For years, the NFL trade deadline has been something of a quiet affair. But that changed in a big way a season ago. On deadline day a year ago 10 trades were made involving 12 players, the most on a single NFL trade deadline in 30 years. Beyond that, 20 players were moved in the weeks leading up to the deadline, the most in NFL history.
While we do not know yet how many players will be moved this year, we do have a better picture of what teams should be involved.
When the NFL moved the deadline back from Week 6 to Week 8 back in 2012, the league envisioned what we saw a season ago. With two more weeks to evaluate their rosters, teams have a much clearer idea of what they can be, or what they cannot achieve. In fact, that has led some teams to argue that the deadline should be pushed back even more.
Until the trade deadline arrives, all we can do is speculate. But with six weeks of action at our disposal, we have a good idea of who should be sellers, and who should be buyers.
Here are five teams that should be aggressive over the next few weeks.
Everything is setting up for the Lions to be aggressive ahead of the trade deadline.
First, look around the rest of the division. The Lions already have a three-game lead over the Green Bay Packers in the win column, and already have a win in hand over the Packers, achieved at Lambeau Field. The Chicago Bears are 1-5 and Justin Fields is hurt, and in Minnesota the Vikings are 2-4 and Justin Jefferson is on the shelf.
When you take a step back, the Lions at 5-1 sit atop the conference, along with the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles. But while those two teams face some tough schedules down the stretch — including a much-anticipated meeting on December 3 — this is who Detroit will see the rest of the way: The Ravens, the Raiders, the Chargers, the Bears (twice), the Packers, the Vikings (twice), the Saints, the Broncos, and the Cowboys.
If there is a time to push all the chips to the center of the table, this is it.
Week 5 of the 2023 NFL season demonstrated that while the Cowboys might be one of the better teams in the NFC, there is still a gap between them and one of the teams they are chasing right now in the standings, the San Francisco 49ers. The 42-10 blowout loss — Dallas’s third-straight loss to the 49ers over the past two seasons — highlighted that the 49ers might be a bad matchup for Dallas right now.
However, Week 6 saw the Cowboys get a much-needed win, and suddenly they are just one game being both the 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles in the conference. Injuries to Trevon Diggs and Leighton Vander Esch on the defensive side of the ball could be addressed (glances at New England) and perhaps adding a veteran tight end could be an option (looks over at Arizona).
But whatever they do, the point remains that the Cowboys are in a position to do something.
As many expected, the AFC North looks like perhaps the most intriguing division in the NFL. At the moment the Ravens sit atop the division, but not much separates these four teams. You could also make a case for all four teams to put together a run and secure the division title.
When it comes to the Ravens, an area they could address is pass rush. Baltimore is currently tied with Buffalo for the most sacks on the season with 24, so this is not a pressing need, but with Odafe Owen and David Ojabo both dealing with injuries, adding a depth piece here would be a good move for the Ravens.
There are also rumblings that due to injuries in the running back room, most notably a season-ending injury for J.K. Dobbins, that Baltimore could take a big swing at a running back.
This meaty piece from Ravens.com debates the pros and cons of such a move. Ultimately, that author concludes that when it comes to running back versus pass rusher, adding a defender is the smarter play for Baltimore.
Still, that debate bolsters the case that the Ravens, regardless of what position they address, should be buyers.
Philadelphia’s surprising loss to the New York Jets could not have come at a worse time.
But maybe it ends up a blessing in disguise.
Heading into Week 6 Eagles fans were already feeling rather uneasy about the state of the Birds. While Philadelphia was undefeated, there were questions about the offense — particularly the Eagles’ sudden inability to turn red zone possessions into touchdowns — and injuries were mounting on the defensive side of the football.
Then they lost to the Jets, Lane Johnson went down with an ankle injury, and those uneasy feelings snowballed into something much bigger. That is, until the Phillies took the field for Game 1 of the NLCS.
Still, the Eagles have some needs now. We can start with the secondary. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around at MetLife Stadium, James Bradberry was the only Week 1 starter still on the field. Cornerback Avonte Maddox and safety Justin Evans are on injured reserve, Darius Slay has been banged up, and safety Reed Blankenship has missed time with a rib injury. Bolstering both positions — with safety the likely priority — would be a smart move.
Then there is the offensive line. As my dear friend JP Acosta noted on a recent episode of “Monday Football Monday,” the Eagles have the best position group in football with their offensive line. But that looks much different with Johnson out of the lineup. His injury is not expected to be long term, but shoring up the right tackle spot behind him — or if that injury lingers — should be another priority.
Kansas City Chiefs
And just like that, the Kansas City Chiefs have a two-game lead in the AFC West.
Still, division titles are not the goal in Kansas City. If the Chiefs want to achieve their true goal of repeating as Super Bowl Champions, making an addition or two would be a wise investment.
There are a few position that the Chiefs could address ahead of the trade deadline, such as wide receiver, and running back, and there are certainly options at both positions. Marquise Brown with Arizona or Jerry Jeudy with Denver could be options at wide receiver, but if the Chiefs want to add a running back Chuba Hubbard with the Panthers could be an option.