Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET trade deadline is fast approaching, but the cutoff typically yields little more than a rummage sale.
General managers are often reticent to make a significant swap during this last window. Selling a top player and entering rebuilding mode can be costly for one's job security, but parting with draft picks is a similarly risky endeavor. Salary cap concerns and questions of scheme fit only complicate the matter.
Still, several contenders could get a boost if they were to make a significant deal for a veteran. Putting aside some of the logistical concerns like the salary cap, here are seven trade ideas for teams ahead of the deadline:
Cowboys acquire Jets DE Sheldon Richardson for first-round pick
Dallas hits midseason at 6-1, ahead of even the loftiest expectations. But this is a defense that can't measure up to other NFC contenders, including the Vikings and Seahawks. Leave it to Jerry Jones, then, to make a big splash to legitimize the Cowboys even further.
Richardson is a versatile talent who has been utilized at defensive end, defensive tackle and linebacker. His ability to rush the passer and stuff the run could provide rapid results, despite the switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3. Parting with Richardson could be the right rebuilding move for the Jets, who already have invested in defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson. Richardson, 25, is seeking a new contract, and a fresh start after two suspensions with Gang Green might help him revitalize his career.
Seahawks acquire Browns OT Joe Thomas for second-round pick
Hue Jackson spelled out his thoughts on parting with his all-pro when he insisted last week the team would not be trading Thomas. For a Browns regime that has stockpiled picks, however, this is the best opportunity to get a future return on a veteran. And the market is rife with teams needing help up front.
Seattle's offense is cratering with Russell Wilson under constant fire. Beyond the dings the quarterback has taken, the deep passing game has disappeared with protection seldom holding together. That has had a ripple effect on the offense, as it now has only one touchdown in its last 23 possessions. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have been bold in the trade market before, and now is the time to be aggressive in addressing the line woes.
Vikings acquire 49ers OT Joe Staley for second-round pick + a player
Mike Zimmer ripped his line as "soft" after Minnesota's first loss of the season last week. Any change in personnel at this point is mostly wistful, as the Vikings' limited cap space likely would require them to send another player back in any deal. But with Sam Bradford taking six sacks last week and the rushing game entering Monday night's game averaging 2.6 yards per carry, on pace to be a historic low, there's little question of how dire the situation is.
Staley is one of the remaining attractive assets that the 49ers could offer in a selloff. Coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke might be hesitant to part with him, especially given that the team looks like a solid bet to have a young quarterback to break in next season. Staley is 32, however, and San Francisco might get the most long-term value out of him by shipping him to a contender.
Eagles acquire Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles for third-round pick
This is one of the more far fetched options, as Charles is scheduled to visit Dr. James Andrews to have his knee checked out. A running back that turns 30 in December and is coming off a second major knee surgery would be extremely difficult to move, and lingering health uncertainty almost make any deal a non-starter.
But taking a flier here would be an intriguing option for Eagles coach Doug Pederson, who was Charles' offensive coordinator in Kansas City for the past three seasons. Darren Sproles appears to have leapfrogged Ryan Mathews for the top role, though Pederson said he was going with the hot hand on Sunday. Whatever the case, the running game needs to be recalibrated. Philadelphia could spread some of the wealth while hoping to find ways to let Charles and Sproles assist a floundering passing game. Kansas City, meanwhile, could forge on with Spencer Ware, who has been a steady offensive centerpiece in Charles' absence.
Panthers acquire Browns CB Joe Haden for pick package
This would be a significant departure for Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman, especially given his reluctance to invest in the secondary rather than the front seven. But Carolina could still make an NFC South push despite its 2-5 record, and it likely has the cap space to consider a move.
Haden has been hampered by injuries, and his inconsistent play makes his hefty contract even more off-putting. But at 27, he remains a standout in coverage who could provide a significant boost to the Panthers' overextended defensive backs. It's hard to gauge Haden's value, but a Day 2 pick makes sense as a potential starting point.
Falcons acquire Dolphins DE Cameron Wake for third-round pick
Vic Beasley appears to be in the middle of a second-year breakthrough, as the linebacker has tallied 6.5 sacks in his last four games. But Atlanta still isn't getting the pass rush it needs from its front four, and it can't count on winning every shootout.
At 34 and playing in a reduced role, Wake is ill-fitted to remain with Adam Gase's rebuilding Dolphins. But he's still effective in pressuring the quarterback, and playing for a team that could give him his first playoff berth might give him a spark. The Dolphins would save money with the move, while the Falcons wouldn't be selling out their future for a short-term solution.
Buccaneers acquire 49ers WR Torrey Smith for fourth-round pick
Mike Evans is on pace to be targeted nearly 197 times this season, more than any other wide receiver in the NFL. Tampa Bay needs to break Jameis Winston's reliance on his top receiver by giving him another threat.
With just 13 catches in seven games, Smith is all but irrelevant in Kelly's current iteration of the 49ers. Winston wouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger on deep passes to Smith, thereby re-establishing his value. Unloading the rest of the five-year, $40 million contract Smith signed before last season could also be a substantial win for San Francisco.
Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.