Self-awareness is everything in the NFL and conversations about where a franchise is positioned among its peers are being had across the league. While decision-makers notoriously hold their cards close to the vest in an effort to preserve leverage, I am -- probably for good reason -- untethered. Here are five teams that should be buying and five teams that should be selling ahead of the Tuesday, Nov. 1 trade deadline:
There are a few ways to contextualize what a 'buyer' should look like in the NFL. The first type is the franchise that not only has a positive record, but is viewed as a Super Bowl contender. The reality is that there are teams with promising records that no one expects to actually see hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. The second type is the desperate franchise with an elite quarterback that knows their window is closing soon.
Buffalo falls into the former category. They were aggressive in the offseason bringing in players to play pivotal roles like cornerback Kaiir Elam and edge rusher Von Miller. The Bills are viewed as one of the top contenders to win the Super Bowl. The Rams showed that it is trendy to push the chips into the middle of the table and increase the odds of winning even more. Perhaps the AFC East franchise is interested in upgrading Josh Allen's protection or adding depth to the secondary.
After initially announcing his retirement, quarterback Tom Brady made the decision to return to Tampa Bay for his 23rd season. Although it has not gone as expected thus far, they find themselves atop the NFC South. It is not dissimilar to the regular season leading up to their Super Bowl run two years ago. The Buccaneers were 7-5 heading into the bye week in 2020 before rattling off four straight wins just to make it to the postseason. The NFC is wide open and a sluggish start should not deter the franchise from its ultimate goal.
Whether next off-season or the following, Brady will retire from the league and Tampa Bay does not have a viable replacement. Once that window closes, attention turns to creating a healthier long-term salary cap situation so the team needs to capitalize on its present opportunity.
Kansas City has already shown that it belongs in this category by trading for Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney. Rookie Skyy Moore has not often found himself on the field this season and that places more stress on the platoon of Juju Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Toney is not Tyreek Hill but his skill set is such that head coach Andy Reid can put him in motion, line him up all over the formation and force defenses to respect his speed.
The Chiefs will be there in the end, pushing the Bills. The more that they can do to help themselves now, the better prepared they will be in the moment.
The Eagles have to be on this list if for no other reason than general manager Howie Roseman loves a good trade. In the past seven months, Roseman has sent a first-round pick to New Orleans, brought in wide receiver A.J. Brown, edge rusher Robert Quinn and safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. He has been acquiring draft capital with the intention of having the flexibility to make these types of moves. And on Wednesday acquired edge rusher Robert Quinn.
In justification of Tampa Bay's inclusion, it was mentioned that the NFC is wide open; well, they are all chasing the undefeated Eagles right now. In the days leading up to the 2017 trade deadline (the regular season preceding the team's Super Bowl win), Philadelphia acquired running back Jay Ajayi. Could that position once again be the focal point of trade discussions?
Copy-paste the Buccaneers section above and change the names. Green Bay has been an under-performing team but time is running out with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Packers should throw another veteran log on the wide receiver fire and hope that it is enough to last them until season's end.
Cleveland has lost four of its five games by a combined nine points. If they had not snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against the Jets, they would not be on this list. As it stands, the team has gone through the easiest portion of its schedule and find themselves with a 2-5 record. Realistically, the team needs 10 wins to advance to the postseason. Deshaun Watson will be back for six of those games but it is unrealistic to think he is going to win them all after having not played for two years. The franchise is not going to the postseason so, why not trade soon-to-be free agents Greedy Williams, Jack Conklin, Kareem Hunt now when it looks like they are not going to be a part of next year's team and beyond?
Now, if they somehow win on Monday night against the Bengals, then that may change the outlook for them.
Despite a morale-raising victory over Green Bay, Washington finds themselves staring up the mountain at three teams in their own division with at least five wins. They turn to look at Sherpas Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke before promptly heading back down to base camp. Cornerback William Jackson III does not fit into the defense and wants out. Defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne becomes an expensive free agent after the season. Wide receiver Curtis Samuel's contract is reasonable and would be appealing to other teams. Having three wide receivers as talented as Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and Samuel is a luxury they simply can not afford right now.
If you got this far hoping to find a claim that the team should trade wide receiver D.J. Moore then it is only disappointment to be found. Moore's contract is almost prohibitive to being moved for anything of equal value. Plus, Carolina is in a position to add one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft and they would be doing that player a disservice by moving on from Moore. There is not a lot of incentive to move edge rusher Brian Burns either. Yes, he will be looking for a significant showing of faith soon but is still young and a building block for a rebuild. Players like offensive lineman Cam Erving, defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis and wide receiver Terrace Marshall are among those that could be re-homed, however.
Despite New Orleans making moves to suggest that they believed themselves to be contenders, it was difficult envisioning a path with their current quarterback situation and the unknown of life after Sean Payton. Beyond Payton, the loss of quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi -- now offensive coordinator with the Chargers -- a year earlier was bigger than it was ever given credit. Could they move on from wide receivers Marquez Callaway and Jarvis Landry or defensive tackle David Onyemata among others?
Houston is currently positioned with a top-5 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft from the Browns as part of the Watson trade. There is an opportunity for the franchise to continue hoarding draft picks. The cupboards are full of veterans with wide receiver Brandin Cooks, tight end O.J. Howard, cornerbacks Steven Nelson and Desmond King II, edge rusher Jerry Hughes, defensive tackle Maliek Collins and others. The primary objectives should be off-loading contracts of players that are not part of the long-term vision, upgrade the franchise's position in the draft, play young players to find out what the roster has and needs, and attack the off-season with the draft capital to make a difference.