CAPACCIO: Examining trade possibilities for McCoy, Benjamin, Hughes, Lawson

October 24, 2018 - 11:09 pm
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The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday afternoon.  Most believe the Bills will be sellers at the deadline, and it's usualy four names that come up most as possibilites to be dealt: RB LeSean McCoy, WR Kelvin Benjamin, DE Jerry Hughes, and DE Shaq Lawson.  I take a look at each player's situation, including age and contract status, and what I think the Bills might do in each case.

RB LeSean McCoy
Age: 30
Contract status: Under contract for one more season (2019) for a base salary of $6.175 million.  Salary cap hit of $9.05 million.

Head coach Sean McDermott shot down McCoy trade rumors last offseason, but when it was reported a couple weeks ago that the Philadelphia Eagles had contacted the team about a Shady-reunion, the team didn’t confirm nor deny those reports or say they would or wouldn’t be willing to deal their best offensive player.

McCoy’s current health situation clouds matters here.  He’s currently in the concussion protocol and it’s uncertain right now if he’ll even play in Monday night’s game against the Patriots.  Any team trading for him would have to be comfortable with his status going forward, knowing they’d also have to take on the roughly $3 million salary remaining on this year’s contract, as well as next season’s $6.175 million, if they decided to keep him.

At McCoy’s age and position, he wouldn’t normally fetch much from another team.  However, this is a potential future Hall of Fame player who takes very good care of his body and probably still has multiple good years left in him if put in the right situation.  I think McCoy is still one of the most talented backs in the NFL.  His numbers aren’t very good this year, but that seems to be much more a product of the offense and not his own undoing.  He’s also still valuable to the Bills because of all of that and that he’s essentially the face of their team right now.  He’s a leader in the locker room (voted captain this year) and the kind of player needed to help take the pressure of a young QB.  So, what might usually be a late-round pick for a good 30-year old running back, the Bills would probably want at least a third rounder in return.  That would be a high price to pay for most teams, but one that feels they’re a running back or playmaker away from winning a Super Bowl might be willing to do it.  
 

WR Kelvin Benjamin 
Age:
27
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.  Has $4.2 million base salary remaining for this year.

I think the Bills could be motivated to deal Benjamin based on his lack of production and what’s at least perceived by many to be lack of effort at times.  GM Brandon Beane gave up a third round pick for him at the deadline a year ago, hoping he could help a sputtering passing game as the team competed for a playoff spot.  After being injured a couple weeks later and catching only sixteen passes for 217 yards in six games with the Bills, he didn’t really add much, but they still got to the postseason.  His numbers are nearly identical through six games this season, gaining exactly the same 217 yards and the same one touchdown, but having two fewer catches (14).  

As it stands right now, unless there’s a dramatic turnaround in his performance, there’s almost no way the Bills are going to re-sign Benjamin this offseason.  So, Beane would be best served by dealing him for an asset he can use.  There’s also almost no way he’s going to be able to get the same third round pick he gave away for the wideout a year ago.  Not for a player not producing the way many think he should who will become a free agent at the end of the season.  Benjamin is essentially a rental for any team that needs a wideout.  Maybe there are some of those clubs, and if so, Beane should be motivated to get a deal down with one of them.
 

DE Jerry Hughes
Age:
30
Contract status: Under contract for one more season (2019) for a base salary of $6.35 million and a salary cap hit of $10.4 million.

Hughes’ name comes up a lot when Bills’ fans talk about deadline deals, but I don’t see him being moved, unless Beane got an offer he couldn’t refuse.  

The defenisve end is playing some of the best football of his career right now and shows no signs that he’ll be slowing down next year while he’s still under contract with the team.  So if he is dealt, all that really does is create yet another hole on a team that has enough of them to address already, when he can fill that hole himself.  Even if they got a mid-round pick back (which is what 30-year old pass rushers would probably retrieve), it would be quite a task to ask that player to be comparable to Jerry Hughes, a former first-round pick himself, even a few years down the road.  

The Bills would be clearing $7.5 million in salary cap space by dealing Hughes, and that would create some more nice flexibility, but they’re already projected to have roughly $85 million in cap space available next year, even with Hughes on the books.  So at the end of the day, I think Hughes is still an important piece for the Bills, who might even want to extend him for a couple more years if he continues to play at this same level next year, and there isn’t a financial need to move his contract.
 

DE Shaq Lawson
Age:
24
Contract status: Under contract for one more season (2019) for $1.851 million with a cap hit of $3.27 million.  

I really thought Lawson could be moved before the season started.  The Bills signed Trent Murphy to a big contract and still had Jerry Hughes and Eddie Yarbrough at defensive end, as well.  Lawson was a backup player from the get-go this year, which didn’t bode well for a former first-round pick of a previous regime.

However, after battling a preseason injury, Lawson has come in and played well when called upon.  He’s also had to play even more than the coaching staff may have anticipated because Murphy has been banged up a few times.  As it is now, Lawson could very well start Monday night against the Patriots as Murphy deals with a knee injury.  While that could complicate matters of a trade if a team came calling, I don’t think it would be a big issue.  The Bills would still have Hughes and Yarbrough healthy, and Murphy is considered week-to-week, so he’s expected to be back at some point.  There are also plenty of bodies on the street that have NFL defensive end experience if they needed to get through a week or two.

Of all the players listed here, Lawson may be able to get the best asset in a deal since he’s only 24 years old and still playing on his rookie deal that, even as a first round pick, isn’t too cost prohibitive for any team looking to bolster their defensive line.  Being under team control for the remainder of this season for only about $700,000 and next year for less than $2 million might make him very appealing to another club.  A team dealing for him could also choose to pick up his fifth-year option since he was a first round pick, meaning they actually have him under control through 2020, if they choose.  If that's the case, Beane would certainly listen and I think should be very willing to pull that trigger if he can grab a mid-round pick in next year’s draft.


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