Late during Week 7’s Thursday Night Football game, Adam Schefter broke the news the Carolina Panthers were trading former All-Pro RB/WR Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2023 second, third and fourth-round picks and a 2024 fifth-round pick. Carolina initially wanted multiple first-round picks for McCaffrey but took a much lesser deal that will likely still work out in their favor. After trading disgruntled WR Robbie Anderson earlier in the week, Carolina has added six future draft picks for those two players.
Stunner: Panthers are trading Pro-Bowl RB Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for draft picks, sources tell ESPN.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 21, 2022
McCaffrey returns to the Bay Area, where he attended Stanford. pic.twitter.com/R474r3eSkv
With Carolina appearing to be in full fire-sale mode, what players on struggling teams might the Indianapolis Colts be able to acquire before the trade deadline on November 1st?
To start, we need to look at the team we know is in full-fire sale mode, the Carolina Panthers. The two most obvious positions for the Colts are offensive line and defensive end.
Panthers starting RG Austin Corbett is the first player the Colts should target. He is 27 years old and has an overall PFF grade of 79.5. In comparison, the Colts' current starter, Matt Pryor, has struggled throughout the season at every position and has an overall PFF grade of 47.9. While PFF grades can sometimes be unreliable, they match the film on both players. Corbett can immediately come in and solidify the interior of the offensive line. Corbett would likely cost a Day 3 pick to acquire.
Panthers starting defensive end Brian Burns is another player the Colts should look to acquire. Burns is a high-energy, relentless pass rusher who Chris Ballard was rumored to be very high on in the 2019 Draft. He can be a game wrecker in the right system. Gus Bradley’s system is perfect for him. With the injuries to Kwity Paye and the uncertainty on whether Yannick Ngakoue will sign a long-term deal, it makes sense to acquire another elite pass rusher. Burns will likely cost a Day 2 pick to acquire.
Chris Ballard may inquire about rookie LT Icky Ekwonu, but there is almost zero chance they will trade a starting LT. He is a building block piece for them, and franchises don’t trade away LTs like Ekwonu.
There are a couple of players on the Washington Commanders that would make sense. However, after Jim Irsay’s accurate comments saying there is “merit” to removing Dan Snyder as the owner of the Commanders, it is highly unlikely they will work out a deal for any player. At the same time, Snyder still owns the team, and hell hasn’t frozen over. Snyder is one to hold grudges, and this is one slight he won’t ever forget.
The Bears, coached by the former Colts defensive coordinator, is an interesting team to look to in this situation and have multiple players that might catch Chris Ballard’s eye.
Tevan Jenkins is a player with positional versatility and has played well at right guard, the Colts' biggest position of need. Before the 2021 draft, many thought Jenkins might be a left tackle, but Chris Ballard noted his measurables weren’t what they were looking for at the position. However, he aligns perfectly in the right guard spot, where he has played well this season. Jenkins was also allegedly on the outs with Eberflus leading into this season. As for the trade package, it would likely be a Day 3 pick or potentially a player that has struggled under Gus Bradley but excelled under Matt Eberflus, like Kenny Moore.
The last and biggest possible trade target would be Bears starting QB Justin Fields. Some might laugh at this, but it’s clear Matt Eberflus, and the Chicago coaching staff aren’t “in love” with Fields. He wasn’t their pick at QB. He has struggled in his development, and the offensive coordinator refuses to build the Bears' offensive system around what Fields does best. Fields, among other players, have publicly voiced their opinion of the coaching staff by saying they are “tired of [hearing from the coaches] the Bears [are] ‘almost there.” That seems like a player that is not “in love” with the franchise, either.
It was rumored Chris Ballard liked Fields very much going into the 2021 draft but didn’t think he would slide out of the top 10. With this being a deep quarterback draft class and the Bears being in a position to potentially get one of those top QB options, it would make sense to move Fields now to acquire more draft capital and ensure your team free falls into the best draft position. This would allow the Colts to give Fields a year or so to learn the system and work on his game, so he’s not thrown into a dumpster fire like he was in Chicago. Compensation in this package would probably be multiple Day 2 picks, at least a 2023 second and a 2024 third-round pick, and possibly a player; again, Kenny Moore makes the most sense here.
After this weekend’s games, other teams may enter fire-sale mode, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Las Vegas Raiders, or Detroit Lions, but the above two teams are more so known to be looking ahead to 2023 and beyond.
No wide receivers were included because it’s clear Chris Ballard and the team like what they’ve got at the position right night. Alec Pierce is a solid second WR and a perfect pair to Michael Pittman Jr. If Parris Campbell can continue to stay healthy, in addition to the abundance of pass-catching TEs, like Kylen Granson, Jelani Woods, and Mo Alie-Cox, the Colts' receiving core is pretty well set for the present and the future.
All of these trade scenarios can’t happen but leave your thoughts on players the Colts may target via trade in the comments.