Trades are fun. They spark reaction and debate and often hope from a fan base. While they are growing in popularity in the NFL, they're not exactly everyday occurrences, though teams often will use August to make swaps involving players on the fringes of the roster.
Imaginary trades? I live and breathe them. No, they're not always likely to happen, but it's fun to think about how to improve two teams with one deal.
Now that we've established my love of imaginary trades, here are six hypothetical deals that make sense for both parties. A few involve players who have asked to be traded, and others include players who might not make the final 53-man roster cuts. Let's start with a deal for a frustrated defender who could get back a first-round pick:
Saints add one of the NFL's best cornerbacks
New Orleans Saints get: CB Xavien Howard, 2023 conditional fifth-round pick
Miami Dolphins get: 2022 first-round pick
Howard formally requested a trade last month, putting the spotlight on a potential deal for one of the league's best defenders. He's due $49.35 million over the next four years, but the Dolphins have thus far been unwilling to acquiesce to Howard's financial desires after inking him to a five-year, $75.25 million extension in 2019. Howard's frustration stems in part from the fact that he's not even the highest-paid cornerback on the team (that's Byron Jones, who signed in free agency last year). To be clear, this deal hurts Miami's roster talent, but these situations can get a little sticky when a team and a star are not seeing eye to eye.
For New Orleans, the move is logical on multiple levels: Howard fills what is the team's greatest need at the moment (cornerback depth) and allows the team to perpetuate its win-now M.O. that will not wither as it moves on to life after Drew Brees. Howard, at 28, is in his prime years, and he would immediately upgrade the Saints' defense.
It's worth noting that Howard's unhappiness with his deal likely won't dissolve just by his playing for a new team, so the Saints would have to sign him to a lucrative adjusted contract to make this work. They have their own star cornerback in Marshon Lattimore who is just a year away from being a free agent, so negotiating those two deals in a relatively short window could create a challenging dynamic. That being said, anyone who knows the Saints knows that the next hour of sleep general manager Mickey Loomis and salary-cap guru Khai Harley lose over the cap will be the first.
The 2023 draft pick is included because New Orleans not only is trading for Howard but also will have to give him a substantial payday.
Jets add insurance behind their quarterback of the future
New York Jets get: QB Nick Foles, 2022 sixth-round pick; the Bears would also have to agree to convert Foles' fully guaranteed $4 million 2022 roster bonus into a signing bonus, paid out before the execution of the trade
Chicago Bears get: 2022 sixth-round pick
The Jets' quarterback depth chart at quarterback beyond rookie Zach Wilson is James Morgan, Mike White and just-signed veteran journeyman Josh Johnson. Morgan and White have very little NFL game experience, and Johnson isn't likely to make much of an impact, which means the duo behind Wilson is one of the least experienced in the league. Foles, meanwhile, is firmly entrenched as Chicago's third-string quarterback. While the Jets previously have noted that offseason reps were essential for the young signal-callers on the roster, Foles would add a layer of stability that could have an impact on Wilson's development. Foles, of course, is comfortable being in a non-starting role and would give New York a more-than-capable fill-in.