Right now, the Falcons are looking the best they have as a team in years. They sit at 3-3, with a matchup against the reeling Carolina Panthers on the docket. While the Falcons feel like buyers to me, PFF has them selling a few pieces at the trade deadline — I think they could still work to keep the Falcons competitive.
Akiem Hicks Chargers?
Evan Engram Titans?
12 potential NFC trades ahead of the 2021 NFL trade deadlinehttps://t.co/idMufgPin5
— PFF (@PFF) October 25, 2021
PFF goes on to list a few trade candidates, then creates a trade from those candidates. This was the first one:
Hypothetical Trade: Hayden Hurst & 2022 sixth-round pick → Cincinnati Bengals for 2022 fifth-round pick
Dead money: $0
Cap savings: $1,102,730
Contract with acquiring team: One year, $1,102,730
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has gotten a lot out of a thin tight end group thus far in 2021. Veteran C.J. Uzomah returned from a torn Achilles suffered in 2020 and has hauled in fourteen receptions this year to lead the group. 2019 second-round tight end Drew Sample is the only other Bengals tight end with a target on the season with four, as the Bengals have deployed 11 personnel (one tight end) on a league-high 74.2% of offensive snaps since 2020.
Hurst is familiar as the former first-round pick of the AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens. Hurst was traded before the 2020 season to the Falcons along with a fourth-round pick in exchange for second- and fifth-round picks, as Atlanta acted out of desperation in an attempt to return to the playoffs. After Hurst’s third season in 2020, the Falcons had the choice to exercise his 2022 fifth-year option for just $5.428 million. Even at that very low price tag, Atlanta elected to decline, making Hurst a free agent after this season.
Since 2019, Hayden Hurst has 11 contested catches compared to eight combined from Uzomah and Sample, and his 7.8-yard average depth of target is well beyond Uzomah (5.3) and Sample (4.6). Hurst lines up in the slot on almost 50% of offensive snaps, whereas Uzomah and Sample don’t crack 20%, as they primarily line up inline. Either Bengals head coach Zac Taylor would get even faster and more spread out on offense with Hurst or the offense would dramatically improve its ability to run plays out of 12 personnel.
The Falcons can add other depth around ascending star tight end Kyle Pitts. With Hurst, they cut their losses and get started rebuilding the roster while the Bengals add another receiving option that, at the very least, provides depth and compensatory pick consideration after the season.
Okay, so I don’t hate this at all — the teams and pieces make sense. Hayden Hurst hasn’t done much with this offense, and with his fifth-year option declined, I think it’s okay to ship him off. I’d be hesitant to give up the extra pick, and I’d be willing to take a sixth in return instead of a fifth. If they don’t budge, Terry Fontenot should try to send out a sixth-round pick in 2023 instead of 2022. This regime wants to hang onto their picks right now with such limited cap space. It would be a massive victory for Atlanta if the Falcons could come away with Hurst straight up for a fifth-round pick. Onto the second hypo:
Hypothetical Trade: Duron Harmon → Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 2023 sixth-round pick
Dead money: $137,500
Cap savings: $597,222
Contract with acquiring team: One year, $597,222
It’s no secret the Buccaneers are looking to add talent at cornerback and bolster a secondary that has given them issues this season and is dealing with various ailments.
Harmon is a versatile, ball-hawking safety Tom Brady used to go toe-to-toe with in practice in New England, and he can help the Buccaneers’ young group of safeties as Tampa Bay makes its push for back-to-back Super Bowls.
So far in 2021, new Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees has deployed his defense in a similar manner to that of Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
PFF’s own Dr. Eric Eager examined a handful of tendencies and traits to identify the similarities and differences between each play-caller’s scheme. Here, the Falcons and Buccaneers may be unique, as they are two of just three teams to play over 20% of snaps in Cover 2 and top six in percentage of plays run with a two-down front.
The Buccaneers’ trio of young safeties — Mike Edwards, Jordan Whitehead and Antoine Winfield Jr. — are solid young playmakers on the backend, yet all have sub-70.0 coverage grades so far in 2021. Harmon has a 90.3 career coverage grade — 20th-best among all safeties since 2013 — and his 13% forced incompletion percentage on targets ranked 17th. Harmon is another veteran presence on the backend who adds more depth and brings a different perspective to the equation, which can’t hurt.
I’m a fan of this trade as well. You aren’t sacrificing a ton with both deals and getting a couple of extra stabs at the draft. Harmon is a good leader for this group, and safety is thin, but this allows Atlanta to give more playing time to Jaylinn Hawkins and Richie Grant. With Harmon on a one-year deal, I think this is more than fair for both sides. If I’m Atlanta, I try to get a 2022 pick, but I’d readily accept both of these trades if they were on the table.