Of all the potential NFL offseason storylines, "Seahawks trade Richard Sherman" would have ranked among the least believable two or three months ago. Yet, here we are.
Sherman and the Seahawks, one of the most beautiful and successful pairings of player and NFL organization in the past half-decade, seem destined for divorce. With a little more than two weeks left before the draft, a potential trade of Sherman is one of the most-watched NFL storylines. Adam Schefter has reported that Sherman wanted out, and Seahawks officials have been stunningly candid about the fact they're listening.
There's enough smoke here to convince you a Sherman trade is likely to happen sooner rather than later. The Seahawks are going to have a huge hole at cornerback if they deal him, so they need to get something of significant value -- maybe a first-round pick and more.
This year's draft features enough depth and caliber at defensive back to make you think you can replace Sherman, but every draft pick is a projection and there are no guarantees the next Sherman is there. It's also no sure thing that the market for Sherman will be robust, as he makes more than $11 million per year and not every team sees him as a scheme fit. Watch the Raiders, whose defensive coordinator, Ken Norton Jr., coached on Seattle's staff from 2010-14.
Which other players might soon be traded? With offseason programs beginning, teams want to get their rosters squared away. If a guy is out there on the trade market, the next few weeks are a likely time for a deal to go down.
Let's start with the quarterbacks who could be on the block:
At this point, the Patriots have told teams they're not interested in dealing Garoppolo, whom they view as a valuable backup to Tom Brady, who is soon to turn 40 years old. But circumstances can change, and if the price gets crazy-high enough (say, Cleveland wants to offer that No. 12 overall pick in a package), the Patriots could be swayed. As with Malcolm Butler (mentioned a little later), the idea of losing Garoppolo without compensation a year from now can't be too appealing. The Browns, Texans and possibly the 49ers all look like teams that would jump if Garoppolo became more available.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington
Let's be clear here, since these things can get misread. I don't think Garoppolo will be traded, and I don't think Cousins will be traded. But neither is impossible. Cousins can't seem to get the long-term deal he wants from Washington (though it has until July 15 to try), and former Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is now a quarterback-needy head coach in San Francisco. It's impossible to imagine the offseason going by without Shanahan making a significant attempt to acquire Cousins. Perhaps if talks on an extension go nowhere, Washington makes the move. But it would have to give up on its 2017 season to do so. And that's a tough call to make for a franchise that's already wallowing in bad PR vibes from the ugly firing of its general manager last month.
Already traded once this offseason for basically nothing, Osweiler is not in the Browns' plans. He could be the best quarterback on their roster right now, but they are eyeing a better long-term solution with the No. 12 pick in the draft, and they still have dreams of prying a veteran away from another team to add to their mix (see: Garoppolo, and the next guy on this list). It's just tough to imagine the market for Osweiler, who flamed out after signing the big contract with Houston a year ago. Denver, which wanted him back, has moved on to Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Osweiler still has promise, but he's not as attractive a pickup as he appeared to be in 2016, and teams likely will wait for the Browns to release him.
Andy Dalton's backup is a player in whom some teams have interest, but the Bengals have made it clear they would demand a high price. The most obvious fit is Cleveland, where former Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson now coaches. But the Bengals would demand an even higher price if dealing McCarron within the division. McCarron is to be a restricted free agent at the end of 2017, so Cincinnati would have an opportunity to get something in return next year if they held on now.
Lynch appears quite interested in ending his one-year retirement and playing for his hometown Oakland Raiders. Of course, Seattle still controls his rights and would try to get something -- even if it's only a cursory late-round pick -- from Oakland in return. A lot has to happen here. First, Lynch has to formally unretire. Second, Seattle and Oakland would have to agree on trade compensation. Third (or possibly second, actually), the Raiders and Lynch would have to agree on a new contract, as it's unlikely they'll want to pay him $9 million this year. The most likely outcome here still feels like a release and a signing with the Raiders, but it's not impossible that the Lynch transaction could be a trade.
This was red-hot just a few weeks ago, as it looked certain that Butler would end up with the New Orleans Saints. And the fact that it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it won't. But things have cooled on the Butler front, and the Patriots don't seem to want to give him away for free. They could keep him and force him to play for them on his one-year, $3.91 million restricted free-agent tender, but that runs the risk of dealing with an unhappy player who could leave them without anything in return as a unrestricted free agent a year from now. At this point, the Saints might want to see whether they can address cornerback in the draft. Regardless, nothing can happen here until Butler signs that tender, as New England has made it clear it's not interested in talking trade without that happening first.
The problem the Rams have is that they've franchised Johnson two years in a row, which means he'll make $16.742 million this year. That's more than any other cornerback except Josh Norman, and it's $1.742 million more than the average annual value of any other corner's current contract. Johnson's a fine player, but he's not the best corner in the league, and the Rams are paying him as if he were. They have until July 15 to do a long-term deal that would help defray the cap hit, but Johnson doesn't mind the franchise tag and has the leverage. Sherman's sudden arrival on the market doesn't help the Rams' effort to find a trade partner for Johnson, either.
The key number for Kendricks is 27. It's his age as of this coming Sept. 28, which means he should still have value in the eyes of acquiring teams. It's also the percentage of Eagles defensive snaps he played in 2016, which tells you he's not a fit for what Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wants to do. The Eagles have been trying to get something for Kendricks for more than month, and the $4.35 million of his 2017 salary that became fully guaranteed on the third day of the league year tells you they have no interest in releasing him outright. The Eagles could wait out a training-camp injury on another team and try to get something for Kendricks later this summer.
The Jets were dangling Richardson at last year's trade deadline and would like to get something in return for their talented-but-troublesome defensive lineman before he leaves as a free agent in 2018. The Jets have star-caliber coverage in the form of Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams at the position and could get by without Richardson. The question is what they can expect to get for a guy who's one year from free agency and has been suspended for parts of the past two seasons. He fits any defensive scheme and can rush from the interior or outside, so pick a team that needs defensive line help. Cincinnati makes some sense if it isn't using its draft capital to help its offensive line. So does Seattle, actually. Sherman for Richardson? Who says no?
Yeah, this guy. Still suspended. No guarantee he'll ever be reinstated. But if he is reinstated, the Browns will surely try to get something in exchange for him before releasing him outright. He turns 26 on Thursday, and four years ago he caught 87 passes for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in just 14 games. But it'll be tough for the Browns to get much for a guy whose next suspension is likely to be permanent.