8 Shocking NFL Trades That Would Impact Playoff Races in 2024

We might as well get this out of the way right off the jump—the trades listed in the column you are about to peruse are unlikely to happen.

Actually, “unlikely to happen” is probably being kind—the odds that teams will be willing to trade star players this late in the offseason aren’t good. If an offer good enough to pry that player away was going to come, it probably would have.

But there’s a chance. A chance that as we move through the summer, a contender will realize that an area of weakness just has to be addressed. Or that an injury will open a new one—one prominent enough that a team will be forced to up its offer. Or maybe a team will just decide that to take a run at Super Bowl LIX, it needs to make a splash.

Conversely, a seller may realize that a contract-year player just isn’t re-signing next year. That it can either sell for the best offer now or take a chance with a compensatory pick in 2025.

Were one of these admittedly unlikely deals to get done, though, it wouldn’t just send a ripple across the NFL. Or get a mention in the middle of SportsCenter.

It would give a division the snow globe treatment. Or a conference. Or the entire league.

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Bills Get: EDGE Joey Bosa

Chargers Get: 2025 Round 3 Pick

The AFC East has belonged to the Bills in recent years—the team has won the division each of the past four seasons. But after what seems to some a shaky offseason, it appears Buffalo’s stranglehold on the AFC East may have loosened.

Much has been made of the team’s situation at wide receiver after the departure of Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis. But the Bills have a potential weakness on defense as well. Only one player for Buffalo eclipsed 10 sacks last season—edge-rusher Leonard Floyd, who is now in San Francisco. Buffalo’s projected starters on the edge (Gregory Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa) combined for just 11.5 sacks a year ago.

Making a deep postseason run isn’t going to be easy if the team can’t pressure the likes of Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs or Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals. Let alone Tua Tagovailoa of the Miami Dolphins and Aaron Rodgers of the New York Jets inside their own division.

Now, some members of Bills Mafia may be wincing a bit at the idea of sacrificing a Day 2 pick in 2025 to obtain a star edge-rusher with an injury history. The Bills went down a similar road in 2022, signing Von Miller to a six-year, $120 million pact that has produced very little in the way of results.

But Joey Bosa is significantly younger than Miller was when the team acquired him, and he has participated in voluntary workouts—a good sign that the foot injury that wrecked his 2023 campaign is behind him.

Getting Bosa’s contract on the books would take some wrangling, but Brandon Beane is as crafty a GM as there is in the NFL. It’s a risky play—but one that could pay off big if the Bills get the Bosa who made three straight Pro Bowls from 2019-2021.

Hey. We said shocking trades. Buckle up.

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Cowboys Get: WR Courtland Sutton, 2026 Round 6 Pick

Broncos Get: 2025 Conditional Day 2 Pick, 2025 Round 5 Pick

Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton has been the subject of trade speculation for much of the offseason. But while speaking to reporters, the 28-year-old made it clear that the Mile High City is where he wants to be.

“This is home,” Sutton said. “This is where I want to go hoist the Lombardi Trophy. This is the place where I want to be able to retire. This is the place where I want to hopefully be able to put enough out once my career is done that I can hopefully be able to have a bid at the Broncos Ring of [Fame]. Those are all things that have to be earned, and hopefully I’m able to have the time to be able to continue to showcase that I’m capable of being in that caliber of people.”

Of course, whether Sutton (who has been angling for a new contract) is in the long-term plans of a Denver team embarking on a rebuild under head coach Sean Payton and rookie quarterback Bo Nix is another matter.

The Dallas Cowboys are allegedly “all-in” on the 2024 campaign. But the team has some potentially glaring needs at running back and wide receiver that could prevent it from repeating as NFC East champions.

Sutton would fill one of those needs—an upgraded WR2 opposite star CeeDee Lamb. Given the team’s questions at running back, the Dallas offense may have to lean on quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game more than ever. In a contract year for Prescott in which quarterback salaries continue to climb.

Lamb, Sutton, Brandin Cooks and tight end Jake Ferguson would offer Prescott an impressive array of weapons. And improved odds of keeping up with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East.

“All-in” should be the mantra in 2024. Because the Cowboys are in more than a few ways at the edge of a proverbial cliff.

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Steelers Get: WR Brandon Aiyuk

49ers Get: 2025 Round 1 Pick

This would be a shocking trade on a couple of levels. For one, the San Francisco 49ers throwing in the towel on extending their No. 1 wideout and trading him in a year where they may well be the NFC’s best team would raise more than a few eyebrows. So would the Pittsburgh Steelers being willing to deal their first pick in next year’s draft—blockbuster deals are not generally their modus operandi.

