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Desert dealing: Three trades the Cardinals should consider this offseason (and one they shouldn’t)

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Trade talk has dominated the news lately... in the NBA. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t NFL trades to be discussed. Here are a few the Cardinals should look into—and one they shouldn’t.

Pittsburgh Steelers v New Orleans Saints
All-Pro WR Antonio Brown might be on the way out of Pittsburgh. Should the Cardinals consider bringing him to the desert?
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

With a bit of a dead spot in the NFL calendar between the Super Bowl and the combine, no one would blame you if your attention started to drift toward the NBA this week—especially with the trade deadline coming up on Thursday. Will the Suns get Lonzo Ball? Where is Anthony Davis going—if he goes anywhere?

Alternately, maybe you’re like me and all this NBA trade talk got you thinking of trades the Cardinals could potentially make this offseason. So with that in mind, below are three trades GM Steve Keim and the rest of the Redbirds front office should be discussing before the draft, as well as one they should *not* be considering. Let’s get that one out of the way first.

Note: Given that these are all hypothetical deals, I haven’t looked much into the salary cap ramifications of these deals.

Trade 0: Cardinals do *not* trade for Eagles QB Nick Foles

The Potential Swap: Cardinals receive Eagles QB Nick Foles, Eagles receive Cardinals 3rd-round pick (#65)

The Rationalization: This trade is the dream that won’t seem to die in the RotB comments section. Fortunately, the trade will never happen for innumerable reasons: the Cardinals already have a starting QB who is 9(!) years younger than Foles, Foles’s new contract would be too expensive at a position we just invested a top-10 pick in, benching Josh Rosen would stunt his development, the 3rd-round pick it would take to get Foles could be put to much better use (see below), Foles likely wouldn’t even want to come here anyway, etc., etc. Steve Keim has made his fair share of blunders in the past, but I doubt he’d think about this one for longer than 0.193 seconds. Cardinals fans need to stop smoking the funny stuff and move on from this pipe dream.

Trade 1: Cardinals trade for Jets DE Leonard Williams

The Swap: Cardinals receive Williams, Jets receive Cardinals’ 3rd-round pick (#65) and 6th-round pick (#166)

The Rationalization: The Cardinals badly need to fortify the defensive line with the switch back to the 3-4 after a disastrous year in the 4-3 under Steve Wilks and Al Holcomb. Enter Williams, who is exactly the kind of player the Cardinals should be targeting—young (just 24) and talented (former Pro Bowler) enough to be a building block for years to come. He’s been disgruntled about his contract situation in New York, enough that trade rumors have started to swirl. So far, the Jets are saying they won’t deal him, but disgruntled players find their way out of town more often than not. If they Jets change their stance, the Cardinals should pounce—just like they did a couple years ago with Chandler Jones. Adding a 3rd-rounder would give the Jets three picks in that round and a lot of flexibility to move around the draft board, while the Cardinals would be that much closer to returning to elite status defensively. Williams won’t come cheaply—in addition to the high draft pick, he will be playing under his 5th-year option for $14.2M in 2019, which would put him in line either for the franchise tag or a lucrative extension in 2020. But the Cardinals have ample cap space this offseason, and our next trade will clear even more money off the books.

Trade 2: Cardinals trade RB David Johnson to the Buccaneers

The Swap: Cardinals receive Buccaneers’ 3rd-round pick (#70) and a conditional 2019 draft pick, Buccaneers receive RB David Johnson and a 2020 5th-round pick

The Rationalization: A lot of Cardinals fans might instantly recoil at this idea, but hear me out (again). DJ is already 27, and the Redbirds are realistically at least a couple years away from competing for a playoff spot—meaning he would be nearing the dreaded age-30 RB season by the time the team is competitive again. He also will be making an average of $12M for the next three seasons. Add in the fact that RB is the most replaceable position in football and the time is right to consider a DJ trade. Sending him to Bruce Arians’s new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, makes a lot of sense given the number of DJ fans on the sidelines and in the front office. The only downside is that the Bucs are a bit cash-strapped right now, but if BA wants this trade to happen, it’ll get done. DJ would be a perfect fit in that offense and they don’t have to give up a ton to get him. (Let’s say the conditional pick is a 4th-rounder that turns into a 3rd if DJ rushes for 1,000 yards or a 2nd if he makes the Pro Bowl.) Meanwhile, the Cardinals get a couple valuable picks to add talent to their roster and they should be able to replace DJ with second-year RB Chase Edmonds paired with either a veteran free agent (Tevin Coleman? Mark Ingram?) or a Day 2 draft pick. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Trade 3: Cardinals trade for Steelers WR Antonio Brown

The Swap: Cardinals receive Steelers WR Antonio Brown, Steelers receive Cardinals 2nd-round pick (#33)

The Rationalization: This should be obvious: If you have the chance to trade for a Hall of Fame player in (or close to) his prime, you have to give it a shot. Due to several factors (his age, contract, and the issues he’s had in Pittsburgh), it’s hard to gauge the potential cost should the Steelers choose to shop Brown, but a 2nd-rounder seems to be the consensus so far, and this is the highest 2nd-rounder of them all. Adding Brown would give the Redbirds’ new offense under Kliff Kingsbury instant credibility, and giving Rosen two future Hall of Famers to throw to would kickstart his development into high gear. This would also be an even splashier move than the Kingsbury hire, getting the national media buzzing about the team and selling more season tickets. Keim would be crazy not to consider this trade—but not if the cost rises to a 1st-rounder. The #1 overall pick should be off-limits for a 30-year-old player, even one like Brown. But that #33 pick—and potentially later selections—should absolutely be in play.

Final Thoughts

If the Cardinals were to pull off all three of these deals—essentially swapping the #33 pick and David Johnson for Leonard Williams and Antonio Brown—the team would be massively improved in 2019 and Keim would be in the running for Executive of the Year.

We know that’s not going to happen though. But even making one of these deals—or one similar—would be a step in the right direction. That is to say, Keim should be sniffing around any young potential building blocks (as he did with Chandler Jones), as well as seeing what the trade market might be like for DJ. Brown is probably wishful thinking, but players like him almost never become available, so he has to at least ask. Doing at least one deal like this would also do a lot to earn Keim back some trust from Cardinals fans—trust that has been seriously eroded in recent years, to say the least. (Although he might have to explain a DJ trade a bit.)

Time to put on your GM pants, Cardinals fans. What do you think about these trades? Do you have any potential swaps in mind? (Please, no Foles trades, Wildcats fans.) Let’s talk desert deals in the comments.