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2023 NFL trade deadline player-team fits: Derrick Henry landing spot; Cowboys should deal for CB

With less than a week to go before the NFL's Oct. 31 trade deadline, it's time for teams to get busy making deals.

The weekly swings within a season constantly change the landscape ahead of the trade window closing. A week ago, the world was sure the Vikings would be sellers ahead of the deadline. However, Monday's massive victory over San Francisco has Minnesota in the thick of the muddled NFC playoff race. GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah might have to reconsider if he was considering selling off his assets at this stage.

The 2022 Detroit Lions' surge last season from 1-6 into playoff contention is often noted when discussing a club's reluctance to burn things down before the deadline. In Week 7 alone, four 1-5 teams won, keeping hope alive for a turnaround. But it's worth mentioning that the Lions traded tight end T.J. Hockenson at the deadline last year and still made their run. So, it's possible for clubs to gain future resources while remaining competitive.

An array of issues suppresses the NFL's trade action. Salary cap concerns, clubs unwilling to part with future picks, the compensatory-pick formula, and, again, the calendar date -- still relatively early in the season -- deter shedding players. Injuries can also lead to fewer trades. Panthers safety Jeremy Chinn was a potential target before going down with a quad injury. Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz was on this list before being placed on injured reserve Tuesday, necessitating a rewrite by yours truly.

Teams have a limited window remaining to upgrade their rosters before the stretch run. The Philadelphia Eagles already made a splash move this week, acquiring All-Pro safety Kevin Byard from Tennessee. Now it's on other GMs to counter Howie Roseman's moves.

Below are 10 trade fits I'd like to see come to fruition before the deadline at 4 p.m. ET on Halloween.

Jaylon Johnson
Chicago Bears CHI · DB
Dallas Cowboys
4-2 · 2nd in NFC East

Let's start with perhaps the biggest pipe dream on the list. It's rare a starting-caliber corner as good as Johnson could be available, but with the 24-year-old seeking a new contract, perhaps the 2-5 Bears would be willing to trade the impending free agent and recoup assets now instead of potentially seeing him walk in the offseason. This would be a dream scenario for the Cowboys after losing Trevon Diggs for the season. A trio of Johnson, Stephon Gilmore and DaRon Bland would be huge for Dan Quinn's defense. The compensatory-pick formula could come into play here, as the Bears figure to be active in the offseason, negating any potential comp selection gained by losing Johnson in free agency.

Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans TEN · RB
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3-3 · 2nd in NFC South

If the Titans are waiving the white flag on the season after shipping Kevin Byard to Philadelphia, it makes logical sense that Henry, in the final year of his contract, would be next to go. Tyjae Spears would be in line to take on a bigger workload, and Tennessee would get some much-needed draft capital by trading Henry. The Bucs’ run game has been horrific this season. Rachaad White led Tampa with 34 rush yards in Sunday's loss to Atlanta, averaging 2.6 yards per carry. Todd Bowles knows his team needs to score more points, and the lack of a running game is severely hindering any chance to do so. It would take some salary-cap gymnastics for Tampa to get a deal done, but going for broke is better than settling for average. King Henry would immediately boost the Bucs’ chances of remaining in the hunt in a winnable NFC South.

Chase Young
Washington Commanders WAS · DE
Jacksonville Jaguars
5-2 · 1st in AFC South

Josh Allen has been sensational for the Jaguars, leading the NFL with 43 QB pressures, per Next Gen Stats. The issue is the other side, where former No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker has generated just 18 pressures. Meanwhile, Young has been spectacular, earning 35 QB pressures, fourth-most in the league, despite missing Week 1. If the Commanders aren't prepared to keep Young beyond this season -- Montez Sweat is also an impending free agent -- the time to sell is now. It might not come cheap, but if the Jags want to contend with the big boys of the AFC in the postseason, adding oomph at the deadline is key.

Donte Jackson
Carolina Panthers CAR · CB
Buffalo Bills
4-3 · 2nd in AFC East

Buffalo's defense has been riddled with injuries, including the loss of star corner Tre'Davious White to an Achilles tear. Former first-round pick Kaiir Elam has struggled and didn't play a snap on defense in Sunday's loss to New England. The Bills could re-open the Carolina-to-Buffalo pipeline by importing Jackson, a solid veteran who can step in and solidify the unit alongside Dane Jackson and Christian Benford. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported over the weekend that the Panthers appear to be open to trading Jackson before the deadline. The 49ers could be another option for Jackson given that he played under Steve Wilks, now San Francisco’s defensive coordinator, last season.