However, the Steelers and 49ers have been linked in trade talks for some time, and Aiyuk’s trainer T.J. Houshmandzadeh told 95.7 the Game in San Francisco that contract talks between Aiyuk and the Niners have so far gone nowhere.

“At one point, he thought he may sign,” Houshmandzadeh said. “So, it was like, ‘I’m not gonna come out because I might have to go when I sign.’ And so that optimistic outlook has turned into a pessimistic outlook now. Like, damn, at one point he thought, ‘Hey, I might be leaving soon.’ So now, it’s like, ‘I have no idea.'”

If you believe that Russell Wilson or Justin Fields can be a capable starting quarterback for Pittsburgh in 2024, then the Steelers have a roster capable of competing in the NFL’s toughest division.

But on offense at least, there is one major potential weakness—the wide receiver position. There’s a reason the Steelers have been kicking the tires on dealing for Aiyuk and/or Samuel for some time now.

Pittsburgh may have just extended head coach Mike Tomlin, who has yet to post a losing season with the team. But the franchise hasn’t won a postseason game since 2016.

It’s time to shake things up.

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Lions Get: S Budda Baker

Cardinals Get: 2025 Round 2 Pick; 2026 Round 7 Pick

In what it may be a sign of the impending Apocalypse, the Detroit Lions enter the 2024 season with one of the best rosters in the NFL. The Lions gave the San Francisco 49ers all they could handle in the NFC Championship Game and had a solid offseason.

But if there’s one area where the Lions could use a major boost, it’s safety. Brian Branch is a rising young nickelback, but safeties Kerby Joseph, Ifeatu Melifonwu and Brandon Joseph are average talents at best.

Out in Arizona, Budda Baker is entering a contract year on one of the NFC’s weaker teams. He told reporters that he isn’t treating this season any differently than any other.

“That’s my main goal this year like it is every year. Continue to do my job at a high level, continue to play high football, elite football and when the ball comes my way, get it out the sky. And when it doesn’t, run to the ball. That’s what I am, A to Z, run to the ball. Everything else can take care of itself. I’ll let my agent handle all that other stuff.”

However, it is different—Baker enters his seventh professional season having played in exactly one postseason game, and if he hits the open market next year, teams will be lining up sign the 28-year-old—teams who can offer Baker something Arizona can’t.

A realistic shot at a Super Bowl run.

The Cardinals get more in this perspective deal than they would in compensatory picks. The Lions shore up their biggest defensive weakness with a six-time Pro Bowler.

And Baker gets to play for a team with a good chance of making a trip to New Orleans in February.

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Jaguars Get: CB James Bradberry

Eagles Get: 2025 Round 6 Pick

There look to be three tiers of teams in the AFC South this season. There’s the Houston Texans, who appear the clear favorites on paper. There are the Tennessee Titans, who essentially have no shot. And then there’s the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts, who could in theory challenge the Texans if things break the right way.

That last tier has questions—big ones. For the Colts, it’s the durability of second-year quarterback Anthony Richardson. For the Jaguars, it’s a defensive backfield that isn’t exactly stacked with imposing talents.

Finding veteran cornerback help this late in the offseason isn’t easy—teams are usually loathe to part with even marginal talents at a position where depth can be hugely important. But as it happens, there’s a former Pro Bowler who might just be available.

Granted, James Bradberry didn’t play like a Pro Bowler last year—in fact, he played a sizable role in Philly’s collapse defensively down the stretch. The Eagles used their first two draft picks in 2024 on cornerbacks, and head coach Nick Sirianni told reporters Philadelphia is considering moving Bradberry into a reserve role at safety.

“He played the majority of his career at corner and then was able to do some things at the dime (last year) and some things at the nickel, some things at the corner,” Sirianni said. “And now he’s working some of the safety stuff, which you’ll see (at practice).”

This trade would be shocking not in that the Eagles would move on from Bradberry—that feels more inevitable by the day. The shock would be that a player who just two years ago was a second-team All-Pro who also has a Pro Bowl on his resume would all but be given away.

But perhaps a change of scenery would rekindle his career. And an improved Jaguars secondary would help their chances of keeping up with the Texans and their loaded cadre of pass-catchers.

