Interior Defensive Line
J.J. Watt – HOU: This one may be a surprise to many, but due to the Texans cap situation and Watt’s age this is a realistic target. At 31 Watt is still one of the top defenders in the game (98 OVR). However his $15.5 million cap number this year and $17.5 million next year are tough for Houston to handle. Houston has some pretty big needs in the secondary so a lower-rated, but young, secondary player and a pick could potentially pry Watt away from a Texans owner.
Jonathan Allen – WAS: This could have been any one of the three interior linemen in Washington but I went with the lowest-rated and second-oldest in Jonathan Allen. Allen is a solid player but just finds himself on the losing end of a numbers game. A power rushing archetype with solid strength and rush moves should make him an attractive target, especially at only 25 years old. The Redskins have little in terms of offensive weapons so a comparably rated offensive weapon should be enough to get Allen from Washington.
Steve McLendon – NYJ: This is a one-year rental that isn’t sexy but could have value for a team that needs a nose tackle. With his contract only being for a single season and his age already at 34, McLendon’s usefulness is probably just the first season of Madden. That said, the Jets won’t be competing for anything in season one of most leagues so he should be available for cheap.
Ryan Kerrigan – WAS: Another Washington defender who finds himself in a crowded position group, Kerrigan should bring immediate help to a team needing pass rush. Similar to the previous discussion, Kerrigan can probably be had for an offensive skill player. The big difference here is with Kerrigan’s age, you should be able to get him for a lower-rated player than Kerrigan himself.
Carlos Dunlap – CIN: Dunlap still has some tread on his tires, and should for the remaining two years on his contract. The issue for Cincinnati is the team needs two years to rebuild before they can contend. This means Dunlap should be a piece Bengals owners are willing to discuss as a potential piece to move. If possible, combining Dunlap with a WR for a younger pass rusher would be an ideal move for the Bengals.
Adrian Clayborn – CLE: This is a low-risk play for a team who is in win-now mode but lacks any real pass rush… looking at you Seattle. Clayborn won’t wow you but he is a solid option on the end and should generate some pressure. Cleveland has little need for him with Vernon and Garrett so it would seem reasonable that a mid-round pick could get you a player that can help you try and win now.
Demario Davis – NO: Davis is one of the top linebackers in the game, however, the Saints cap issues may make committing top LB money to a soon to be 32-year-old player difficult. In reality, the Saints should be looking younger were possible so getting a younger quality LB back in return along with another piece could be enough to get a team looking to win now a solid defender.
A Jet Linebacker – NYJ: This simply comes down to the idea that the Jets have 2 of the top 7 middle linebackers in the game, but lack talent at nearly every other position. In my view linebacker is one of the least impactful positions in Madden, so if you could turn one of them into a quality starter at nearly any other position you’d be improving this team for the long run.
Dylan Cole – HOU: Cole is an athletic linebacker who is still relatively young and on a one year deal. Houston already possesses two solid MLB options in McKinney and Cunningham, so it would make sense to move Cole and his one year deal for another asset. Mentioned before, help in the secondary would be ideal but even a draft pick to try and restock the cupboards would be intriguing to me if I was running the Texans.
Jason McCourty – NE: While most people will probably enquire about Jonathan Jones and J.C. Jackson, I would guess in most leagues it will be McCourty owners are willing to part with. 33 years old and only one year left on his deal, trading for McCourty isn’t a long term fix but could provide coverage help on a team attempting to win year 1. Because of his age and contract situation, any offer around him should be strictly a developmental player or a draft pick as he truly will be a one-year solution.
An Eagles Corner – PHI: Take your pick here as the Eagles have tons of depth at corner and all of it is relatively young. Any of the three between Avonte Maddox, Trevor Williams, or Sidney Jones would be a nice second or third corner with upside to grow for Maddox and Jones. Because of the lack of corners for most teams expect to pay a pretty substantial price for the two 24-year-olds, potentially less for the 26-year-old Williams.
Richard Sherman – SF: Still an elite corner, this is a move that comes down the San Francisco’s interest in building for the future. The team doesn’t need to move him, however, he doesn’t have many elite years left and with him, on the last year of his deal he will still command a decent size commitment moving forward. If I am in need of a #1 corner to go all-in year one, this is the move to make. 49ers should be looking for a relatively high pick in return for Sherman as he still can lock down a side of the field.
Devin McCourty – NE: The other half of the “McCourty Twins”, Devin McCourty should also be able to be had by any owner of the Patriots. On a team in need of youth hanging on to vets until they have no value left is not the way to keep this team relevant long term. McCourty is one of the best safeties in the game but has a short lifespan before a potential retirement. If I am running the Patriots I want a young replacement back plus some other compensation to move him.
Keanu Neal – ATL: Neal is a potential casualty of a tight cap in Atlanta. The Falcons should be able to keep him, but for the price, he will command I am not sure many will necessarily want to. Neal’s coverage attributes aren’t great making him more of a box or user safety. Still only 25 and with high upside, any trade of Neal should net the Falcons a young stud plus something (pick, role player, etc) at the very least.
Josh Jones – JAX: This is a straight user play, but if you are a full-time safety user Jones is a great option. With 92 speed and 89 hit power, Jones will allow a good user to separate ball from a player often. Only rated 69 overall and in most leagues will go unnoticed, it’s possible you find him cut or could get him for a late-round pick.