1 target for each team in the AFC East before the trade deadline

AFC East
NFL Analysis Network

The regular season hasn’t even begun in the NFL, but that doesn’t mean that it’s too early to speak about the trade deadline. Trades are always taking place in the NFL, and with teams looking to shape their rosters ahead of the regular season, there could be moves that take place in the coming weeks. As for the AFC East, there are teams that could end up pursuing a player on the trade market during the regular season in hopes that it can aid them in winning the division.

The AFC East is an interesting division as the Buffalo Bills have emerged as the favorites to repeat as division champions in 2021. But the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins may have something to say about that as they’ve put together solid rosters over the course of the offseason. The New York Jets may be able to surprise some people if Robert Saleh, the team’s new head coach, can get formidable play from his offense.

While some may believe it’s too early to begin speaking about potential trades at the deadline, here is one ideal target for each team in the AFC East.

Buffalo Bills: David Njoku, TE, Browns

The offense of the Bills was electric in 2020 as Josh Allen took a massive step forward in his development. Allen concluded last season with 4,544 passing yards, 37 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions on a career-high 69.2 percent completion percentage. Of course, it would be remiss not to mention the addition of Stefon Diggs as a reason why Allen was able to make such a huge leap in his game a season ago.

Despite the firepower that the Bills already possess on offense, they could use an upgrade at the tight end position. Dawson Knox currently holds the starting spot, but he’s had an issue with drops and other inconsistencies in his game. Buffalo has been rumored as a team that could target Zach Ertz from the Philadelphia Eagles. Instead of Ertz, the Bills should inquire about David Njoku of the Cleveland Browns.

Njoku is an athletic tight end that is buried behind Austin Hooper in Cleveland. While injuries have hindered Njoku in his career thus far, he once had a season where he caught 56 passes for 639 yards and four touchdowns back in 2018. He would fit in nicely among the talented tight ends in the AFC East.

Miami Dolphins: Maliek Collins, DT, Texans

Seeing that Deshaun Watson might not play another down for the Houston Texans, they’ll likely be a team that are massive sellers come time at the trade deadline. Watson himself would like to be traded, but his ongoing legal issues make it tough to pursue him right now.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Texans have a few names that could be headed elsewhere during the 2021 season. One name to watch is Maliek Collins, who signed with Houston during the offseason.

Collins spent the first five seasons of his career with the Dallas Cowboys and the Las Vegas Raiders. The former third-round pick out of Nebraska accumulated 14.5 sacks, 20 tackles for loss, 40 quarterback hits, and five fumble recoveries in his four seasons on the Cowboys before having a quiet season with the Raiders in 2020. The Dolphins don’t have many glaring needs on their roster, but they could use depth in the interior of their defensive line.

New England Patriots: Michael Thomas, WR, Saints

The Patriots didn’t hesitate to spend a boatload of money in free agency in an attempt to strengthen their offense. Besides signing Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, New England also added Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne to the offense. Regardless of whether it’s Cam Newton or Mac Jones starting at quarterback, they’ll have a much better assortment of weapons at their disposal than the Patriots had last season.

Even with the signings that New England made this offseason, they still are missing a true No. 1 wide receiver. Jakobi Meyers could emerge as a top target, Agholor is an excellent vertical threat, and Bourne is a solid possession receiver. However, Michael Thomas would easily become the go-to wideout in the offense if he were to be acquired by the Patriots.

Thomas and the New Orleans Saints seem to have a deteriorating relationship that began in 2020 when Thomas was suspended for an altercation in practice. If the Saints falter to begin the season, Thomas is going to be a popular name to watch for at the trade deadline. He could also help the Patriots make a case to reclaim the AFC East throne.

New York Jets: Chandler Jones, OLB, Cardinals

There is optimism surrounding the Jets entering the 2021 season with Saleh as the team’s head coach and rookie Zach Wilson replacing Sam Darnold under center. On offense, New York also added Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, and Elijah Moore to their wide receiver corps. As for the defense, they didn’t waste any time in getting Saleh some manpower in Sheldon Rankins and Carl Lawson.

Unfortunately, Lawson suffered a season-ending Achilles injury during training camp, leaving the Jets shorthanded at the edge rusher position. There are reports that New York is actively searching the trade market for an edge rusher that could help replace the production that Lawson was projected to give. Chandler Jones is a player that could pique the interest of the Jets as he requested a trade from the Arizona Cardinals earlier this offseason.

Dante Fowler Jr. is another player to keep an eye on for New York as he worked alongside Saleh when he was with the Jacksonville Jaguars.