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Falcons Get: EDGE Matt Judon

Patriots Get: 2025 Round 3 Pick, 2026 Round 5 Pick

The NFC South is quite possibly the most wide-open division in the NFL. Every team that isn’t the Carolina Panthers heads into 2024 thinking that they have a real shot at winning the division.

None of those three teams has undergone bigger changes in 2024 than the Atlanta Falcons. With the arrival of veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins, wide receiver Darnell Mooney and a new coaching staff, expectations are that the offense will be vastly improved.

But defensively, the Falcons have major issues on the edge. Atlanta’s leading returning player at that position in sacks is youngster Arnold Ebiketie—with six. The Falcons need better pass-rushers—period.

The New England Patriots won’t compete for anything but draft position in 2024. Despite entering the last year of his contract on maybe the worst team in the league, veteran edge-rusher Matthew Judon told reporters that he isn’t interested in doing anything this year but his job.

“Uh, right now, I’m just gonna get ready to play,” Judon said. “And you know, you kind of don’t—you kind of keep throwing tantrums, tantrums, tantrums, and then you don’t come out there and do what you’re supposed to do? It kind of gets old real fast, you know.”

Judon is 31 and coming off a significant injury. But from 2019 to 2022, Judon made four straight Pro Bowls with the Patriots and Baltimore Ravens. In 2021 and 2022, he racked up 28 sacks.

If the Falcons could land that caliber of player at a position of need, it could swing the balance of power in the NFC South.

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Chiefs Get: OT Cam Robinson, 2026 Round 5 Pick

Jaguars Get: 2025 Round 3 Pick, 2026 Round 4 Pick

There is a reason no team in the history of the NFL has won three consecutive Super Bowls. It’s impossible in the salary-cap era to hold a championship-caliber roster together. The Kansas City Chiefs are just the latest example of this—as things stand today, the two-time defending champions will enter the 2024 season with their third starting left tackle in as many years.

Protecting Patrick Mahomes’ blind side sounds important.

To be fair, Cam Robinson has never been the left tackle the Jaguars thought they were getting with the 34th pick in 2017—at least not consistently. His 2023 season was marred by both injury and a suspension, and he’ll be a free agent in 2025. While speaking to the media, Jacksonville head coach Doug Pederson acknowledged that Robinson needs to step up his game this year.

“Now the injury is out of anybody’s control,” Pederson said, “but talking about the suspension, right, and it’s about being a pro. And listen, these are conversations that Cam, we know, he’s had, and we’ve had, you know. I definitely like having him on the team. He’s fun to be around, brings a lot of energy out there and it makes us better.”

Frankly, the most shocking part about this deal isn’t Kansas City making a sizable investment in Robinson—if Wanya Morris struggles in camp, the Chiefs could easily be spurred to make a move at the position.

But the idea of any team in the AFC doing something to help the Chiefs just seems—off.

Because every weakness the Chiefs fill makes it more likely they make history this season.

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Rams Get: WR Davante Adams

Raiders Get: 2025 Round 1 Pick

Might as well top this off with a whopper.

Last year, the Los Angeles Rams were a surprise playoff team. The Las Vegas Raiders, um, were not. And with Vegas entering training camp with Aidan O’Connell and Gardner Minshew as its top two quarterbacks, that isn’t especially likely to change.

Veteran wide receiver Davante Adams admitted as much while speaking to reporters after a shaky practice session, saying that realistically struggles under center for the Raiders are unavoidable in 2024.

“What is that called out there that we just did (practice)?” Adams asked. “That’s it, right? This is the opportunity to get all that stuff ironed out. There’s going to be a lot of mistakes. There’s going to be mistakes made during the season, but this time of the year gives us the opportunity to get ahead of it and learn the system.”

The Rams admittedly don’t really need Adams—Puka Nacua was a revelation as a rookie, breaking a 60-year-old record for receiving yards by a first-year player. Cooper Kupp has struggled with injuries the past two seasons, but in 2021 he won the receiving “Triple Crown” –leading the NFL in receptions, yards and receiving scores.

Adding Adams to that mix would give Matthew Stafford the most dangerous trio of wide receivers in the league.

It wouldn’t be cheap—but there’s no general manager in the NFL more willing to deal first-rounders than Les Snead. 2024 was the first time Los Angeles picked in Round 1 since taking Jared Goff first overall in 2016. It wouldn’t be easy to get Adams’ salary under the cap, either—but teams play that shell game all the time.

Want to seriously threaten a loaded San Francisco 49ers team in the NFC West in 2024?

This is the kind of move it’s going to take.

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