• Pair of star defenders have open trade requests: Cardinals safety Budda Baker and Buccaneers linebacker Devin White have reportedly requested trades, making them prime candidates to be dealt during the draft.
• Commanders have a decision to make with Chase Young: The fifth-year option deadline for 2020 first-rounders is May 1. Will Washington trade Young before then or secure his services for 2024?
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We kicked things off earlier this week with five offensive players who could be traded during the 2023 NFL Draft, and now we look at the defensive side of the ball.
S Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals
After weeks of back-and-forth conversations between Baker and the new Cardinals regime, Baker has reportedly requested a trade from the team that drafted him in the second round in 2017 as he seeks an extension that would place him near the top of the safety market.
Over Baker's first six seasons in the NFL, his 90.1 run-defense grade ranks seventh among safeties, and his 40 tackles for loss or no gain rank fifth. Baker is the clear leader of this Cardinals team, and he just turned 27 years old. When he signed his extension in 2020 for $14.75 million per year, the safety market hadn't reached $15 million annually, but the following offseason Jamal Adams pushed it to $17.5 million.
There is no question Baker deserves a bump in pay, at the very least, and perhaps he'll have to find that elsewhere, with the Jacksonville Jaguars one team that stands out as an interesting landing spot.
LB Devin White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After frustrations reportedly boiled over about the lack of progress in extension talks between White and the Buccaneers, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft has requested a trade. The current market is fairly clear at off-ball linebacker, with the Baltimore Ravens topping the market on an extension for Roquan Smith to the tune of $20 million per year, and the Chicago Bears inking Tremaine Edmunds to a deal worth $18 million annually in free agency. ESPN's Jenna Laine reported White is seeking a deal within that range. He is set to earn $11.706 million in 2023 on a fully guaranteed fifth-year option.
The Buccaneers have stated they have no intention of trading White, but whether that’s true or not, they should be open to the idea.
Tampa Bay has $75 million in dead cap in 2023, more than $20 million clear of the next-highest team. Wide receiver Mike Evans is entering the final year of his contract, and Kyle Trask is set to be the only quarterback on the Buccaneers' 2024 roster. Is now really a good time to extend an off-ball linebacker to a top-of-market deal?
One particular aspect of White’s game that generates a lot of value is his pass-rush prowess, with his 88 quarterback pressures over the past three seasons 30 more than the next-highest player. Teams that like to send linebackers on blitzes, such as the Tennessee Titans and New York Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, are perhaps teams to monitor here.
EDGE Za’Darius Smith, Minnesota Vikings
Smith tried to push his way out of Minnesota earlier this offseason to no avail, but the signing of free agent Marcus Davenport may at least open the door and push the Vikings to consider the idea, especially with just five total draft picks at their disposal.
While Smith is up there in age and has a somewhat troubling injury history, the deal he signed with Minnesota looks like a bargain after he earned an 84.7 pass-rush grade with 78 total pressures in 2022. Smith is owed $12.5 million for this upcoming season, with $3 million of that total coming via per-game roster bonuses that would not be earned if he missed time. This could make him an attractive trade piece for other clubs as compared to more expensive options, although it is quite clear that he wants a raise. Perhaps another team could guarantee him more money and/or convert the per-game roster bonuses into a signing bonus and that would be enough to get him back to full tilt.
EDGE Emmanuel Ogbah, Miami Dolphins
This is a name and situation no one is talking about that probably deserves more attention. Ogbah signed a four-year, $65.4 million extension just last offseason, and the Dolphins promptly traded for edge defender Bradley Chubb at this year’s deadline, agreeing to a five-year, $110 million extension shortly thereafter. 2021 first-rounder Jaelan Phillips is better than both players, and Ogbah is now a rather expensive third edge rusher.
New defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will want some depth rushing the passer, so it’s not as if Ogbah’s presence is a bad thing, and the tricky part here will be finding a trade partner to take on his $15 million fully guaranteed salary. From 2020-21, Ogbah tallied 127 quarterback pressures on a 12.1% pressure rate. In 2022, he had just 15 pressures and a 6.7% pressure rate before missing the second half of the season with a torn triceps.
If Miami agrees to retain salary, as we’ve seen with recent trades of wide receivers Allen Robinson II and Brandin Cooks, another team in need of pass-rush help may buy low on Ogbah. That's a huge “if,” but it's worth mentioning.
EDGE Chase Young, Washington Commanders
This one may be a bit of a stretch, but with the fifth-year option deadline for 2020 first-round picks on May 1 rapidly approaching — the Monday after the draft — perhaps Washington will let another team make the very difficult decision of whether to fully guarantee $17.452 million for Young in 2024.
Washington has now extended interior defenders Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, and edge defender Montez Sweat is entering his fifth-year option season in 2023 coming off a season in which he earned a career-high 79.6 pass-rush grade with 62 total quarterback pressures, also a top mark of his young career. Chase Young arguably has a higher ceiling than Sweat once healthy, but is Washington comfortable with Sweat’s high floor and willing to be proactive in getting out ahead of potentially paying all four players?
If other teams are comfortable with Young's medical situation after he missed considerable time with a knee injury, would they bring him aboard during the draft, exercise his fifth-year option and see what he offers in 2023 before entertaining an extension? Teams such as the Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans, among many others, would have to at least consider it.