The NFL trade deadline is fast approaching and teams already appear to be wheeling and dealing. Leading into the Oct. 31 deadline, we’ve already seen a few deals go down, including the Eagles landing star safety Kevin Byard in a trade with the Titans. This move fills a glaring need for a legit Super Bowl contender and leads us nicely into our game of matchmaker.
Below, we’ll identify a handful of playoff contenders and suggest one trade they should try to pull off by the 4 p.m. deadline on Halloween.
San Francisco 49ers trade for Donte Jackson
The Niners were gashed through the air on Monday night in their loss to Minnesota, which only adds to the need to bolster the secondary. The Carolina Panthers are 0-6 heading into Week 8 and will most likely be one of the main sellers at the deadline, so cornerback Donte Jackson could be a realistic option. The 27-year-old played under current 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks for the last two seasons, so there will be familiarity with his overall defensive system. Over that stretch under Wilks, Jackson posted four interceptions and 13 pass breakups in 21 regular-season games.
Jackson is also under team control through the 2024 season, but there is a potential out of his contract with palatable salary cap implications.
Kansas City Chiefs trade for Marquise Brown
Hollywood Brown is one of the more interesting players to monitor at the deadline. He is in the final year of his rookie contract and set to hit unrestricted free agency this offseason. He now plays for a Cardinals franchise under a new general manager and head coach who didn’t draft or trade for him, calling into question if they’d be willing to pay him once he hits the open market. That’s particularly true considering that Arizona is in a rebuild and Brown may not fit its overall timeline.
If they do listen to offers on him, the Chiefs would be the ideal landing spot. They’ve yet to find a top-tier No. 2 option in the passing game behind tight end Travis Kelce and the wide receiver unit is largely middling. Brown, 26, would not only immediately boost the Kansas City offense, but he could potentially be the top option for Mahomes going forward with Kelce in his age-34 season. With Brown’s speed, he could be used similarly to Tyreek Hill in the Chiefs offense.
Miami Dolphins trade for Chase Young
The AFC East is open for the Dolphins to take and Miami has the tools to potentially make a deep playoff run. The Dolphins are set to get both cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard back from injury over the next few weeks, so the secondary may not be the biggest need as it relates to the deadline. However, in the playoffs, a dominant pass rush can be the difference between hoisting a Lombardi Trophy or watching somebody else enjoy that honor. With that in mind, the Dolphins should go all-in on this season and add another potential star pass rusher into the rotation of Bradley Chubb, Jaelan Phillips, Andrew Van Ginkel, and others by dealing for Commanders defensive end Chase Young.
Young is in the final year of his deal after the Commanders declined to pick up his fifth-year option this offseason. Washington may not be eager to give him a monster contract in the spring, especially after paying Daron Payne and also having Montez Sweat due for a deal as well. If that’s the case, it’d be wise for them to deal him for assets instead of losing him on the open market.
This season, Young has five sacks through six games played and nine quarterback hits.
Dallas Cowboys trade for Jalen Mills
The Cowboys may not make the biggest splash at the deadline, but their secondary could use some help, particularly in the aftermath of losing Trevon Diggs (torn ACL) for the season. Calling up Bill Belichick and inquiring about Mills could be a savvy decision for Jerry Jones to deepen that part of the secondary with a veteran player who has Super Bowl-winning experience.
Mills has appeared in all seven of New England’s games this season but has only played 26% of the defensive snaps after playing in 90% and 75% in the previous two seasons with the franchise. The 29-year-old previously posted on social media his displeasure with his role on the team, so a change of scenery could be good for the veteran corner.
When firing on all cylinders, Mills can be a valuable piece to a secondary who has shown the ability to play corner and safety. In his 10 games played for New England in 2022, he allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 60.9% of their throws against him in coverage and registered an 83.4 passer rating.
Detroit Lions trade for Brian Burns
Sunday’s loss to the Ravens aside, the Lions are enjoying a tremendous season that has them in the conversation as a legit NFC contender. In a similar sentiment to what we noted with Miami, the font office should reward Dan Campbell and the rest of the roster by showing them they are all-in on this season with a trade for Panthers star pass rusher Brian Burns.
The 25-year-old is in the final year of his current contract but could be a long-term piece within this defense if Brad Holmes was also able to have him agree to an extension. Burns would be the ideal running mate opposite of Aidan Hutchinson and form one of the better pass-rushing duos in the league upon arrival. Through six games this season, Burns already has four sacks, 20 tackles, nine quarterback hits, and a forced fumble.
With the Panthers off to an 0-6 start, they are likely going to be listening on a lot of players, including Burns. He won’t come cheap for Detroit, but he is the type of player you invest heavily for.
Buffalo Bills trade for Jordan Hicks
The Bills have been gashed on the injury front, losing several key pieces on defense. One of the biggest losses was linebacker Matt Milano. That injury, coupled with the Bills losing Tremaine Edmunds in free agency last offseason, does create a significant hole at linebacker, which could be filled by Minnesota’s Jordan Hicks.
Following their Week 7 win over San Francisco to bring them to 3-4 on the year, it will be interesting to see what the Vikings decide to do at the deadline. If they are sellers, Buffalo swooping in for a piece like Hicks to stabilize its linebacker position would be a smart maneuver. While it’s impossible to expect a player to come and completely fill Milano’s shoes, Hicks is a solid veteran in the middle of a good season with the Vikings. Through seven games, he has 61 tackles, three pass breakups, a forced fumble, and an interception.
Baltimore Ravens trade for Derrick Henry
After the Titans were willing to deal away Kevin Byard, it seems like every player on the roster is on the table to be traded, which includes star running back Derrick Henry. Tennessee is currently 2-4 on the season and seems headed for a total rebuild in the coming seasons. The Titans could begin that process now by trading away their foundational piece on offense in Henry to a contender like Baltimore.
The Ravens would be a fantastic landing spot for Henry as they have been starved for a running back of his caliber to complement quarterback Lamar Jackson’s rushing ability. Not only would that take some of the pressure off of Jackson, but the two would make arguably the most electric QB-RB duos that the league has to offer.
Jacksonville Jaguars trade for Danielle Hunter
The Jaguars are in the driver’s seat in the AFC South at 5-2 on the year and are just a game behind the Chiefs in the loss column for the best record in the conference. Offensively, Trevor Lawrence and the rest of the skill-position players do seem to be finding their stride. If there was one area for Jacksonville to try to make a splash at the deadline, it’d come on the defensive side by adding pass rusher Danielle Hunter.
Coming into Week 8, the Jaguars rank 27th in the league in pressure rate and 30th in sack percentage, according to True Media. For a team to make waves in the playoffs, it needs to be able to disrupt the quarterback, which is something the Jaguars struggle to do. With that in mind, dealing for Hunter makes all the sense in the world. He’s set to become a free agent at season’s end and appears to be on the block with the Vikings reportedly taking calls on him.
Through seven games, Hunter has nine sacks and 12 tackles for a loss.