Unlike most other sports, the NFL trade deadline usually doesn’t carry a whole lot of excitement with it. When the NHL, NBA, and MLB deadlines come up, loads of speculation usually precede a day-long deadline special tracking every deal that comes through.
The NFL, though, hasn’t seen a whole lot of major trade deadline action since the late 1980’s. The Bills hit a home run on a deal from that era, bringing in All-Pro lonebacker Cornelius Bennett on Halloween of 1988 for two first-round picks and running back Greg Bell.
This year, the NFL’s trade deadline is November 1, two days after the Bills host the Patriots. Are there any possible targets that would help the Bills’ playoff hopes in 2016? Absolutely. ESPN put out a piece today (behind a paywall) on each team’s most likely trade asset this week.
For the Bills, Mike Rodak suggested that offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson could be on the market, calling him a player with “starting potential” who is “buried behind Jordan Mills on the depth chart.” After the Dolphins game, it’s hard to say the Mills has a lock on a starting job moving forward, so Henderson could absolutely reclaim his starting spot. The problem, however, is that Henderson has yet to play this season due to suspension and injury, and also has a well-publicized ongoing battle with Crohn’s Disease. Any team interested in trading for him would be well aware of that, and at this point his ceiling probably doesn’t merit anything more than a third-day pick. It’s doubtful anybody would come calling, and at this point the best situation for everybody is to make him ready in case of another Mills implosion. Don't forget about Cyrus Kouandjio either, who actually is probably be ahead of Henderson on the OT depth chart at this point.
So who might the Bills be interested in adding from another team in the coming days? Here are a few potential targets.
WR Torrey Smith
This is the name that is bandied about most often as a potential trade target for wideout-needy teams. Smith has only 13 catches for 199 yards and two touchdowns this year, but such things will happen when Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick are responsible for passing the ball to him. His career highs of 65 catches and 1,128 yards from his days with the Ravens are a distant memory during his second season with the 49ers.
The problem with bringing Smith on board is his contract. The 27-year-old is under contract for three more seasons, with a cap hit of $9.6 million per season. His production was never truly worthy of #1 receiver status, but his cap hit in 2017 is the 13th-highest at the position. He’ll be costing his team more than the likes of Emmanuel Sanders, Eric Decker, Marvin Jones, and Michael Crabtree. Is he really a whole lot better than any of those players, and can the Bills afford to commit that much to a player without knowing whether he’d be willing to reduce his salary to fall in line with his production? He could probably be had for a low draft pick, but I’m not sure I’d take that deal on.
OT Bryan Bulaga
The Bills were interested in signing Bulaga prior to last season, when he ended up returning to the Packers on a five-year, $33.75 million deal. Buffalo reportedly offered more cash, but Bulaga wanted to return to a system and team where he felt comfortable.
Flash forward a year and a half, and ESPN’s Packers blogger Rob Demovsky has him tagged as a player that Green Bay could move on from in the second year of his deal. Demovsky cites the large contract the team handed out to David Bakhtari and the one that is likely coming to T.J. lang, as well as the presence of this year’s second-rounder, offensive tackle Jason Spriggs.
Bulaga would be more than welcome in Buffalo, and either Mills or Henderson would probably be welcome compensation to the Packers (along with a fourth-ish round pick) if they feel Spriggs is ready to step up to a starting role. Bulaga’s cap hit, however, is pretty sizable. He’ll account for $7.85 million next year, and $8.35 million for two years after that.
There’s also the run blocking issue. Bulaga is a top-tier pass blocker, but Pro Football Focus has him rated as the 69th-best run blocker among qualified tackles. That ranks behind Mills (66th). Bulaga is PFF’s third-best pass blocking tackle this season and he's well ahead of Mills (36th) in that particular ranking.
Regardless of his run blocking deficiencies, if Bulaga can be had for a reasonable price and has interest in playing for the Bills, Doug Whaley should definitely give Ted Thompson a call and see what can be worked out.
WR Alshon Jeffery
There are several reasons why Jeffery is a long-shot trade target for the Bills this year. First, the Bears may be asking a high price for their star wideout, especially from a receiver-needy team like the Bills.
I was told this am that the Bills are NOT in talks for trading for Alshon Jeffrey, compensation and contract is the major issue— BF Insiders (@BF_Insiders) October 26, 2016
The Bears know what’s going on in Buffalo, and Ryan Pace knows he’d be operating from a position of strength. A high price, such as a first- or second-round pick, is too much to give up for someone whose contract is up past this season.
Speaking of that contract, it’s the second (and more pressing) reason the Bills might not be willing or able to bring Jeffery into town. He’s playing under his franchise tender, a one-year deal worth just under $15 million. The Bills would be responsible for about $8 million of that, which is pretty close to their remaining cap figure. Given the ever-present need to sign veterans to fill the place of injured roster players, operating with a few million of cap space for the remainder of the year is a pretty risky proposition.
If the Bills made a trade for Jeffery, it would probably be followed with another internal roster move, such as an extension to a pending free agent, or another well-compensated player would be heading to Chicago in return. That, coupled with the uncertainty of bringing in a pending free agent who will probably be itching to hit the open market after being stifled by the franchise tag last season, makes a trade for Jeffery unlikely.
If the Bills could swing it, though? Adding someone with his size and ability to the dreadfully-depleted receiving corps? If anything, that would be the ultimate test of Tyrod Taylor and his ability as a quarterback. It’d be hard to find an excuse with a player like that to throw to.