Carolina Panthers running back Miles Sanders Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Potential NFL Trade Packages for Players Who Need a Fresh Start

Alex Ballentine

Sometimes a change of scenery is all an NFL player needs to thrive.

Whether it's a veteran who has maxed out their capability in their current situation, is unhappy with their contract or a young player who just hasn't worked out with their team, a set of new circumstances can spark a bounce-back season.

This can become even more obvious to players and teams as they hit the field for OTAs. With all of the roster movement that comes with free agency and the draft, a pecking order will start to develop at these early team practices.

That, combined with the magical June 1 date that will alter the cap rules for trading a player, could be the catalyst for some player swaps in the coming weeks.

After June 1, teams can spread the dead cap hit for moving on from a player over the next two seasons instead of paying the bill up front in 2024.

Here, we'll take a look at some hypothetical trade packages that would land players across the league a much-needed reset. Factors such as potential role, recent trades and team needs are taken into account.

DT Jonathan Allen, Washington Commanders

Washington Commanders defensive tackle Jonathan Allen Ric Tapia/Getty Images

Chicago Bears Receive: DT Jonathan Allen

Washington Commanders Receive: 2025 second-round pick, 2026 fifth-round pick

At this point, Matt Eberflus' comment that the 3-technique is the "engine" of his defense has been well-circulated. This logic was behind defensive tackles Byron Murphy II and Jer'Zhan Newton being popular mock draft selections for the Bears.

But the 2024 draft came and went, and the Bears still don't have a dominant interior defender who can make Eberflus' system go in Chicago.

Jonathan Allen seems to love the new direction of the defense in Washington under new head coach Dan Quinn. The question is whether the new front office feels the same love. They just handed Daron Payne a massive contract extension and drafted Jer'Zhan Newton in the draft.

The 6'3", 300-pound defensive tackle is used to playing a healthy snap share. He was at 82 percent in 2022 and 79 percent in 2023. But with the added depth and additions on the defensive line that also includes former second-round pick Phidarian Mathis and former Dallas Cowboys selection John Ridgeway III, it's fair to wonder if his snap share will stay the same and whether he's in the Commanders' plans beyond 2024.

If he's not, then Allen might be better off in a situation where he's still a featured player. That would surely be the case in Chicago, where he would reunite with former Commanders teammate Montez Sweat and net a similar trade return to what the New York Giants got for Leonard Williams.

CB James Bradberry, Philadelphia Eagles

James Bradberry Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Arizona Cardinals Receive: CB James Bradberry, 2025 fourth-round pick

Philadelphia Eagles Receive: 2025 fifth-round pick

James Bradberry's tenure in Philadelphia took a drastic turn for the worse in 2023.

The 30-year-old cover man enjoyed one of his best seasons when he arrived in 2022. But he was the embodiment of the Eagles' collapse down the season's final stretch last year. He was charged with giving up 11 touchdowns in coverage and a passer rating of 114.3 after giving up a 51.6 mark.

A combination of the change at defensive coordinator, a less effective pass rush and just plain old aging probably attributed to Bradberry's jarring drop-off. Corner is a volatile position by nature, and he's hitting an age where many players slow down.

There's not much that can be done about the last two, but a reunion with former defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon could be beneficial.

The problem for Philadelphia is Bradberry's burdensome contract. There's a lot of dead cap involved in letting go of him, and the only way they even save a little bit of money in 2024 is if they trade him after June 1.

The Eagles' decision to double dip in the defensive backfield with their first two picks in the draft speaks volumes about how they feel about Bradberry.

Finding a trade partner could be difficult. The team taking on his contract would really be doing the Eagles a solid. Given Bradberry's play and how much it would help the Eagles, it might take an NBA-style trade where the Eagles are essentially paying someone to take him off their roster.

The Cardinals are uniquely qualified to take them up on that. General manager Monti Ossenfort clearly likes working the phones, Gannon has experience coaching him, and they have $22.1 million in cap space.

WR Treylon Burks, Tennessee Titans

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Treylon Burks Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

New York Giants Receive: WR Treylon Burks

Tennessee Titans receive: 2025 sixth-round pick

There's an argument to be made that Treylon Burks is already getting a fresh start. With Brian Callahan taking over as head coach in Tennessee, the 2022 first-round pick will play in a new offense with Will Levis as the starter from opening week.

DeAndre Hopkins even went to bat for his teammate, writing in a since-deleted X post that the media is the only entity doubting the receiver.

Maybe that's the case. But there's no denying that Burks is a clear fourth option on the roster. They not only signed Calvin Ridley but also added Tyler Boyd, who brings a lot of experience with Callahan to the table.

Even if Burks is much better than he was last season, it will be hard for him to carve out a role in the new Titans offense. Last season he had just 16 receptions for 221 yards in 11 games.

A move to another team, like the New York Giants, which is still trying to figure out the receiving corps, would make sense. Going from Levis to Daniel Jones might be a downgrade, but the Giants have a lot of unknowns at wide receiver right now.

Rookie Malik Nabers figures to be their No. 1 receiver. Darius Slayton would be the No. 2 option, but he's currently sitting out OTAs while he works on a new contract with the G-Men.

There are many young options the Giants hope will hit big this season. Adding Burks would give them another body type with potential in the room. At 6'2", 225 pounds, the former Razorback is much bigger than the likes of Wan'Dale Robinson (5'8", 185) and Jalin Hyatt (6'0", 185).

Burks would still have to fight for reps and targets, but the competition would be a lot lighter in New York.

