The NFL trade deadline doesn’t always bring a ton of excitement, but this year a couple of defensive players did change teams. As with all DLF Instant Analysis articles, we’ll take a look not only at the players that moved, but also who fills the hole they leave behind.
Today we’re going to look at the two transactions from Tuesday. Pass rusher Dante Fowler went from the Jaguars to the Rams, while up north safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix left Green Bay and went east to Washington.
The interesting thing about both deals – from an NFL standpoint – is neither player is signed beyond this season. In essence, both of these are deals for rental players. This is common in the baseball world, but rarely seen in football. Both Fowler and Clinton-Dix could be on another team in 2019.
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Dante Fowler, DE LAR
Fowler goes from one stacked defensive line to another. A former first-round selection out of Florida, Fowler missed his first season with an injury. Since then, his play has been up and down. He has two sacks on the season and 14 for his career in 61 games.
With the dominant Los Angeles defensive line, Fowler will be a rotational player. He’ll get consistent snaps, but he is not going to be a frontline player for them. On the plus side, he’s not going to drop much in production. On the downside, barring a miracle, he’s not going to get a major bump either. The worst case scenario is that LA puts him at outside linebacker. Even with that though, Wade Phillips is a good enough defensive coordinator to make sure that Fowler does what he does best: chase quarterbacks.
One positive: Of all the players that were traded Tuesday, Fowler should be the one with the most immediate impact. All the others, including the offensive players, need to learn a scheme and some plays. Fowler literally has to line up and go.
Most to gain: Taven Bryan
With Fowler gone, someone will need to take his snaps. Bryan is the logical choice. He is more of a power rusher than Fowler, with a bigger frame. While I was not as crazy about him during the NFL Draft process, there are plenty who think he is an unlit match with plenty of athleticism. Bryan, like Fowler, doesn’t need to be the star of the line, he just needs to be able to produce results when called upon.
Depending on how the Rams use Fowler, one of these two will see a reduction in snaps. Longacre is the obvious candidate since Brockers has the first-round pedigree, but if he needs a rest, I could see them sliding in Fowler. Now, Brockers is light years better than Fowler against the run, so if he is coming off the field, it’s either for a quick rest or Wade Phillips will have installed a special package for Fowler.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S WAS
I was surprised to hear this trade go down. It’s no secret the Green Bay secondary has been less than good the past few seasons, but Clinton-Dix has been the piece that has held it together. Still, Clinton-Dix has said he was as good as gone when the season was over, so Green Bay did what it could to get value for him before that happened.
Even with the Packers playing a couple of rookies at cornerback this season, Clinton-Dix has managed to snag three interceptions, though his tackle rate is way down. In his previous four seasons, he’s recorded 92, 100, 80, and 79 tackles. This year he’s only on pace for 61. Part of that is an improved cast in the secondary.
In Washington, Clinton-Dix will man the free safety spot next door to D.J. Swearinger. According to Pro Football Focus, they are the number two and three rated safeties in the NFL. That combination will strengthen the middle of the field for Washington.
His value as an IDP asset might slip some with this move, but if you are in a league that scores generously for turnovers, Clinton-Dix still has appeal. Especially in an NFC East that has a bevy of standout receivers.
Most to gain: Josh Jones/Jermaine Whitehead
It looks like in the short term these two could be splitting the snaps that just became available, but Jones has not flashed this season the way some had hoped. Whitehead appears to be the player you will want longer-term, but it would not surprise me to see the Packers keep throwing resources at the secondary, especially with having two first-round picks in the 2019 draft.
Most to lose: Montae Nicholson
Hate to be the one to tell him, but the arrival of Clinton-Dix means Nicholson is going to find his way to the bench. While he’s averaged five tackles per game and played every single snap for Washington this season, he only has one interception and no fumble recoveries in his career. Clinton-Dix is easily the better playmaker.