We don't see too many trades in the NFL, and that's a shame — trading is one of the most interesting parts of sports. Ultimately, it's difficult for teams to pull the trigger on a deal — often a player that's being shopped in a trade is one that is also likely to be cut from the roster. Why give up an asset when you could wait and sign the player a few days later, right?
But this summer might be different. With the NFL Draft over and free agency operating at a snail's speed, the marketplace for players to fill critical roster spots might be found via trade.
And if that proves to be the case, here are nine players who could be dealt before the start of the 2017 season:
Isaiah J. DowningIsaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Ezekiel Ansah - DE - Lions
The Lions can't afford to give up anything on defense, but Ansah (like so many on this list) is a pending free agent and could attract a nice bid this offseason from a team looking for pass rushing help.
The Lions, of course, need pass rushing help too, but if it's clear that Ansah is going to walk at the end of the year, Detroit could be convinced to get on with it and move him for a draft pick or two.
While this is a long shot, the recent report that Ansah might be 29 and not 27 will certainly complicate any negotiations on a new deal.
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Sheldon Richardson - DT - Jets
The Jets are in a bad place and Richardson is coming off a bad year where he blamed everyone but himself for his poor play.
With free agency looming, it's a good bet that Richardson turns it around in 2017 and leaves in the spring, but New York would be more than willing to move him to another locker room if a bidder came calling this summer.
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Calvin Pryor - S - Jets
The writing is on the wall for Pryor, the Jets' first-round pick in 2014. New York has given up on the former Louisville Cardinals standout — the Jets selected two safeties in the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Pryor's days appear numbered. The only question is if the Jets can get a draft pick for him, if he'll be released outright, or if he'll sit on the bench once the young(er) players are ready.
Kyle TeradaKyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Paul Posluszny - LB - Jaguars
If you're wondering if a player is on the skids with his team, look for two things: a lack of contract negotiations for a player entering the final year of his contract (you can only get this insight right here, folks) and if a player moves positions heading into one of those seasons.
Posluszny isn't negotiating and he was just moved from Mike to Sam linebacker. He's on the way out in Jacksonville, which looks like it will start Myles Jack and Telvin Smith at the two every-down linebacker spots next season.
The Jaguars don't have to move Posluszny, but there will certainly be teams interested in his services as a Mike.
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Malcolm Butler - CB - Patriots
He was nearly traded to the Saints before the draft, but he's back in camp with the Patriots and appears ready to play out the season for the Patriots for $3.91 million (he's due a huge payday in 2018).
But New England did sign Stephon Gilmore from Buffalo this offseason and has been known to trade players before they become expensive (see: Seymour, Richard; Jones, Chandler; Collins, Jamie), as Butler will be next offseason, either via a franchise tag or unrestricted free agency.
Could the New Orleans deal re-surface this summer? Could other suitors come out of the woodwork? Don't presume this saga is over.
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RIchard Rodgers - TE - Packers
Rodgers looks like he'll be the third tight end for the Packers with the signings of Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendrick this offseason. There's no problem with that for Green Bay — Rodgers will only inflict a $1.9 million cap hit this season before becoming a free agent in 2018.
But the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking for tight ends and Rodgers could be the kind of player that they'd trade a nice draft pick for.
Green Bay is loaded at the position and Pittsburgh is relying on Jesse James, Xavier Grimble, and David Johnson to provide serious value in 2017.
Let's make a deal.
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Carlos Hyde - RB - 49ers
Hyde is a free agent at the end of the year and the 49ers are going to be awful again in 2017. The team isn't going to be competitive while Hyde is a viable No. 1, so it's in both parties' interest to part ways now instead of next spring.
It's hard to say what the injury-prone Hyde could garner on the market, but if the interest in LaGarrett Blount (the Lions and Giants were interested; he signed with the Eagles Thursday) is any indication, there should be interested parties if he's made available.
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Alfred Morris - RB - Cowboys
Remember Alfred Morris? He went to back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2013 and 2014. But since then, it's been a bit downhill for the Florida Atlantic alum.
He carried the ball 69 times last year for the Cowboys, but there has to be some mileage left in the former Redskin. Ultimately, with Darren McFadden returning to the fold and Zeke Elliott establishing himself as one of the best backs in the NFL last year, Morris isn't going to get the ball even 69 times in 2017.
The Cowboys could cut Morris this summer, but don't rule out a trade for a late-round draft pick.
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Nate Solder - LT - Patriots
This is a scenario that hasn't been discussed by — it looks like anyone — but I can't shake it, so here it goes:
The facts of the case are this: It's Bill Belichick, and it's a player due for a huge payday, and we know how that typically goes for the player.
Solder has never been more valuable and he can aim for a massive contract extension with the Patriots before the season starts.
His trade value, despite being a looming UFA, is pretty high too.
But it should be somewhat telling that after center David Andrews signed a contract extension this week, Solder is now one of only two Patriots starters who is set to play out the final year of his contract. (Julian Edelman being the other.)
You might think that the Patriots would be fools to trade away their starting left tackle with Tom Brady entering his year 40 season, but the moves the Pats have made over the last seven months give the impression that they're preparing for life without Solder, whether that be in 2018 or this upcoming season.
In November, the Patriots signed Marcus Cannon to a five-year, team-friendly deal. Cannon is the Patriots' right tackle, but he's played left as well. Every starting lineman but Solder is locked up long-term now. New England also has Cameron Fleming on the roster — he was a swing lineman last year, but he's been on Super Bowl-winning lines and can start at right tackle. And in the NFL Draft, the Patriots selected not one, but two left tackle prospects — if either of them takes to OL coach Dante Scarnecchia's teachings early, Solder is even more dispensable.
All of these moves are typical Belichickian plays — decrease the need for a star player and you control the contract negotiations. If Solder and the Patriots don't have a deal in place by the first preseason game, don't be surprised if Belichick ships out his team's starting left tackle — he's made moves like that before.