There isn't a bigger three-day festival of offseason NFL news than the nights of the draft. This is when teams theoretically make their rosters stronger, not just with college players who become their rookies, but with established NFL players who are expected to make a difference. It's the time, for every team, where pessimism and skepticism turn into optimism.
And given some of the names on this list of veteran guys who could get traded, there's room for lots and lots of optimism.
Teams never give up good players for no reason. Every player who could be on the move has a contractual issue that their current team would prefer not to deal with. Most of them are pretty old in NFL years, too. But those issues can be overlooked, or resolved in the case of the contract, by a team looking to win now. And this is the time of year for big moves to be made.
Here's my list of veterans who could be on the move during, or just after, the 2023 NFL Draft:
Age as of Week 1: 26
Contract issue: Franchised by the Ravens, meaning another team would not only have to sign him to a lucrative contract but also give up draft compensation to the Ravens, likely starting at two first-round picks.
Odds of being traded: +2500. The Ravens have spoken openly about having Jackson back for this year, and no team has reportedly shown significant interest in the dual-threat quarterback. Jackson figures to eventually have three options: Sign a contract extension offered by the Ravens and be with Baltimore for life, sign his franchise tender and play out this coming season, or sit out the season. Two of the three options keep him in Baltimore, and the third is ridiculous.
Bottom line: Expect Jackson to stay in Baltimore and have several massive stat-packed games. He'll finish as a top-12 QB, and then he'll get franchised again next offseason.
Fantasy Baseball Today Newsletter
Your Cheat Code To Fantasy Baseball
You're destined to gain an edge over your friends with advice from the award-winning FBT crew.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Age as of Week 1: 23
Contract issue: Nothing prohibitive. He'll be on Year 3 of his four-year rookie contract (with a fifth-year team option). It's just a particularly pricey rookie contract because he was taken third overall.
Odds of being traded: +800. On one hand, the 49ers might actually need Lance if Brock Purdy isn't ready to start the season. Plus the team would look kind of bad if it pulled the plug on Lance after giving up a ton of draft capital for him and only giving him eight games. But on the other hand, the 49ers brass basically admitted that Purdy would be given another chance to start once his arm is OK. Why not move Lance if the return in trade isn't embarrassingly small, especially in a draft the Niners don't pick until 99th overall?
Bottom line: The Niners shouldn't give Lance away, but if a QB-needy team wants that particular style of quarterback and makes a good offer, then the Niners could save some cap space and fill a need at another position. If he has a chance to start, Fantasy managers would line up for Lance with a late-round flier based on his rushing prowess and big arm.
Age as of Week 1: 35
Contract issue: He's in a contract year with a $36.6 million cap hit. The team acquiring Tannehill would not have to take on the entirety of that amount, but would still have to take on roughly $27 million and also potentially extend Tannehill past 2023.
Odds of being traded: +700. The Titans cannot move him unless they have another quarterback ready to go, and I don't mean Malik Willis. Somebody will be there at 11th overall, but are the Titans sure about giving a rookie the reins from Day 1? Mike Vrabel may prefer to keep a veteran quarterback around to help ease a rookie's transition to the pros.
Bottom line: Tannehill will be a transitory quarterback whether he stays in Nashville or moves on -- no one's counting on him as a franchise savior. And no one would be particularly excited about him for Fantasy save for Superflex/two-QB managers who need a cheap starter.
Age as of Week 1: 28
Contract issue: He still has three years left on his current deal, but he could be a post-June 1 cut casualty this year (saves $9 million) or a regular cap casualty next year (saves $12 million). Point being, he can be moved on from pretty easily.
Odds of being traded: +200. The Vikings would need to have a logical plan to move on from Cook, but that's not hard to do. It's harder to actually find a team that Cook fits in with and would pay him for at least this coming season. A team with limited draft capital or one that just doesn't take a running back through Day 2 might inquire.
Bottom line: Cook is getting to the end of the line, but he's not quite ready to be pushed past that line. He still offers some juice and versatility, but it's probably more likely he'll split reps more than we're used to seeing and won't see as many games with 15-plus PPR points like we're used to. Be ready to claim him as a Round 4 pick as a No. 2 running back.
Age as of Week 1: 29
Contract issue: He's entering the final year of his deal with a cap number over $16 million.
Odds of being traded: +425. The Titans' offensive identity has been Henry for the past four years, but they know like we know that he's getting older and tough to commit big dollars to. If a contending team missed on Bijan Robinson and wanted a bull in their backfield, they'd call the Titans with the idea of riding Henry for one or two seasons. Smart, efficient front offices -- the kind that don't have a pick in the top half of the NFL draft -- might consider such an idea. The Titans might let him go for less than a top-30 pick.
Bottom line: Whether he's playing behind Tennessee's improved offensive line, or on a playoff contending roster, Henry will carry some pretty huge upside for reasons we already know. He might end up being a first-rounder in most leagues, but a large swath of Fantasy managers won't touch him unless he's in Round 2.
Age as of Week 1: 28
Contract issue: He's entering the final year of his deal with a cap number under $8 million. He's asked for and been given permission to seek a trade.
Odds of being traded: +800. Ekeler has evolved into a huge part of the Chargers offense, one that would be really tough to replace. Los Angeles has no reason to trade him unless they're bowled over by a great offer. Remember, the Chargers could franchise Ekeler and keep him next season too. He does not have the wear-and-tear issues that a lot of other RBs his age have. They shouldn't be in any hurry to move on from him.
