2022 NFL trade deadline player-team fits: Packers should get WR Brandin Cooks for Aaron Rodgers

The NFL’s Nov. 1 trade deadline represents the last big chance clubs have to upgrade their rosters for a potential postseason run.

Sure, there will be potentially impactful free-agent birds available closer to Thanksgiving, like Odell Beckham Jr., but those are few and far between at this point in the year.

If a club wants to make a move to solidify its place in the standings or turn around a season sliding sideways, it’ll need to get moving before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline.

We’ve already seen splash moves from certain contenders. The 49ers went all in for star running back Christian McCaffrey. The Eagles boosted their D-line with Robert Quinn. Kansas City acquired former first-rounder Kadarius Toney from the Giants — a play for the short- and long-term future. The Jets plugged the hole left by Breece Hall‘s injury by obtaining James Robinson.

There are fewer clear sellers with the NFL trade deadline so early in the season. But depending on how things go this weekend for borderline clubs like Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Denver, we could see a flurry of moves between Sunday night and Tuesday’s deadline.

There are many moving parts when it comes to acquiring a new player — from compensation to scheme fit to future salary cap implications — but below are 10 trade fits I’d like to see come to fruition before the deadline passes.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers aren’t one player away from a massive turnaround, but it feels like GM Brian Gutekunst needs to make a move to try to aid a careening ship. Rumors connecting Chase Claypool to Green Bay persist, and Jerry Jeudy could also be an option, but I like Cooks as a better fit if the Packers could pry him away from Houston. Given the Pack’s struggles to integrate fledgling wideouts, is it worth the gamble to import another young player? In 2022, Green Bay would be better with a veteran receiver who has proven he can fit in multiple offenses. Cooks still owns world-class speed and is a consistent downfield threat, something Aaron Rodgers is missing. Yes, Gutekunst would have to do some cap gymnastics down the road to make Cooks’ contract work in 2023. But if he wants to turn around a struggling offense this year, Cooks would be my pick.

Los Angeles Chargers

Payne is in the final year of his contract, and if the Commanders don’t see the defensive tackle in their long-term plans, they could cash in ahead of the trade deadline. The Chargers upgraded their defense this offseason … but remain a middling unit, particularly in the middle. Payne would immediately upgrade the interior as a big body that can plug the middle and push the pocket. Clinging to the final wild-card spot in the AFC despite up-and-down play, L.A. has a chance to help solidify its standing with a splash move.

Miami Dolphins

Jackson isn’t a fit in the Commanders’ defense, and while he has denied that he wants out of Washington, a move makes sense. The Dolphins are in the market for corner help, with Byron Jones still not ready to return and Nik Needham on injured reserve. Xavien Howard has also been battling through a groin injury. Adding a player like Jackson would fit well in Miami’s scheme and provide help as the Fins fight for playoff positioning.

Los Angeles Rams

L.A.’s offensive line has been devastated by injuries and ineffective play. It’s left the Rams unable to run Sean McVay’s offense how he prefers. Adding any sort of upgrade at this point is better than standing pat. Erving, a backup in Carolina, isn’t the best fit for McVay’s system, but he comes with experience, having started 56 games in his career. Several teams with postseason aspirations need offensive line help, which is challenging to find, particularly at this stage in the season. At best, Erving is an average offensive lineman, but he should be available at a cheap price for a Rams team that desperately needs average O-line play.

Los Angeles Rams

If the Rams can’t find O-line help, they could upgrade their running back situation. Hunt, in the final year of his contract, would be an upgrade over Darrell Henderson in McVay’s scheme. With Cam Akers on the outs, there is a backfield need in L.A. While Hunt isn’t breaking as many tackles as he has in previous seasons, he’s still an upgrade in that area over Henderson. He’s also a plus pass-catcher and better in the red zone, all areas in which the Rams have struggled from the backfield in 2022. After missing out on Christian McCaffrey, pivoting to Hunt makes sense.

Arizona Cardinals

Chubb seems destined to leave Denver after the season, barring GM George Paton using the franchise tag on the pass rusher. The Broncos could recoup some of the draft capital they gave up in the Russell Wilson trade by dealing Chubb, which could be particularly enticing if Denver loses to Jacksonville in London on Sunday. The Cardinals didn’t adequately replace Chandler Jones this offseason and have struggled taking down the quarterback, ranking tied for 27th in sacks through seven games. At 3-4, Arizona feels like a team that could be desperate enough to trade future assets for a player like Chubb. There is also the coaching connection with Cards defensive coordinator Vance Joseph — Chubb had a career-high 12 sacks as a rookie under Joseph in Denver. Finally healthy, Chubb has played well off the edge in Denver, netting 5.5 sacks and 24 pressures in seven games this season. It would be a splash move for a Cardinals team looking to avoid another slide down the stretch.

Chicago Bears

I know the Bears are being labeled as “sellers” after trading away Robert Quinn, but there’s still a huge need to invest in weapons for Justin Fields. Why not make a deadline move to land a talented player like Albert O, who is buried on the depth chart in Denver? In previous seasons, the former fourth-round pick flashed some playmaking skills and the ability to generate separation, traits the Bears need in their pass-catching corps. Given that he’s been a healthy inactive the past two weeks, the 24-year-old shouldn’t cost much to pry away from Denver. Still on his rookie contract, Okwuegbunam is the type of cheap flier Chicago should chase at the deadline to help Fields in his development and complement Cole Kmet, who has impressed offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. Worst-case scenario for the Bears: Ryan Poles doesn’t chase him, and the TE ends up with rival Green Bay.

New York Giants

Let’s continue with a potential Broncos fire sale. Given their injuries at wideout, the 6-1 Giants made a semi-surprising trade, shipping former first-round pick Kadarius Toney to Kansas City. New GM Joe Schoen could follow that up by importing a receiver before the deadline. Like most of the Broncos’ offense, Hamler has struggled this season, generating just five catches for 113 yards, but the former second-round pick would bring deep-threat ability to Brian Daboll’s offense. Jerry Jeudy could also be an option — and Daboll coached Jeudy when the WR was a freshman at Alabama — but the cost for the former first-rounder would be higher. I’m betting if Schoen wants to add a wideout, he’ll take the less-expensive option.

Cincinnati Bengals

Adding a veteran on a one-year contract who could be available for a minimal price should be in play for Cincy, which could be leaning on its defense more than usual while Ja’Marr Chase is sidelined. Ioannidis has played well in Carolina this season, eating up blockers. He’s played particularly well against the run, an area where the Bengals have struggled this season — ranking 29th in ESPN’s run-stop win rate metric. Ioannidis would fill a big hole in the middle of the Cincinnati defense as the Bengals gear up for an AFC North battle over the next two months.

Kansas City Chiefs

The 34-year-old Hughes is showing he can still create havoc in the backfield this season, generating four sacks in the first three games. Given his age and the Texans’ standing, he’s a prime candidate to get moved, but he shouldn’t cost a ton. Hughes would be a welcome addition to a Chiefs team that just saw Frank Clark suspended for two games. Hughes is also on a cheap contract, making him the ideal candidate for GM Brett Veach to fit under the tight cap. After adding to the offense with the Toney trade, Veach could beef up the D by importing Hughes. A rush rotation of Hughes, Clark, rookie George Karlaftis and Carlos Dunlap would bring heat heading into the postseason — particularly crucial if K.C’s destined for another clash with Hughes’ former Bills squad.

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