Happy week seven, Bills Mafia! Your Buffalo Bills are 4-2 and in first place in the AFC East! Yes, they have lost two straight games, but it is not time to panic. The Bills play the Jets this week and will (hopefully) get back on track. That being said, there are some major issues plaguing this team both on offense and defense. Luckily, we are approaching that time of year where contenders make big moves for the playoff run: the trade deadline. There is much speculation surrounding who the Bills could go after to improve their roster, including an impressive photoshopped image of Geno Atkins. Given Buffalo’s current cap situation, they are unlikely to make any big moves, but that does not mean they can’t get anyone.
So, I put on my GM cap and went to work. Using the Spotrac roster & salary cap tool, I identified 20 players across five positions of need who the Bills could feasibly target on the trade market and determined the price I believe they are worth (i.e. draft picks and/or players). For the sake of readability, this topic will be divided into two parts. In Part 1, I will discuss 10 possible defensive tackle and nickel back targets. In Part 2, I will go over 10 targets at the defensive end, outside linebacker, tight end, and running back positions.
1.) Danny Shelton (Lions)
Shelton is a true nose tackle (what I like to call a “big boy”) with starting experience who could come in and fill the void left by Star Lotulelei in run defense. His two-year contract includes $1.5 million in base salary this year (2020) and $4 million next year (2021). However, he can be released this offseason, saving $4 million but incurring a $1.25 million dead cap. The only thing that may hinder any trade for Shelton is Matt Patricia’s infatuation with former Patriot players.
Trade Value: 5th round pick
2.) Sheldon Rankins (Saints)
Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports released an article of 10 blockbuster trades that should be made prior to the deadline. One of those proposed deals was Sheldon Rankins to Buffalo for a 5th round pick. This move would make sense for both sides. The former first round pick has not lived up to expectations in New Orleans, due to lack of production and injuries. (He tallied 16 sacks in his first four seasons.) That led to a contract restructure in the preseason and a rotation at the DT2 position. However, he is on the last year of his rookie deal and can contribute as both a run stuffer and pass rusher in Buffalo’s d-line rotation.
Trade Value: 5th round pick (per CBS Sports)
3.) Dalvin Tomlinson (Giants)
I will not dwell too much on Tomlinson, as Ryan Talbot already identified five reasons for the Bills to trade for him. I will simply point out that his cheap contract and durability will likely drive up the asking price, even with Brandon Beane’s Panther pal Dave Gettleman on the other end of negotiations.
Trade Value: 4th round pick
4.) Quinnen Williams (Jets)
It may be a bit unrealistic to expect the Jets to trade away last year’s third overall pick to a division rival. However, they are in the midst of a fire sale and, seeing as they already got rid of Jamal Adams and Le’Veon Bell, will likely entertain any offer for any player. Furthermore, Gregg Rosenthal and Connor Hughes have reported that the Jets “probably couldn’t turn down a second rounder” for Williams. If this is true, Beane should blow up Joe Douglas’ DMs to make the deal. Williams is young, athletic, and can fill the big boy role both now and in the near future. (Plus, going from the visiting locker room to the Bills locker room would be quicker than traveling from Miami to Tampa.)
Trade Value: 2nd round pick (per Connor Hughes)
5.) Da’Ron Payne (Washington Football Team)
Like Shelton and Tomlinson, Payne is a big boy who can come in and instantly improve Buffalo’s run defense. He still has two years left on his rookie deal (including the fifth year option), making him more than a half-season rental. Furthermore, Washington is loaded at the position and continuing their transition to Ron Rivera’s 4-3 defense; meaning that they will have to make a tough decision when Jonathan Allen’s rookie deal ends after next season. It is likely that they will extend Allen and keep Matt Ioannidis, making Payne expendable. So, if you were Washington, why not just trade him to Rivera’s Panther pal Sean McDermott now and move onto the offensive rebuild? (*This is probably the most unrealistic option.)
Trade Value: 2nd & 5th round picks
6.) Logan Ryan (Giants)
The 29-year-old former Patriot and Titan signed a one year deal with the Giants in August to play safety. He has been decent in the role, tallying 44 total tackles and a forced fumble in seven games this season. He is making $1.05 million base salary and is in line for various incentive bonuses (i.e. playing time, pro bowl, and all pro), which could make this move financially unrealistic. However, he has missed only three games in his career and has played at least 80% of defensive snaps every season since 2015. Given how the Bills like to run a base nickel package (three corners/safeties), it would behoove them to go out and trade for an experienced nickel back and/or safety who can defend the run AND pass.
Trade Value: 5th round pick
7.) Desmond King (Chargers)
King, a 2018 first-team all pro, had a rough season last year, prompting the Chargers to sign Chris Harris Jr. in free agency. Furthermore, he has been supplanted in the nickel role by Michael Davis who has played 94% of defensive snaps (compared to King’s 61%). He will likely be a non-factor once Harris returns from injured reserve. This, along with his expiring rookie contract, makes King a popular trade deadline target. He would be an upgrade over Taron Johnson in pass coverage.
Trade Value: 3rd round pick
8.) Fabian Moreau (Washington Football Team)
Like King, Fabian Moreau was relegated to the #4 cornerback role coming into the last year of his rookie deal. While he has seen an increased usage in special teams this year, he is still expendable. He would also be an upgrade over Taron Johnson in pass coverage and would be cheaper to acquire than King.
Trade Value: Conditional 6th round pick
9.) Josh Jackson (Packers)
Jackson is an intriguing trade option for the Bills. He has not lived up to his second round pick status, having been demoted from starter to backup nickel corner after his rookie year. However, he has played over 50% of Green Bay’s special teams snaps this year and can compete with Taron Johnson at nickel corner. Unlike King and Moreau, Jackson is under contract through 2021, which would give the Bills another cheap depth option beyond this season.
Trade Value: 6th round pick
10.) Shawn Williams (Bengals)
Williams was effective in his four years as a starting safety, tallying 354 total tackles, including 110+ each of the last two seasons. He has also played at least 80% of defensive snaps three out of those four years. He lost his starting job to Vonn Bell entering 2020 and has been relegated to special teams duty. If the Bills are looking for a run support safety for the Big Nickel spot, then Williams could be the best available option. This would be more of a splurge, given his $3.94 million base salary (+ per game active bonus). However, his contract is set to expire after this season. Additionally, his reduced role and salary would likely give Beane a significant discount on trade compensation.
Trade Value: Conditional 5th round pick
* All player stats provided by Pro Football Reference.
* All contract figures provided by Spotrac.
What do you think? Which defensive tackles/nickel backs should the Bills go after? Is there anyone I missed? Let me know on Twitter (@zvaughn2712) and stay tuned for Part 2.