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NFL trade deadline: Seven viable player-team pairings

This time around, Halloween will offer more than small humans dressed as ninjas and coworkers using the so-called holiday as an excuse to get mildly smashed at the nearest Chili's.

Oct. 31 also doubles as this season's trade deadline, a final chance for NFL clubs to acquire assets and/or part ways with players who simply don't fit the system.

The league is light on trades -- annoyingly so -- but recent years have seen more teams use in-season swaps as a way to patch over weaknesses and, for the organizations hitting the ejector seat on veterans, to stockpile draft picks.

With this in mind, let's take a peek at a handful of trade candidates and destinations that make some sense -- at least to this writer:

Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Bryant, whose frustrations over playing time have come to light thanks to unnamed sources and biting social media posts, told ESPN's Josina Anderson on Tuesday that if the Steelers don't "try to include me more," then "I want out."

After the Steelers receiver initially denied reports that he requested a trade out of Pittsburgh, Bryant hit Instagram on Sunday night to argue for an expanded role on offense, writing, per "I just want mines, period, point-blank."

This came after Bryant deleted a comment about rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has consistently outsnapped him, saying: "JuJu is nowhere near better than me, fool. All they need to do is give me what I want and y'all can have JuJu and whoever else."

Bryant circled back to say that "JuJu is the future and got great talent," but the aggressive comments -- hours after he caught just one pass in Pittsburgh's win over the Bengals -- are telling. The Steelers receiver has accounted for 99 yards over his past four games and continues to be outsnapped by Smith-Schuster -- perhaps permanently.

(UPDATE: Steelers coach Mike Tomlin claimed Tuesday that Bryant is not on the market. "We've invested a lot in Martavis since we drafted him," Tomlin said. "He's not available via trade. We've invested a lot.")


The Steelers need Bryant's unusual potential in the red zone, but he simply hasn't clicked in 2017. Chicago has found a fascinating young quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky and must find a way to surround him with weapons in a hurry. With guys like Tanner Gentry and Tre McBride playing major roles at wideout, the rookie quarterback wound up throwing the ball just seven times on Sunday in a win over the Panthers. While that amounts to a John Fox fever dream, it's time for the Bears to open up the attack. Bryant would hit town as an instant-impact player for this developing offense.

Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants

The 1-6 Giants have to think about what's next under center. With the team going nowhere in 2017 and zooming toward a high pick in the draft, it feels as if New York's long-lived attachment to Eli is in its final stages.

Manning has laughed off the trade speculation: "Why people think I would leave or want to leave or the Giants want to trade me ... I don't get caught up in the rumors], I don't think about 'em. I got one job and that's playing quarterback for the [New York Giants."

POTENTIAL LANDING SPOT: Jacksonville Jaguars

With Tom Coughlin manning the controls in Jacksonville, bringing Manning down south would serve as a fascinating latter-day chapter to the signal caller's career. Suddenly, Manning would be surrounded by a dominant defense and punishing ground game -- the same formula that triggered a pair of Super Bowl wins in New York.

Blake Bortles shined in Sunday's win over the Colts, but that's one week of work. This position must be upgraded in the offseason, but the Coughlin-Manning connection paves the way for a more immediate -- albeit short-term -- solution for a team with a Super Bowl-level defense.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, New York Giants

Manning isn't the only Giant who could use a new home. Coming off his team-mandated suspension -- the fallout from a string of heated arguments with head coach Ben McAdoo -- Rodgers-Cromartie's long-term future in New York feels suspect. Both sides talked pretty after the veteran cover man played just 16 of 76 defensive snaps in Sunday's loss to the Seahawks, but a fresh start would serve as a lift to both parties.


I'm picking Tampa, where the Bucs need all sorts of help beyond the solid play of Brent Grimes. If this team is serious about making the playoffs -- an already-endangered hope, given Tampa's 2-4 record -- bolstering the secondary is an immediate concern. DRC would help right away.

Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions

Ebron has yet to achieve liftoff during his star-crossed run with the Lions. While he looks the part at 6-foot-4 and 253 pounds, Ebron has failed to outshine fellow Lions tight end Darren Fells this autumn. Admitting recently that he's been "in the dumps," Ebron is averaging a career-low 7.8 yards per reception for Detroit. The potential is there, though, making him an interesting trade candidate for the right team.


Denver would make sense, as quarterback Trevor Siemian lacks a game-changing tight end in an offense that has struggled over the past four games. While rookie Jake Butt is expected to make his debut later this season after a December ACL tear, Ebron would have an immediate role with the Broncos and a chance to revive his career.

Duane Brown, LT, Houston Texans

Brown is back with the Texans following his lengthy holdout in search of a new contract. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport was told the 32-year-old bookend is slated to play the final 10 games of the year in Houston, where he remains under contract through next season. "Barring the unforeseen," Brown will "not get traded," RapSheet tweeted.

Let's explore the unforeseen, shall we?


League gossip has pointed to Brown as a possible candidate for Seattle, a team eternally in need of an upgrade at tackle. The veteran bookend would arrive as a godsend for Russell Wilson, a quarterback on the receiving end of far too many violent hits over the past few campaigns. The Texans, meanwhile, could use the draft ammunition after handing the Browns their first- and second-round picks in next year's draft. Speaking of Cleveland, Joe Thomas would have made sense in this space before Sunday's season-ending triceps injury.

The Giants are another team that could use left tackle help, but we don't see a one-win team flipping picks for a 30-something blocker.

*(UPDATE: The Seahawks acquired Duane Brown from the Texans in exchange for cornerback Jeremy Lane, a second-round pick in 2019 and a fifth-round pick in 2018, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday.) *

Hau'oli Kikaha, OLB, New Orleans Saints

Last week, Rapoport pointed to Kikaha as potential trade bait. Not exactly a household name, the pass rusher hit New Orleans as a second-round pick in 2015. He missed all last season with a torn ACL, but he's bounced back this autumn with a pair of QB takedowns already. A surprise inactive this past Sunday, Kikaha has the feel of a player being shopped.


NESN's Doug Kyed picked out New England as a potential trade partner, which makes plenty of sense for a team in need of pass-rushing help. It wouldn't cost much to acquire Kikaha, and Bill Belichick is one of the NFL's most active wheelers and dealers. The Patriots can't be done fine-tuning their suddenly improving defense.

Vontae Davis, CB, Indianapolis Colts

With the Colts' season on life support, first-year general manager Chris Ballard has enough power inside the building to make moves aimed at future team-building efforts. When healthy, Davis has been a valuable member of an up-and-down defense, but his contract is up after this season and a long-term deal in Indy feels unlikely for the 29-year-old defender.


Dallas eternally sees itself as a Super Bowl contender, something the 'Boys might be if Ezekiel Elliott's potential suspension doesn't derail the team's chances in 2017. Their defense could use help, though, making Davis a potential target for a unit that could use additional depth down the stretch.

A few more names to watch:Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers; Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals; Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins; Marcell Dareus, DT, Buffalo Bills.

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