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Armando Salguero: After Three Momentous NFL Trades, Big Names Still Available For Right Price

Tuesday, Russell Wilson was traded. Wednesday, Carson Wentz was traded. Thursday, Khalil Mack was traded.

We’re probably not done, folks.

Maybe the transactions won’t come in orderly, once-per-day fashion to keep the news cycle sufficiently fed. Perhaps the moves will come in the form of outright releases rather than trades, but big names are available and just might be moving in the next week before the NFL league year opens at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

The available big names?

How about running back Saquon Barkley, defensive end Frank Clark, outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, receiver Jarvis Landry, defensive end Danielle Hunter, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, offensive tackle La’el Collins, receiver Nelson Agholor, receiver Amari Cooper, cornerback Marcus Peters, and running back Kareem Hunt?

All these players have been discussed internally by their respective teams as possible trade bait. All these names were on the lips of personnel people at last week’s NFL Combine as possibly being available either in trade or after an outright release.

And while some may not end up going anywhere right away, their 2022 status probably shouldn’t be considered entirely settled until the first week of the regular season when their contracts for the year become guaranteed.

So check the list again because it includes some signature talents.

Landry, for example, has six consecutive seasons with 80-plus catches with the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns, but has had a decline in production the last two seasons as he’s battled injuries — some that were public and a couple that were not.

Landry’s production fell to a career low 52 catches last season as the Browns’ passing game suffered in multiple spots, including with quarterback Baker Mayfield.

But amid this downturn in statistics, Landry would cost the Browns $16.3 million if he’s on the team but only $1.5 million if he’s cut or traded — a $14.8 million savings.

And why should any team trade for Landry?

He’s experienced. He’s a tone setter with his aggressive play.

And he’s quite good when he’s healthy.

Were it not for their own salary cap issues, the Buffalo Bills would almost certainly be interested.

Kansas City defensive end Frank Clark posted only 4 1/2 sacks last season, his lowest since his rookie year and the third consecutive year his sack total has declined. So the Chiefs can decide whether that’s still worth his $26.3 million cap hit or not.

And if not, they can simply cut Clark and save $12 million in cap space.

But proven edge rushers such as Clark are valuable especially when they’re only 28. So there’s likely a market for him.

Smith is similarly a problem for quarterbacks when he’s healthy, but he wasn’t healthy in 2022. And because his cap number rises to almost $27.7 million in 2022, the final year of his current contract, the Packers have been unofficially shopping his name to see if there might be takers.

The problem for the Packers is everyone knows they must drastically reduce Smith’s impact on the cap before the start of the new league year, and teams are betting a release might give them a chance to get Smith cheaper without giving up any trade compensation in return.

Vikings edge rusher Danielle Hunter, meanwhile, has the second-highest cap charge on the Vikings, behind only quarterback Kirk Cousins, but he’s played only seven games since the 2020 season.

So it might be hard for the cap-strapped Vikes to justify Hunter’s $26.1 million cap hit in 2022.

That’s why the Vikings were floating his name as possibly being available during the NFL Combine, per a source.

The Khalil Mack trade on Wednesday opened the possibility that Hunter could be traded at a similar cost — a second-round pick plus — because both played only seven games last year and Hunter is four years younger.

And the Vikings could do this move knowing that the upcoming draft has some depth at the pass rush position for a team good at identifying that talent.

Perhaps the biggest names on the trade market now are Garoppolo and Barkley.

The 49ers could definitely use the $25.5 million in cap relief they’d get from a Garoppolo trade.

And it’s quite possible that, because supply is low and demand is high (sounds like the situation at gas stations these days), the 49ers could get a first-round pick plus other compensation for Jimmy G.

Yes, that’s asking a lot, but San Francisco isn’t desperate to move on from a quarterback who helped them get to a Super Bowl and two NFC Championship Games in the past three years.

Barkley?

Well, it’s a new day for the New York Giants with new general manager Joe Schoen and new head coach Brian Daboll, and Barkley feels like a dangling participle because he was brought on to the team by people who no longer run the team.

Plus trading him would save New York $7 million in cap space.

So, like many other big name NFL players, he’s available, for the right price.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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