There's a ton of excitement and optimism surrounding the Atlanta Falcons. Despite still seemingly being in a rebuild, the Falcons have aggressively assembled a promising, up-and-coming roster and have their sights set on making a big leap as they face one of the NFL's easiest schedules. After breaking down the Falcons' game-by-game predictions, let's take a look at three trade targets the team can pursue to round out the Falcons' roster and put them in playoff contention.
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill was under consideration here, given his history with Falcons coach Arthur Smith. Tannehill's days in Tennessee are clearly numbered, but his age and steep salary are significant obstacles in any potential trades.
It's possible, albeit unlikely that the Falcons could pursue a Ryan Tannehill trade before the midseason trade deadline if the Falcons are in the playoff hunt and if second-year signal-caller Desmond Ridder isn't showing progress. But Atlanta expects Ridder “to take the next step.” In order to do that, though, he could really use some additional weapons.
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3. WR Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas Raiders
There's been some speculation that the Raiders could trade Davante Adams after he recently criticized the team's offensive direction and philosophy. But the star receiver has a dead cap hit of $31.4 million if traded this year, so a trade is “not in the cards right now,” per The Athletic's Vic Tafur.
But according to Tafur, it's a different story for Hunter Renfrow, who has a 50 percent chance of being traded before the start of the season. Tafur adds that Renfrow has found himself “in the same boat” as ex-Raiders Derek Carr and Darren Waller, who “weren't fits with McDaniels” and were traded earlier this offseason to the Saints and Giants, respectively.
The Raiders also signed Jakobi Meyers in March and drafted slot receiver Tre Tucker in the third round of the NFL draft last month. Las Vegas would save more than $11.2 million against the 2023 salary cap by trading Renfrow after June 1.
Hunter Renfrow, 27, is coming off a very disappointing, injury-plagued season, but the former 2019 fifth-round pick was terrific in 2021, hauling in 103 of 128 targets for 1,038 yards and nine touchdowns.
A couple of the Falcons' undrafted free agents could make the Falcons' roster and offer intriguing upside, but it's a comically thin WR group behind second-year standout wide out Drake London. Trading for Hunter Renfrow wouldn't cost much draft capital and would bolster Atlanta's receiving corps and give Desmond Ridder another reliable and proven playmaker.
Needless to say, Hunter Renfrow would be a colossal upgrade over Scotty Miller and KhaDarel Hodge.
2. DT Ed Oliver, Buffalo Bills
The Falcons made some savvy moves in free agency with the additions of defensive linemen David Onyemata and Calais Campbell, as well as linebacker Kaden Elliss, safety Jessie Bates, and cornerbacks Mike Hughes, Tre Flowers, and Jeff Okudah, but they may need to continue to add competition to the front seven after producing the second-fewest sacks (21) in the league last year and finishing in the bottom 10 in a majority of defensive metrics.
Enter Ed Oliver, a former top 10 pick from the 2019 draft. While he hasn't consistently performed at an elite level, Oliver's been a very good player for Buffalo, and he's been particularly disruptive as a pass rusher.
Possessing a rare blend of strength, flexibility, and athleticism for his size, Oliver's racked up 151 tackles, 14.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and 42 quarterback hits in his first four seasons.
The Bills obviously don't want to lose him as they try to make another run at the Super Bowl, but they also have their sights set on a couple trade targets of their own to try to take their offense to the next level. Oliver's also playing out his rookie contract on the fifth-year option, and he's been discussed as a potential trade target earlier in the offseason.
1. WR Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos
Broncos wide receivers Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy have been involved in trade rumors throughout the offseason. Jeudy's fifth-year option was picked up a few weeks ago, but Sutton's future remains an open question.
Courtland Sutton caught 64 passes for 829 yards and two touchdowns last year in Denver's dysfunctional offense. There's some optimism in Denver that the offense could receive a significant boost in the new offense under Sean Payton, but Sutton doesn't profile as a good fit in his short-area focused, timing-based system.
Behind Jeudy and Sutton, the Broncos also have Tim Patrick, rookie second-round pick Marvin Mims, K.J. Hamler, and Marquez Callaway atop the WR depth chart.
Sutton, 27, signed a four-year, $60.8 million contract extension in November 2021, but he seemed to have lost some of his explosiveness and ability to separate after he tore his ACL in 2020.
Nevertheless, he's still in his prime and the tools are still there for him to be dynamic WR2, especially for the Falcons' roster. His salary ($14 million base salary in 2023) and injury history would limit the potential trade compensation the Broncos could get for him, but Courtland Sutton would be a massive upgrade on Mack Hollins as the Falcons' No. 2 receiver for quarterback Desmond Ridder.
As a rookie third-round pick, Desmond Ridder completed 73 of 115 passes for 708 yards and two touchdowns in four games (all starts) in the Falcons' run-heavy offense. Ridder will be 24 at the start of his second season and he could really use another proven receiver to take the passing game to the next level.
The presence of Courtland Sutton would serve as a ripple effect for the Falcons offense. It would open up more opportunities for London and tight end Kyle Pitts and would open up more running lanes for one of the leading Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates in running back Bijan Robinson, who would face fewer stacked boxes.