There are a few teams that know without much doubt that they can be Super Bowl contenders, and they also know they’re a piece or two away.
This could be a great NFL trade deadline. There are some teams that are already done for this season and should be looking to ship any veteran it can for future draft capital. There is also a fairly clear tier of teams that should feel that with a little luck and the right addition, they can win it all. That’s a great mix for some trades before the deadline, which is 4 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday.
Here are five teams that should be looking to add, and the holes they need to fill:
In Week 6 the Ravens exposed the Chargers’ main weakness, which is run defense. The Chargers are a modern team that is much more interested in stopping the pass, which is the correct approach, but it’s hard to play defense when you have an obvious problem opponents can exploit. Getting a run-stopping defensive lineman wouldn’t be that expensive.
The Ravens lost all their running backs before the season, and while they have patched it together with 2016 all-stars Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman and Le’Veon Bell, wouldn’t it be nice to add a true difference maker? Baltimore is the most run-centric team in the NFL. Getting an upgrade at running back shouldn’t cost much because most teams devalue running backs, but the Ravens shouldn’t.
Tampa Bay has become a pass funnel defense. Their run defense is excellent so teams just pass on them most downs. That makes sense because the Buccaneers have been losing defensive backs to injury since the season opener. They’ll get healthier in the secondary, but depending on everyone to stay healthy and be effective is risky. When you have a team with a 44-year-old quarterback and every starter back from a Super Bowl champion, it’s always win-now mode. Grabbing the best cornerback on the trade market (Broncos CB Kyle Fuller keeps getting mentioned in trade rumors) would be smart business.
3. Green Bay Packers, receiver
The Packers have played very well with the current offensive setup, which is practically Davante Adams and a bunch of role players. That might be good enough. The Packers played without Adams last Thursday and beat the Arizona Cardinals. But it has to be tempting to invest in a great No. 2 receiver. If there was ever a time to gamble and send a future draft pick (or Jordan Love) for someone like Brandin Cooks, wouldn’t it be now, with Rodgers’ future uncertain? The Packers would not miss the pick if they’re defending Super Bowl champs.
An unfortunate addition to the list right before the trade deadline. On Monday morning, news broke that Derrick Henry had a foot injury that could sideline him for the season. We all know Henry, a 2,000-yard rusher last season, means as much to the Titans as any running back in the NFL means to his team. Nobody could replace Henry but the Titans, who have a huge lead in the AFC South, might have to try. One trade partner could be the Houston Texans, who already traded away Mark Ingram and still have Phillip Lindsay and David Johnson.
1a. Kansas City Chiefs, running back
Clyde Edwards-Helaire should return relatively soon from injury, but the Chiefs need another option in the offense somewhere …
1b. Chiefs, receiver
This would help too. Mecole Hardman’s breakout isn’t going to happen. Byron Pringle or Demarcus Robinson don’t scare anyone. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are great but the Chiefs would be so much better off with a third option to take some pressure off them. Imagine a Brandin Cooks or Allen Robinson in the offense. That would be great, though if we’re being realistic …
1c. Chiefs, defense, anywhere
It’s going to be hard for the Chiefs to compete for a Super Bowl with this defense. And the good/bad news is any position would help. If the Chiefs can’t land a pass rusher, they’d still be helped by an interior lineman or off-the-ball linebacker. A cornerback or a safety could help a terrible pass defense. It’s not ideal to look at every level of the defense and see holes, but it does mean the Chiefs can cast a wide net and figure out what the best deal might be.