It is almost time for teams to make final roster cuts ahead of the 2021 NFL season. Teams will be scouring the market for players that suddenly become available after being released by their respective teams. In addition, there could be players that are put on the trade block before the regular season kicks off. For the teams in the AFC North, there could be trades on the horizon in the coming weeks.
The trade deadline seems far away, but it’s never a bad time to conjure up possible trades that can happen in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers are all expected to compete for the No. 1 spot in the division this season. As for the Cincinnati Bengals, they are years away from being considered a contender in the AFC.
Ahead of what should be another exciting season in the NFL, here is one ideal trade target for each team in the AFC North.
Baltimore Ravens: Brandin Cooks, WR, Texans
Bolstering the offense around Lamar Jackson has been a primary focus for the Ravens in recent seasons. The team drafted J.K. Dobbins last offseason and this offseason, they added Sammy Watkins and Rashod Bateman at the wide receiver position. But seeing that Bateman could miss a decent portion of the 2021 season, Baltimore may be actively searching for wide receiver help in hopes to improve their aerial attack.
Brandin Cooks is always a name that ends up being involved in trade rumors as he’s been traded three times in his career. Despite constantly being traded, Cooks has been extremely productive, recording 1,000-yard seasons for four different teams now after notching 1,150 yards with the Houston Texans in 2020.
With the Texans entering a full rebuild, Cooks could be a perfect target for the Ravens, giving them a formidable pass-catching trio of Cooks, Marquise Brown, and Mark Andrews.
Cincinnati Bengals: Jawaan Taylor, OT, Jaguars
It came as a slight surprise that the Bengals elected not to take Penei Sewell in the 2021 NFL Draft with the No. 5 overall pick. With Joe Burrow coming off of a serious knee injury, most expected Cincinnati to shore up their offensive line. However, instead of upgrading at the offensive tackle position, the Bengals took Ja’Marr Chase, reuniting him with Burrow.
By not taking Sewell, Cincinnati is relying on Jonah Williams and Riley Reiff as their offensive tackles, which could be detrimental in keeping Burrow upright. While the Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t made him available, Jawaan Taylor is an offensive tackle that the Bengals should consider targeting. Taylor has started in 32 games for the Jaguars in his first two seasons and he’s shown improvements in his game.
Adding a young tackle that can be a long-term fixture on the offensive line would be a positive move for a team like the Bengals.
Cleveland Browns: Zach Cunningham, LB, Texans
The Browns have done a wonderful job putting together a competitive roster in recent seasons, putting them in a position to win the AFC North and compete for a Super Bowl. They’ve drafted well by getting guys like Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Myles Garrett, and Denzel Ward in recent drafts. Cleveland has also signed guys like Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Jadeveon Clowney, John Johnson III, and Troy Hill in recent years.
One area of Cleveland’s roster that could use some work is at the inside linebacker position. Jacob Phillips has suffered a season-ending injury in training camp, leaving Anthony Walker or Mack Wilson to start at inside linebacker. Instead of leaning on Walker or Wilson, Zach Cunningham could bring reliability to the position.
I’d be shocked if Cunningham remains with the Houston Texans for the entire season, especially given the state of Houston’s organization.
Pittsburgh Steelers: C.J. Henderson, CB, Jaguars
It will be interesting to see how well the Steelers perform in 2021, with Ben Roethlisberger being the main focus. Roethlisberger could be playing his final season in the NFL behind an entirely new offensive line, which could cause Pittsburgh to struggle. On the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers have never had an issue finding ways to make life tough on opposing quarterbacks.
However, when it comes to the secondary, Pittsburgh may want to look for upgrades at the cornerback position. Joe Haden is still a solid cornerback, but he’s not getting any younger. Cameron Sutton has grown into a talented player, but he’s best as a nickel cornerback. With a need for another outside cornerback, maybe the Steelers could inquire about C.J. Henderson of the Jaguars.
Henderson’s name surprisingly popped up in trade rumors this offseason just one year after being taken in the first round of the draft. Even though Pittsburgh has never been known for making a slew of trades, acquiring Henderson could give them a young player to build around in the secondary.