WR Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals

Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Jaguars Get: WR Tee Higgins, 2025 sixth-round pick

Bengals Get: 2025 second-round pick

Tee Higgins has had plenty of success with the Cincinnati Bengals, but his time with the team that drafted him appears to be dwindling.

The reality that it's going to be very difficult to build a championship team while paying Joe Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase and Higgins long-term. The Bengals' decision to franchise-tag the receiver is a move that simply delays the inevitably for one more season.

If this were a Madden franchise, it would make some sense to push the chips to the middle of the table and have Higgins play on the one-year tag. But the human element and the frustration that comes with playing without long-term financial stability could get in the way of that plan.

Higgins hasn't signed his franchise-tag contract and hasn't shown up to OTAs. The former Clemson receiver has requested a trade, but the Bengals have been unwilling to acquiesce to this point.

That could change the longer Higgins' holdout lasts. Ultimately, they may decide it's better to get something out of their receiver now rather than wait on a compensatory pick in 2026.

Several teams should be interested in Higgins, but there's no better situation for him than reuniting with fellow Clemson alum Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville.

The two formed a dynamic chemistry for the Tigers, and the Jaguars desperately need Lawrence to continue progressing toward his ceiling in 2024. That became harder to do when Calvin Ridley opted to sign with the Tennessee Titans.

Higgins would instantly make it easier to feel optimistic about the Jags this season.

Edge Matthew Judon, New England Patriots

New England Patriots edge-rusher Matthew Judon Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens: Edge Matthew Judon, 2025 seventh-round pick, 2025 seventh-round pick (via TEN)

New England Patriots: 2025 fifth-round pick, 2026 fifth-round pick

The New England Patriots are one of the most obvious rebuilding teams in the league right now. Most teams in the league try some form of competitive roster re-tooling. The Pats aren't exactly hiding their intent with their $49.3 million in cap space.

So where does a soon-to-be 32-year-old coming off a torn bicep injury fit into a team that is clearly looking toward the future?

That's the question the Patriots have to ask themselves. Jerod Mayo explained away Matthew Judon's absence at OTAs as something that "isn't unusual." However, it's notable that he's set to cost the Pats $14.7 million and they have plenty of young players on the perimeter who would benefit from the extra snaps that would come with trading away Judon.

From the veteran's perspective, it makes a whole lot more sense to be chasing a ring with a contender in the twilight of his career than hanging around on a roster that isn't ready to compete.

A reunion with the Baltimore Ravens, who drafted him in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, would make sense for all parties involved. The Ravens need some proven production on the perimeter. David Ojabo and Odafe Oweh are potential breakout players, but they still could use another threat on the outside to replace Jadeveon Clowney.

The parameters for this deal are similar to the one that brought Za'Darius Smith to Cleveland last season. Judon is relatively close to the same age and had 28 combined sacks in 2021 and 2022.

RB Miles Sanders, Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers running back Miles Sanders David Jensen/Getty Images

Indianapolis Colts Receive: RB Miles Sanders

Carolina Panthers Receive: 2025 sixth-round pick

Miles Sanders was one of the highest-paid running backs in free agency last season, but it wasn't a move that made a lot of difference for the Carolina Panthers.

He struggled to catch on in a struggling Panthers offense and managed only 3.3 yards per carry and 586 yards from scrimmage in 16 games. Chuba Hubbard was the clear leader in the backfield with 1,135 yards despite a bad cast around him.

Many things have changed in Carolina this offseason. Dave Canales is the new head coach, and he'll be trying to build a new offense around Bryce Young.

In some ways, it's a fresh start, but the veteran back will still take a back seat to Hubbard. The Panthers were the first team to take a running back, using the 46th selection to take Jonathon Brooks out of Texas.

Brooks is recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in November, but the more he gets worked into the rotation, the less of a role Sanders will have.

Indianapolis would be the optimal landing spot for a Sanders resurgence. His best season came with the Eagles when Shane Steichen served as offensive coordinator. He had 1,347 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2022 before Steichen left to take the Indianapolis Colts head coach.

The Colts have Jonathan Taylor, but he has struggled to stay healthy over the last two seasons. He has played 21 games over the last two seasons and has yet to recapture the form that saw him compile over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns in 2021.

Edge Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers edge-rusher Joe Tryon-Shoyinka Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers Receive: Edge Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, 2025 seventh-round pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Receive: 2025 fifth-round pick

The Joe Tryon-Shoyinka breakout season has been an unfulfilled dream for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for three seasons now. After declining his fifth-year option, it seems as unlikely as ever.

The Bucs spent the 32nd overall selection on Tryon-Shoyinka back in 2021. He's made 34 starts and played in every regular-season game since then, but his production has been underwhelming.

There's more to the position than sacks, but he has only 13 across three seasons. His pressure rate has actually been better than you'd think, but it took a dip in 2023. After posting a 13.2 pressure percentage as a rookie, he was down to just 9.1 last season.

That would explain why he ceded snaps to YaYa Diaby, who put up 7.5 sacks in his rookie year.

Tryon-Shoyinka's early success and pressure rates would hint at some untapped potential that just might not be reached in Todd Bowles' defense.

The Steelers' primary needs might be at wide receiver and corner, but edge depth is a sneaky spot for improvement. T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith obviously do the heavy lifting, and Nick Herbig will eat up some snaps, but the Steelers don't necessarily have a replacement for what Markus Golden gave them last season.

Tryon-Shoyinka would have the opportunity to learn under a coaching staff that has helped Highsmith become a productive starter alongside a superstar in Watt.


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