Courtland Sutton
Denver Broncos DEN · WR
Carolina Panthers
0-6 · 4th in NFC South

The Panthers seem more likely to be sellers ahead of the trade deadline, but NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported earlier this month Carolina seeks a receiver to aid Bryce Young's development. While Jerry Jeudy has been mentioned as a potential trade target, I like Sutton's fit better for the young passer. Sutton would give the Panthers the big-bodied, contested-catch wideout the offense desperately needs. He’s under contract for the next two seasons (no guaranteed money), which should also be attractive for Carolina, giving Young a receiver to grow alongside.

Julian Blackmon
Indianapolis Colts IND · S
Detroit Lions
5-2 · 1st in NFC North

If the Colts are looking to find a way to get 2022 third-round pick Nick Cross on the field more, they could make it easier by shipping out Blackmon, who is in the final year of his rookie contract. The Lions' secondary is banged up and could use aid. Blackmon is the type of versatile defender who could help Detroit cover its injury woes. The former third-round pick spent his first three seasons as a free safety before moving to strong safety this season. Blackmon also has played 103 snaps at slot corner for Indianapolis this season and has a 62.3 passer rating against, 12th-best among safeties, per PFF.

Preston Smith
Green Bay Packers GB · OLB
Seattle Seahawks
4-2 · 2nd in NFC West

Uchenna Nwosu likely needs pectoral surgery, which highlights the Seahawks' need to add pass-rush help. Smith is having a down season compared to last year, but he would provide a needed veteran presence alongside youngsters Boye Mafe and Derick Hall. With Rashan Gary up for a big contract extension and first-round pick Lukas Van Ness in town, Green Bay could look to unload Smith rather than potentially cutting him in the offseason. The Seahawks would need to take on Smith's salary, but if GM John Schneider smells blood in the water after watching rival San Francisco lose two straight to tighten up the NFC West race, the time to strike is now.

EDITOR'S UPDATE: The Seahawks are adding an edge rusher. NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported after this post was published that Seattle will sign Frank Clark once he passes a physical. A second-round pick of the Seahawks in 2015, Clark was with the team from 2015 to 2018 before playing for the Chiefs (2019-2022) and Broncos (2023), who released him earlier this month.

Justin Houston
Carolina Panthers CAR · OLB
Baltimore Ravens
5-2 · 1st in AFC North

Surely, Ravens fans wanted to see a big name like Brian Burns or Chase Young connected to their club. In the absence of that, can I interest you in a familiar, trusted veteran? Houston inked a one-year deal with Carolina this offseason, but with the Panthers sitting at 0-6, it is tough to imagine the 34-year-old wouldn’t be excited to join a contender. Heading back to Baltimore would give Houston another shot to chase a ring. The veteran was superb with the Ravens last year, generating 9.5 sacks and a 16.5 pressure percentage, per Next Gen Stats. Adding the veteran to a defense in need of rush help off the edge would also come cheaper than other options.  

Carl Lawson
New York Jets NYJ · DE
Atlanta Falcons
4-3 · 1st in NFC South

Atlanta's offseason upgrades on defense have been solid so far, with the Falcons allowing 4.8 yards per play through seven games, fourth-best in the NFL. But the pass rush needs some pop. Atlanta's 13 sacks are tied for fifth-fewest. Defensive tackle David Onyemata leads the Falcons with 18 QB pressures. Lawson generated seven sacks a season ago but has been squeezed to the fringe of a deep Jets rotation. Gang Green already traded one little-used player (Mecole Hardman). Shipping out Lawson, in the final year of his deal, should be next.

Ezra Cleveland
Minnesota Vikings MIN · OG
San Francisco 49ers
5-2 · 1st in NFC West

The addition of Dalton Risner could make Cleveland, an impending free agent, expendable in Minnesota. The status of a foot injury that kept him out in the victory over San Francisco might impede a trade. However, the former second-round pick is a stellar blocker and has improved in pass protection this season. He's played left guard the past three seasons after playing on the right side as a rookie. Also, Cleveland played tackle in college. That versatility would benefit a 49ers unit that has struggled to block in the interior. The Niners should be in the trade market in the coming days. Already having dealt for Randy Gregory, corner is also a need, but upgrading the interior blocking should be a priority.

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