The annual draft serves as an unofficial deadline for players languishing on the trade block since the start of the NFL's league year. Once the draft gives way to offseason minicamps in May and June, there's little incentive to unload a proven veteran for future draft picks unable to contribute during the upcoming season.
It's worth noting, however, that April is the league's smokescreen season. Posturing takes precedence over action. While rumors run rampant throughout the month, the players swapping teams on draft weekend are typically on the fringes of the roster, such as Jamar Taylor, Zac Stacy, Bryce Brown and Tim Dobbins.
Going back to 2010, the "marquee" draft-day trades have involved Jason Campbell, LeGarrette Blount and Stevie Johnson.
That's not to say blockbusters are unheard of leading up to the draft. The Jets traded All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis to the Buccaneers for the draft's No. 13 overall pick during the week of the 2013 draft. The Eagles traded their own Pro Bowl cornerback, Asante Samuel, to the Falcons the day before the 2012 draft kicked off.
In order of most likely to least likely, below are 10 candidates to be traded before the end of the 2017 NFL Draft (April 27-29 in Philadelphia).
1. Marshawn Lynch, retired running back: As NFL Network's Michael Silver and Mike Garafolo reported last Friday, Lynch is nearing an agreement to come out of retirement as the power back in Oakland's high-octane offense. Once he irons out a contract, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie is fully expected to work out a minor trade with his counterpart in Seattle, John Schneider. The two executives have a friendly relationship going back to their shared time in Ted Thompson's front office with the Packers.
By the time the Raiders open their draft's war room on the 27th, they should know whether or not running back remains a position of need.
2. Sheldon Richardson, Jets defensive lineman: The 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year was dangled at last year's trade deadline, with Gang Green reportedly seeking a first-round pick as compensation. Still in shopping mode, Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan will likely have to settle for a mid-round pick if he's intent on dealing the "odd man out" of his defensive-line rotation.
Although Richardson has been linked to another player on this list -- Bengals backup QB AJ McCarron -- in unsubstantiated rumors, it's hard to make sense of that swap from the Jets' point of view. Will any team roll the dice on a Pro Bowl-caliber defensive lineman at $8 million with a chance to recoup a compensatory pick in the 2019 draft?
3. Mychal Kendricks, Eagles linebacker: Kendricks hasn't been on the trade block since the day he entered the league as a second-round pick in 2012 -- it just seems that way. Following 2015 pre-drafttrade reports, the former Cal star openly questioned his own future in Philadelphia only to sign a four-year extension later that summer.
"The sky is the limit for Mychal," former teammate DeMeco Ryans raved at the time, "but I think before it's said and done, he could be the best inside linebacker in this league."
A year later, Kendricks fell out of favor in new coordinator Jim Schwartz's 4-3 scheme. Now two years later, the Eagles are once again shopping the 26-year-old linebacker. He's available on the cheap for a 3-4 defense in need of an athletic inside linebacker capable of hanging with tight ends in coverage.
4. Malcolm Butler, Patriots cornerback: NFL rules mandate Butler was ineligible to be traded until he signed his first-round tender, which finally happened Tuesday. His agent exchanged proposals with New Orleans' management last month, but coach Sean Payton made it clear he was unwilling to part with the No. 11 overall pick as compensation for signing the cornerback to an offer sheet.
5. Richard Sherman, Seahawks cornerback: The disconnect between the three-time All-Pro and the Seahawks is real. Sherman has confirmed that both sides are listening to offers. Garafolo reiterated Tuesday that Seattle is open to a trade, with an asking price that remains first- and third-round draft picks.
"We're talking Darrelle Revis Jets-to-Buccaneers type of deal," Garafolo originally reported last week. "That's what's going to get this thing done."
6. Alfred Morris, Cowboys running back: The Cowboys re-signed Darren McFadden to operate as Ezekiel Elliott's backup, which means Morris is on borrowed time in Dallas. Due to collect $1.2 million this season, he might just be untradeable at this stage of his career. Perhaps owner Jerry Jones can use him as a chip to flip draft spots with a running-back needy team and move up a few spots in the same round.
"He plays a very valuable position: backup quarterback," Tobin explained at the scouting combine in early March. "And you're always one play away from going to your backup quarterback. We view our team as a team that can challenge."
The problem with paying an exorbitant rate for the services of McCarron is that he's likely to be exposed as a high-end backup ideally suited for the role of premium starter insurance.
8. Jimmy Garoppolo, Patriots quarterback: Whereas the Bengals are willing to unload McCarron at an inflated price, the Patriotsare treating their own backup quarterback as if he's untouchable, according to a chorus of NFL insiders singing in unison. Cleveland has the draft-pick ammunition and the inclination to make one more, last-ditch run at a gifted signal-caller who dazzled in his first two career starts, but the Browns "do not seem to believe there's any hope there," NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport recently explained.
The Patriots firmly believe Garoppolo has franchise-quarterback potential, which is why they view him as a viable candidate for the franchise tag next offseason. For what it's worth, VP of player personnel Nick Caserio did not rule out a Garoppolo trade when he spoke at Tuesday's pre-draft news conference.
"Whatever we think is best for our team for 2017, for that season, then that's what we'll do," Caserio said. "However that manifests itself not exactly sure, but that's where the focus is -- trying to put together the best team possible for the 2017 season."
9. Eric Decker, Jets wide receiver: It didn't bode well for Decker's future in Florham Park when a pair of veteran beat writerspredicted within 24 hours of one another in early March that the veteran receiver isn't long for the roster. If Decker is such an obvious candidate for the discard pile, why isn't he higher on this list?
It's rare to see a player traded when he's months away from passing an NFL physical. Decker is no sure bet to be ready for training camp after undergoing major shoulder and hip surgeries last fall. Unless the rebuilding Jets are prepared to waive him with a failed physical designation, Decker might just stick around for a few more months.
10. Kirk Cousins, Redskins quarterback: If a trade was going to happen, the most logical time would have been early in free agency when new 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was looking for his next quarterback. Rumors were running wild, Cousins was enjoying unprecedented leverage and the Redskins had to be concerned they would be left holding the bag when their quarterback exits stage right in 2018.
Since then, however, the ice has thawed. Cousins feels "very much supported" by the front office, and team president Bruce Allen views the 2018 franchise tag worth nearly $35 million as an "option year" if the sides can't reach agreement on a long-term deal by the July 15 deadline. At this point, a draft-weekend trade would come as a surprise.