Surprise NFL trade, cut candidates ahead of Tuesday's deadline: Analysis and potential landing spots

2MAJND8 Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney warms up before an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

• Lions EDGE James Houston IV: Houston was incredibly productive on a limited workload in 2022, but he may be the odd man out in Detroit this year.

• Bears WR Darnell Mooney: With D.J. Moore and Chase Claypool taking targets away from Mooney, the Bears may look to trade him.

• Vikings WR Jalen Reagor: The Vikings sent the Eagles a conditional draft pick to acquire Reagor but could release him before he hits his statistical thresholds.

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

The NFL rule change for roster cutdowns means the Tuesday following the final preseason game is now one of the busiest days on the NFL calendar. All 32 rosters must shrink from 90 players to 53 instead of there being several incremental reductions, which creates a few interesting dynamics.

First, preseason participation data may be more of a tell with teams carrying 90 players through the last game — more on that later. Second, there could be an even larger whirlwind of trades all at once with front offices keeping tabs on 37 potential additions each from 31 other rosters.

With a few big moves already transpiring to close out last week, we take a look at a few surprise trade or cut candidates before tomorrow’s deadline.

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Trade Candidates

EDGE James Houston IV, Detroit Lions

While preseason football is not quite the real product, there are still many different takeaways to be had from the action leading up to the regular season. Participation data can serve as a key indicator of a player’s location on the depth chart, for example, which made Houston’s 27 snaps in the second half of preseason Week 2 quite notable. Detroit rested the lion’s share of its starters and top contributors, yet Houston handled a significant workload in the second half.

Houston was a sixth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and recorded 17 quarterback pressures and eight sacks on just 92 pass-rush snaps last season, a truly remarkable rate of productivity. However, Detroit used its first- and second-round picks on edge defenders in last year’s draft and also has veterans — including Romeo Okwara, Charles Harris, John Cominsky — in the fold.

It appears Houston may be the odd man out in Detroit, but the Lions definitely shouldn’t release a player with three years of cheap control remaining who showed a knack for getting after the quarterback on limited snaps last season. Many teams would be happy to take a flier on a developmental pass-rush specialist coming off a season with an 88.2 pass-rush grade.

Potential landing spots: Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants

WR Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears

It would come as a major surprise if the Bears entertained the idea of actually moving on from Darnell Mooney, but it would be less surprising if Mooney was a bit frustrated with the lack of progress in extension conversations to this point in the offseason and was open to a change of scenery. Mooney went from the No. 1 receiving option in 2022 to sharing targets with D.J. Moore and Chase Claypool, and Chicago was a distant dead last in pass attempts, completions and yards last season. While they figure to take a massive leap forward, perhaps Mooney wants more volume in a pivotal contract year.

In Mooney’s best season in 2021, he hauled in 81 receptions for 1,055 yards, with his 29 explosive receptions tied for seventh among wide receivers and his 10 missed tackles forced a top-20 mark. Mooney is a downfield separator who has dealt with anemic passing offenses throughout his NFL career, which is certainly not helping his contract prospects. He appears to be extremely close with quarterback Justin Fields and growth is expected in 2023, but Mooney may not want to wait around to find out without a new contract coming off an ankle injury that prematurely ended his 2022 campaign.

Potential landing spots: Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Las Vegas Raiders

QB Matt Corral, Carolina Panthers

Carolina signed free agent quarterback Andy Dalton to a two-year, $10 million deal and followed that up with the blockbuster trade for franchise quarterback Bryce Young. Corral, the team’s third-round selection just last year after a trade-up with the New England Patriots, was obviously the odd man out coming into camp. Teams may take advantage of the new rule that allows them to potentially play three quarterbacks on game day and roster a third option, but Carolina may also see if it can recoup any value out of a recent prospect.

With what sounds like a tough injury to wide receiver D.J. Chark, the Panthers could look to add outside talent to the receiver room if they aren’t comfortable with slotting in Terrace Marshall, Laviska Shenault Jr. and others on the depth chart. Numbers games elsewhere across the roster could make it more challenging to retain Corral, as well.

Corral was 4-of-12 for 52 yards in preseason Week 3, earning a 45.0 passing grade. One of the incompletions was a batted pass. Perhaps a team with a less settled backup spot — or a team interested in providing a change of scenery to a young quarterback, as the Dallas Cowboys did with Trey Lance will give Carolina a call on Corral.

Potential landing spots: Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks

DI Lawrence Guy, New England Patriots

Guy has sat out of offseason activities, as he’s reportedly unhappy with his contract situation after signing a four-year deal in 2021, which is not at all common for a then-31-year-old defensive lineman. With two years remaining on his contract and his now being 33 years old, it’s quite a difficult stand to take, especially as New England continues to add talent with inside ability, such as second-round pick Keion White.

Daniel Ekuale, who logged a career-high 362 snaps in 2022, also flashed in the preseason with a sack of quarterback C.J. Stroud in addition to a few other quarterback pressures. Last but certainly not least, 2021 second-round pick Christian Barmore figures to play much more than he did last year when dealing with injuries.

Guy’s role is as an early-down run stuffer, which could keep him around, as the Patriots have sought to add more pass-rush juice the past few offseasons with Davon Godchaux and Guy entrenched. However, perhaps New England is willing to get younger up front and give more snaps to other players while recouping the late-round draft capital they gave up for reserve tackle Vederian Lowe.

Potential landing spots: Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks

Cut Candidates

WR Jalen Reagor, Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings acquired Reagor from the Philadelphia Eagles for a 2023 seventh-round pick and a conditional 2024 fifth-round pick that could become a fourth-rounder. It’s possible the Vikings will move on before Reagor even gets the chance to hit various statistical thresholds in 2023.

Reagor played significantly in the preseason with 91 snaps, the most of any wide receiver on the Vikings' roster. The former first-round pick of the Eagles notched eight receptions for 93 yards over the stretch, and while he’s been solid, he is at best the No. 4 option behind Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and K.J. Osborn. Depth receivers Brandon Powell and Jalen Nailor offer much more special teams value, which could make Reagor’s role going forward an interesting one. In 2022, Reagor managed just eight receptions for 104 yards and one touchdown, and this season he has a fully guaranteed salary of nearly $2.5 million.

Potential landing spots: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans

TE Zack Kuntz, New York Jets

It’s not necessarily a surprise when a seventh-round pick rookie doesn’t make the initial 53-man roster, especially on a team like the New York Jets who are all in on chasing a Super Bowl ring in 2023 and will concern themselves less with developmental projects. However, Kuntz may have gone as late as he did in part because of how loaded the tight end position was in the 2023 NFL Draft.

At Jets camp, Kuntz stood out as being far skinnier than the rest of the position group, particularly in his lower half. Nathaniel Hackett’s offense will ask its tight ends to block quite a bit, and that doesn’t appear to be Kuntz's forte by any means. However, Kuntz’s size-speed combination did flash at times when he got open over the middle and turned upfield in a hurry after hauling in a reception. The Old Dominion product's testing numbers were truly off the charts, and he’s an intriguing name to monitor if he can land somewhere else with the opportunity to fill out his 6-foot-8 frame and continue to develop.

Potential landing spots: Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Commanders


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