The biggest hanging NFL stories at the end of August look rather similar to the biggest stories at the end of July. Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon, Jadeveon Clowney and Trent Williams remain absent from work, and the final two names on that list could be part of an active trade market over the next few days as rosters transform around the league.
Final cuts are due by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, when all NFL rosters must be whittled down to 53 players. Below is a primer for the possible action to come, first looking at the potential trades ahead and then spotlighting some of the thousand-plus pros who could lose their roster spots before the end of the weekend.
Possible trade candidates
Jadeveon Clowney, DE/OLB, Houston Texans: At this stage, a Clowney trade appears to be a matter of when, not if. When figures to be in time for Clowney to suit up in a new uniform for Week 1.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that Miami coach Brian Flores met with Clowney, presumably to give the former No. 1 overall pick a sales pitch on life with the Dolphins. The lack of a deal thus far indicates Clowney isn’t in love with the option. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports Clowney prefers the Eagles and Seahawks, although it’s unclear if interest from those teams is mutual or if Clowney just read my trade fits article.
Kenyan Drake and Kenny Stills, RB and WR, Miami Dolphins: See above. Drake is a logical piece to move back to Houston as part of a deal for Clowney. It sounds like practically any piece in Miami other than left tackle Laremy Tunsil is available, with Stills particularly at risk because of his high salary and recent criticism of Dolphins ownership. Stills’ deep speed could make the Texans‘ passing attack tough to defend if they can ever protect Deshaun Watson.
Trent Williams, OT, Washington Redskins: I don’t blame Redskins coach Jay Gruden for insisting the team won’t trade Williams, the best player he’s coached in Washington. I would start to blame Gruden and Redskins brass in a few weeks if they are truly passing up the chance to land a high draft pick in exchange for the left tackle. Holding on to Williams for too long could be a case of failing to read the room. This holdout is, according to all reporting, personal and based on principle, which makes Williams far less likely to cave. Perhaps the Redskins believe that the best trade proposal won’t come until after the season starts, but they should jump if a first-round offer comes in the next week. Williams has made it known through Rapoport that he’s healthy and ready to play.
Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard, QB, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers: Colts general manager Chris Ballard all but confirmed publicly that the team is in the market for a backup quarterback following Andrew Luck‘s retirement. The Jaguars, Texans and Cowboys are three other squads that should be considering an upgrade at the position. Niners coach Kyle Shanahan put up a “For Sale” sign on Beathard when he said the team was planning to keep three quarterbacks unless another team comes calling. Hoyer is at risk of getting cut in New England despite a strong preseason because of rookie Jarrett Stidham‘s fine play. A veteran-for-veteran trade could make sense here, unless another team wants to give up a late-round pick for some backup-quarterback security.
Rex Burkhead, RB, New England Patriots: It’s hard to imagine Bill Belichick cutting Burkhead when he’s healthy so soon after the back earned significant snaps in the Super Bowl. It’s easier to imagine Belichick pulling off a trade if he can find any takers, because Burkhead may be fifth on the team’s depth chart in the deepest Patriots backfield of the Brady era.
Josh Doctson, WR, Washington Redskins: It’s remarkable that Doctson, a 2016 first-rounder who has made plenty of highlight-reel catches in his three NFL seasons, may not make the receiver-needy Washington roster. He’s talented enough that he could fetch something in a trade, perhaps a player from another team who also is on the chopping block.
A.J. Green, John Ross and Giovani Bernard, WR/RB, Cincinnati Bengals: All three players here fall into the “fun speculation” category, but the Bengals are an organization in flux. Green is entering the last year of his contract. While I’m irresponsibly speculating about a potential trade, why not consider a deal to his old friend Jay Gruden in Washington in exchange for Trent Williams? Ross, meanwhile, returned to practice this week after missing all of camp with a hamstring problem. There is undoubtedly a team out there, still holding on to its 2017 first-round draft grade on Ross, that could give him a chance. Bernard, like Green, is entering the final year of his contract. The Bengals like their rookie sixth-round running backs Trayveon Williams and Rodney Anderson, so perhaps they’d listen if some team came calling about Bernard.
Notable potential cuts
Shane Ray, OLB, Baltimore Ravens: While the Ravens‘ younger homegrown players haven’t exactly stepped up — with veteran Pernell McPhee in line to start — it still looks like Ray, the former first-rounder from Denver, is the odd man out at outside linebacker.
T.J. Yeldon, RB, Buffalo Bills: Yeldon has double-dip potential after receiving $500,000 guaranteed this offseason from Buffalo. He looks to be on the bubble to make perhaps the deepest backfield in football, but any RB with 171 catches in four NFL seasons should find a job somewhere. The recent injury to Bills special teamer Senorise Perry could possibly save Yeldon.
Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan, LB, Miami Dolphins: Look for Dolphins general manager Chris Grier to aggressively churn his roster over the next week. Alonso and McMillan are now backups and don’t quite fit the system. Alonso appears to have a better chance to stick as a backup or inspire trade interest.
Dwayne Allen, TE, Miami Dolphins: After guaranteeing Allen $1.25 million this offseason, it’s possible that GM Chris Grier and coach Brian Flores have found their first joint personnel misfire.
Mason Crosby and Graham Gano, K, Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers: Crosby and Sam Ficken have been locked in a Packers kicking battle that appears surprisingly even entering the final preseason game. There’s no doubt Crosby would be signed elsewhere if he were cut.
Gano’s situation is more about his injured leg. The Panthers have admitted they are “uneasy” about Gano’s health, and it’s possible they roll with hotshot rookie kicker Joey Slye, who has been perfect on field-goal attempts in the preseason.
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Minnesota Vikings: Vikings coach Mike Zimmer essentially announced the team was showcasing Treadwell, the team’s 2016 first-round pick, for a trade by targeting him a lot in the second week of the preseason.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.