- Salary makes a McCaffrey trade easier: Christian McCaffrey has a minimum salary for 2022, potentially making a move to a contender more of a reality.
- Akers needs to go out of LA: Cam Akers has been the least effective runner in the NFL since 2021, so maybe a change of scenery get him back on track
- Jackson hopes to get to man-coverage team to get career on track: William Jackson III wants to play more man coverage, fortunately for him, several teams that deploy a lot of man are in desperate need of cornerback help
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
One-third of the way through the NFL’s 18-week 2022 season and trade requests have started to come in bunches. For the Carolina Panthers, a 1-5 start, the firing of head coach Matt Rhule and an astonishing lack of draft capital/cap space going forward means that every single trade imaginable should at least be explored.
Two big-name running backs have been the talk of trade rumors, with Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers reportedly requesting a trade and the assumption the Panthers will conduct a firesale leading to speculation Christian McCaffrey could be moved. Working against both trades may be the fact the 2023 running back free agent class figures to be one of the best in a very, very long time, headlined by names including:
- New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley
- Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt
- Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs
- Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery
- Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders
Contract for acquiring team: 3.5 years, $36.775 million ($1.575 million guaranteed)
- 2022: $575,000
- 2023: $12,000,000 ($1 million injury guarantee)
- 2024: $12,000,000
- 2025: $12,200,000
In the words of the great Ian Hartitz, McCaffrey — when healthy — has now gone 28 consecutive games with at least 100 all-purpose yards and/or a touchdown — and that’s on an anemic Panthers offense that has the slowest pace in the NFL so far through Week 6.
Bills general manager Brandon Beane was hired by Buffalo less than two weeks after he helped select McCaffrey with the No. 8 overall pick while serving as the Panthers' assistant general manager. While the two crossed paths for a very short period of time, Beane has consistently brought players from Carolina over to Buffalo, including offensive lineman Daryl Williams, defensive linemen Mario Addison, Vernon Butler and Star Lotulelei, and several others.
Buffalo has tried to upgrade at running back through the draft in three out of the last four years, using third-round picks on Devin Singletary and Zack Moss in 2019-20 before using their 2022 second-round pick on James Cook. Singletary has consistently improved and is playing his best football so far this year, but none come close to McCaffrey. The move certainly carries plenty of risk, but after beating the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday and with the AFC East all currently .500 or better, it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see them push the chips all in just like Los Angeles did last season.
While Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis alone have been too much for opposing defenses to handle in 2022, Buffalo losing wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley was an underrated hit to its offense, and McCaffrey not only creates a diabolical read-option partner with Josh Allen but also has the receiving acumen out of the slot that has fallen off in 2022 with inconsistent play from Isaiah McKenzie.
The Broncos are short on draft capital and cap dollars after trading a haul to land quarterback Russell Wilson, but bringing in McCaffrey on a half-year rental if his (alleged) egregious asking price of multiple first-round picks comes down could salvage a season on the brink of collapse. McCaffrey’s father Ed played wide receiver for the Broncos for nine seasons, going over 1,000 receiving yards three times and winning two Super Bowls. Denver’s sharp early extension for wide receiver Courtland Sutton alone creates much-needed flexibility, as does the emergence of converted edge defender Baron Browning as the Broncos may not need to extend former top-five pick Bradley Chubb, who is currently playing on his fifth-year option.
With the loss of running back Javonte Williams and left tackle Garett Bolles, Wilson needs a check-down outlet who can create yards after the catch to complement the downfield threats of Sutton and Jerry Jeudy. Williams was sixth in targets among running backs before suffering a nasty multi-ligament injury to his knee in Week 4 that could keep him out into the 2023 season.
With Akers on the way out the door (more on that below), it would be wholly unsurprising for the “F- Them Picks” Rams to once again make a blockbuster deal at the deadline. The loss of left tackle Joseph Noteboom — expected to be out for the season — is another crushing blow to an offensive line that has experienced several already this season. The same logic as the Broncos above applies here, and the Rams are arguably more in need of weapons beyond wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
Los Angeles may ultimately view this season as one to be patient as opposed to pushing its chips to the center of the table — and perhaps wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will once again be its late-season hero addition — but every season with Aaron Donald on the roster may also be viewed as one worth trying to contend.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, whose father coached the Broncos when McCaffrey’s father played for the team, has known Christian since he briefly served as his babysitter decades ago. Much like the Broncos, the 49ers are short on draft capital and cap space going forward, so this would have to look more like a rental than a long-term pact. Much like the Bills, the 49ers have consistently used Day 2 picks on running backs to no avail, and now starter Elijah Mitchell is on the shelf with a knee injury. However, Shanahan recently told Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports the team hopes to get Mitchell back after their Week 9 bye.
With major extensions looming for edge defender Nick Bosa and perhaps right tackle Mike McGlinchey in addition to uncertainty at the quarterback position, this may not be a prudent move for San Francisco. However, in a very weak NFC conference that looks weaker each Sunday, perhaps Shanahan and company are willing to take the gamble in their quest to finally reach the mountaintop.
Bills send 2023 fourth-round pick and 2024 second-round pick.
