, and scheme fit for the Packers among these options. If I’m calling about any of these four players, Alford would be my first choice.
The Packers already swung a trade for a running back a week ago when they picked up Knile Davis from the Kansas City Chiefs. Say that they were interested in adding another back, though? Here are the tailbacks that ESPN suggests could be found on the market.
Taiwan Jones, Raiders
Jones is much like Davis - he’s a straight-ahead speed demon (4.33 40 at his Pro Day), though he appears to have better agility than Davis. He also is an excellent kick returner. However, he’s a bit slightly built (6’0, 194) and he has barely ever seen any action on offense in his five-plus seasons. He would be at best a change-of-pace receiving back who could return kicks. Like Blue, he is under contract through 2017.
Darren McFadden, Cowboys
Behind Dallas’ great offensive line, McFadden broke a few big runs against the Packers last season and was the team’s lone bright spot on offense in that game. However, he is on the non-football injury list and would need to be activated before he could be traded. No thanks.
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
Yes, Stewart is on this list in large part because the Panthers are bad and he has a big contract. That deal would almost certainly need to be reworked for 2017, as he is owed $6.25 million, but his 2018 year is cheap, so that could be spread out a bit. Sure, Stewart has had some nice seasons as part of a one-two punch with DeAngelo Williams, but the problem is that he hasn’t played all 16 games since 2011. It’s hard to imagine a team - especially the Packers - investing in a running back who will turn 30 in March and whose body has a track record of keeping him off the field.
Alfred Blue, Texans
Lamar Miller’s arrival spelled the end for Blue in Houston, but the third-year back is putting up the best yards-per-carry this year (5.4). He is a decent if not explosive receiving back, and he has another year left on his rookie contract. However, Blue got his biggest workload of the season on Monday in Denver (11 carries, 63 yards), suggesting that he is in line for some more work in the next few weeks. Still, he’s young and has a decent skill set as a backup who could fill in here and there with a spot start. He has a similar build to James Starks at 6’2”, 223.
Blue is by far the most appealing of these names, especially from the perspective of his age, contract, and injury history (or lack thereof).