Analysis: NFL teams shouldn’t let one game affect their trade deadline approach

Washington Commanders defensive end Chase Young (99) warming up before the start of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Buy. Sell. Stand pat.

Some NFL teams still have to make a decision on how to approach Tuesday’s trade deadline. Contenders are buyers. Winning teams will try to add a player who can improve a playoff run. Pretenders are sellers. Teams at the bottom of the standings will move veterans or players in the final year of a contract to add draft picks and build for the future.


It’s the in-between clubs, those in the middle of the pack, that have to figure out their plans. How those teams fare this weekend can impact their decision but one game shouldn’t be the determining factor.

The Broncos are 2-5 and going nowhere in Sean Payton’s first season as coach. They have several players who are potential trade candidates, including safety Justin Simmons and wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton.

Beating the Chiefs (6-1) on Sunday would be a major surprise. It still wouldn’t change their direction. The playoffs are a longshot. They have to look at 2024 and beyond.

Payton made it clear the outcome of the game won’t affect the team’s approach at the trade deadline.

“Oh, no, no, no,” he said. “We’re focused on winning with this group and these guys here. We went through this in the offseason, too. It’s the new cycle and it’s part of the deal. No, not at all.”

Three teams are 3-3 and seven teams are 3-4 so they’re in the mix for a wild-card spot. But general managers know they have to be realistic. It wouldn’t be wise to trade a lot of draft capital for a player on the final year of a contract just to make the playoffs as the No. 7 seed.

Getting a player who is under contract for a couple more years makes more sense for some of these teams. The situation is different for each club.

The New York Jets (3-3) saw their Super Bowl aspirations end quickly when Aaron Rodgers was injured in Week 1. But they’ve been competitive and have a talented roster. Adding the right player who can help the Jets end the NFL’s longest current playoff drought makes more sense for New York than, for example, Washington (3-4).

The Commanders aren’t going to compete with Philadelphia (6-1) or Dallas (4-2) in the NFC East this season and are one of a slew of teams whose best hope is the final wild-card spot.

They’ve got to figure out whether to deal rushers Chase Young and Montez Sweat. Both former first-round picks are scheduled to be free agents in 2024. The Commanders are already paying defensive linemen Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne so it wouldn’t appear they’re gong to keep all four.

Like Denver, the Commanders are playing the best team in their conference this week. However they fare against the Eagles shouldn’t determine their plans for Young and Sweat.

“The only thing I’m focused in on is getting ready for Philadelphia,” Commanders coach Ron Rivera said.

He can’t say anything else, though.

Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio joked about being traded for a ham sandwich. Otherwise, he’s not talking to his players about potentially being traded.

“Not a word about it really. Everything’s about the Eagles. Everything’s about staying together, playing hard, competing every day, improving,” Del Rio said. “We’re 3-4, we’re right in the middle of a pack of teams that are hunting for a wild-card position at this point. Even though the division is not out of the question, but we’re going to have to start winning a hell of a lot more than we have. The bottom line is one week at a time in this business. The NFL is, just look around the number of stories and then the next week how it changes. It’s a week-to-week league. We’ve just got to get ourselves ready to go compete.”

The Los Angeles Rams (3-4) are another team on the edge of contention for the seventh seed. The 2021 Super Bowl champs weren’t even expected to be this competitive this season. They’ve got a tough game at Dallas (4-2) coming up so it’ll take an upset to get their record even.

Star defensive tackle Aaron Donald isn’t pushing the team to be a buyer.

“That’s not my call to say. It is not my job to do that,” he said. “Obviously, my job is just to go out there and play, perform. If they choose to do that and bring some guys in that can help, that’s great. But my main focus is just playing football and letting them handle that.”

That’s the best approach.

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