Contract for acquiring team: 1.5 years, $2.1 million ($0 guaranteed)
- 2022: $650,659
- 2023: $1,451,779
Akers has reportedly played his last down with the Rams, which certainly won’t boost his trade value given the complete lack of leverage the Rams now have in the situation. There’s also a strong anchoring effect at play here that will undoubtedly complicate matters even further, as Los Angeles sent a conditional fifth- and a sixth-round pick to the New England Patriots for running back Sony Michel last season.
Michel had one year remaining on his contract for about $1.8 million, whereas Akers has one-and-a-half years remaining for roughly $2.1 million. Despite Akers’ recent struggles, receiving lesser compensation for Akers' services than they parted with for Michel may be a hard pill for Los Angeles to swallow.
After a miraculous five-month recovery from a torn Achilles sustained during training camp in 2021, Akers has not looked like himself in the slightest. Eighty-nine running backs have at least 50 carries dating back to the beginning of the 2021 season, and Akers’ 2.7 yards per attempt ranks dead last. His 45.2 rushing grade is also dead last over the span. The Rams offensive line woes are well documented, but Darrell Henderson has earned a 74.9 rushing grade with 4.4 yards per attempt during the same time frame. Akers doesn’t offer much as a receiver out of the backfield either.
Los Angeles may, unfortunately, have to just take whatever it can get here, and perhaps a fresh start can reinvigorate a once-promising career.
Free agent acquisition Chase Edmonds has ceded work to veteran Raheem Mostert already, and Mostert is playing through a knee injury in his own right. Head coach Mike McDaniel has opposing defenses in a pretzel so far this season, as wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are creating so much space underneath due to their ability to break off a big play on any snap. This is the exact opposite of what’s happening with the Rams, who have one of the least-explosive offenses in the entire NFL. Perhaps McDaniel can create enough yards before contact for Akers to return to being an effective early-down back.
All the same logic as above applies, though Akers would serve as the early-down back while Melvin Gordon III would resume his duties as more of the third-down/red zone back. This would be a much cheaper investment, and the 2023 contract year would help Denver with Gordon a pending free agent and Williams potentially missing the start of the 2023 campaign.
Broncos send 2024 fifth-round pick.
Contract for acquiring team: 1.5 years, $15.9 million ($2.77 million guaranteed)
- 2022: $3,152,778 ($2.77 million guaranteed)
- 2023: $12,750,000
As a part of 2022's first major in-season trade where former Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones was acquired by the Cleveland Browns, Jones and Cleveland agreed to remove the nearly $12 million owed to Jones in 2023 and let him hit free agency after the season. Odds are an acquiring team would look to do the same here with Jackson, as none of that money is guaranteed anyway. Furthermore, an acquiring team may also ask Washington to eat some of Jackson's remaining 2022 salary owed, and Washington would be wise to do so if it can leverage that into a better draft pick return.
Jackson did not play this past Thursday night and has apparently requested a trade to a team that deploys more man coverage. Jackson signed as a marquee free agent in Washington just two offseasons ago, and here is how he has stacked up with the other top cornerbacks from that free agent class:
|Player||Man coverage rate||Coverage grade||Forced incompletion rate||Open target %||
Yards per coverage target
|Wiliam Jackson III||21.7%||55.7||12.5%||44.4%||8.1|
Jackson has played more zone than he’s apparently comfortable with, and it’s certainly not leading to strong results after he was signed to the largest contract of the above group.
Detroit’s defense is off to a miserable start to the 2022 season, with its 0.158 EPA/play allowed now twice as bad as the next defense through Week 6. A large part of that is the struggles in the secondary, as Amani Oruwariye was benched in Week 5 after several poor outings. Safety convert Will Harris is now logging snaps at cornerback, and it’s just a mess all over. While Detroit is obviously not in win-now mode or looking to part ways with significant draft capital or 2022 cap dollars, it needs to right the ship to some degree here.
Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn was prolific as the New Orleans Saints‘ defensive backs coach, consistently developing young cornerbacks and helping several veterans get their careers back on track. Jackson wants to play more man coverage and Detroit is second in Cover 0 rate and third in Cover 1 rate so far this season. He could be the latest reclamation project for Glenn and help get both this defense and his career back on track. Furthermore, with 2020 third-overall pick Jeffrey Okudah starting to show flashes of the player Detroit hoped it was landing, Jackson doesn’t have to be the top cornerback. Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry is flourishing this season after similarly going from serving as the top dog with the Giants to the clear No. 2 behind Darius Slay.
Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones is “not progressing as fast as [the team] hoped” from an Achilles injury, according to head coach Mike McDaniel, and now top reserve outside cornerback Nik Needham is also feared to have torn his Achilles in Week 6. Star Xavien Howard has dealt with a hamstring issue to start the 2022 campaign as well, so the talented secondary is dealing with a lot right now in Miami.
The Dolphins deploy the most Cover 0 in the NFL and play Cover 1 at the fourth-highest rate — a scheme fit for Jackson and again a situation where he’d be the clear No. 2 behind Howard.
Arizona’s outside corners have earned the 26th coverage grade through Week 6 with a 55.4 mark.
Dolphins send a 2023 sixth-round pick.