Bottom line: Bank on Ekeler staying with the Chargers, which is honestly the best possible place for him to be for Fantasy. The offense should be even more aggressive this year, especially if L.A. adds some firepower at receiver to stretch defenses. A move out of Los Angeles could lower his ceiling in a big way. As of now he'll be an easy top-five pick in PPR and top-10 in non-PPR.
What about ...
All of these running backs are entering a contract year.
D'Andre Swift, Lions: It's possible Detroit has soured on Swift and tries to move him for a team looking for a passing-downs back. But for what they'd get for him in trade, they might as well keep him since his contract is more than reasonable.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs: Even if we agree he doesn't warrant being called a "first-round talent" anymore, there's still hope for Edwards-Helaire if he fits into an offense that caters to his strengths. But if he didn't make it with the Chiefs, what offense could that possibly be?!
AJ Dillon, Packers: Green Bay needs him for his physical style as a "1B" back behind "1A" Aaron Jones, especially since its offense might be more run-heavy than in the past. The Packers might use him and then let him test free agency.
Antonio Gibson, Commanders: He held on through his demotion last year -- he even averaged 10 PPR points per game with Brian Robinson. But Washington may be able to finally find a team interested in Gibson for his passing-down traits and move him for an extra pick this year.
Age as of Week 1: 31
Contract issue: Has two years left on his deal at over $25 million in cap space per season.
Odds of being traded: -5000. It's happening. The Cardinals are short on draft capital and are staring down the barrel of a losing year. Why hammer your salary cap with Hopkins when you can trade him and get something useful?
Bottom line: The only issue is where. There is so much evidence pointing to Buffalo as Hopkins' next home. Kansas City is also in the mix as is Baltimore and the New York Giants. The only team where he might command 150 targets is the Giants, but he could still be incredibly good on 120 targets in the other three places. He'll end up being a useful No. 2 Fantasy receiver with potential for some gamebreaking weeks.
Age as of Week 1: 27
Contract issue: Has three years left on his deal at over $17 million in cap space per season. However, a team could get out of the deal after this season with minimal cap hits.
Odds of being traded: +600. If there's a receiver to be moved in Denver, it's Sutton. Big, contested-catch perimeter receivers aren't the rage anymore -- it's all about yards after the catch and explosiveness. Also of note: There are not a lot of big, contested-catch perimeter receivers in the draft, so if a team targets one and misses, Sutton could be an option.
Bottom line: Sutton is good enough to be productive if given a lot of targets, but he might not see as many as he did even last year in Sean Payton's offense, which generally utilizes running backs and tight ends more than your typical system. He might actually gain traction as a No. 3 receiver if he moves on from Denver.
What about ...
All of these wide receivers are entering a contract year.
Marquise Brown, Cardinals: Same thing I said about Hopkins applies to Brown, but with one difference: Brown will be 26 this year. If Arizona doesn't see him as a big part of its future, it could pick up a Day 2 pick for him.
Tyler Boyd, Bengals: He's 28, he's the definition of a solid, steady receiver who can still make catches over the middle of the field, but he's got a cap number just over $10 million. That's a lot for a role player the team may not opt to extend.
Michael Pittman, Colts: Remember, he was reportedly part of the Colts' package to move up to No. 1 overall this spring. If the Colts have a chance to make a big move again, and if the new coaching staff doesn't love Pittman like the last coaching staff did, he could be packing his bags.
Corey Davis, Jets: Davis is like Sutton in that he's a capable, large-sized perimeter receiver that a team could target if it doesn't find a prospect to its liking. Davis' cap number is $11.2 million, but he could be cut before the season for a minuscule amount of dead money.
DeVante Parker, Patriots: Parker could be expendable depending on how the Pats maneuver their roster during the draft. He's 30 years old and costs nothing to the Patriots (or any team) that cuts him before the season starts.
Age as of Week 1: 30
Contract issue: Effectively in the final year of his contract with a $9.2 million cap hit.
Odds of being traded: +400. The Rams have already acquired Hunter Long from the Dolphins in the Jalen Ramsey trade and still have Brycen Hopkins on the roster. They also have a slew of late picks in a draft ripe with sneaky-good tight ends. If another team wanted a veteran tight end without having to spend a top pick, it could just call Sean McVay and offer an early Day 3 pick.
Bottom line: Higbee has proven to be only as reliable as his target share can take him. There are very few scenarios where Higbee gets moved into a spot where he sees more targets than what he's had in L.A. Already a fringe draft pick, Higbee could be relegated to TE-premium leagues if he's moved.
Age as of Week 1: 28
Contract issue: In the final year of his contract with a $15.5 million cap hit.
Odds of being traded: +400. Henry hasn't delivered on the massive deal he signed with New England in 2021. The team's signing of Mike Gesicki this offseason signals a change in how they might use Henry if he stays. Any squad that wants a veteran tight end without any strings attached could slide into Bill Belichick's DMs.
Bottom line: Think of what the absolute best landing spot would be for Henry. Dallas? Green Bay? Cincy? Any one of them could put him back on the map as a late-round start-your-season streaming tight end. That's as good as it gets for him.