Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Ten Pre-Draft Trade Candidates

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The NFL draft breeds player movement. And not just in terms of rookie picks.

Player personnel executives around the league are currently tweaking rosters to be as least position-needy as possible entering the draft. That way, clubs set themselves up to select the "best players available." By May 1, rosters must be readied for the heart of OTA season.

Veteran player trades were disallowed leading up to and during last year's lockout-affected draft, but in 2010 we saw a whopping 18 trades in the month of April. 24 vets were involved, including Donovan McNabb, Brandon Marshall, Santonio Holmes, Leon Washington, Ted Ginn, Tony Scheffler, and Jason Campbell.

April is the most trade-happy month on the NFL calendar.

Here's an in-depth look at ten pre-draft trade candidates, with some more listed at the end.

1. Bears running back Matt Forte

Forte has done his best to make the organization look bad in repeated ESPN appearances, complaining about his contract status. He was particularly displeased with the Bears' signing of Michael Bush, even though shared rushing attempts could actually work to prolong Forte's career.

Forte is a good back. New GM Phil Emery knows it, or else he wouldn't have slapped Forte with the franchise tag. But the Bears now have a starting-caliber replacement, and can find another on day two of the draft. On the trade market, Forte could fetch a second-round pick and then some.

Prediction: Traded to New England for second- and sixth-round picks.

2. Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel

Samuel is still playing at a very high level, but he no longer fits the Eagles' defensive philosophy. He'll also be difficult to trade going on age 31 with a $9.9 million base salary. In all likelihood, Samuel will have to agree to a reworked contract in order to expedite his way out of Philadelphia.

The Lions nearly traded for Samuel late last summer, offering two second-day draft picks in a deal Eagles GM Howie Roseman nixed at the last minute. Detroit is in no better shape at corner than it was at this time last year. It's pretty safe to assume the sides will rekindle talks before the draft.

Prediction: Traded to Detroit for a conditional fourth-round pick.

3. Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney

Freeney has been unwilling to move from end to outside linebacker in new coach Chuck Pagano's 3-4 scheme. The Colts figured that out early, and began "fielding calls" in February to gauge interest around the league. Due to Freeney's age (32) and exorbitant salary ($14M), they found no takers.

GM Ryan Grigson was adamant at this week's Owners Meetings that Freeney is now part of the team's 2012 plans. "He's a Colt. Period," Grigson said. That could change quickly, of course, if a team believes it's one pass rusher away from a Super Bowl. Like Samuel, Freeney would have to redo his deal in order to make a trade work. The Colts do have plenty of cap space to keep him.

Prediction: Stays with Indianapolis.

4. Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart

Carolina's combined $52 million investments in DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert don't make Stewart the odd man out, per se, but they certainly raise the question of whether Stewart will be a Panther beyond 2013. (He may not make it that long.) Stewart's rookie contract is up after this season, and Carolina isn't going to be able to keep paying all three backs. With Stewart coming off an impressive year (career-high 5.36 YPC, 47 catches) it's time to strike while the iron is hot.

Though he's in a contract season, an acquiring team won't have to commit top dollar to Stewart because it can slap him with the franchise tag in 2013. Based on 2012 tender numbers, a team could get Stewart's age-25 and 26 seasons for what essentially amounts to a two-year, $9.053 million commitment. As a premium talent, Stewart is well worth that money in a keep-and-tag scenario.

Prediction: Traded to Denver for a second-round pick.

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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