While the injury gods dashed the dreams of a Thomas trade, they may have opened the door for the reigning Super Bowl champions to fix their backfield issues. In the wake of Jay Ajayi's season-ending ACL tear, all eyes are on the Eagles. As the NFL's most aggressive wheeler and dealer, general manager Howie Roseman is already window shopping for a high-profile replacement to lead Philadelphia's committee attack.
Roseman isn't the only front-office operative burning up the phone lines in advance of the league's Oct. 30 trade deadline. Let's examine the top names providing grist for the rumor mill as we reach the height of the hot-stove season:
1) Le'Veon Bell, running back, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have been calling around to test Bell's market, but an agreement is complicated by several factors. Bell can't be traded until he signs his $14.54 million franchise-tag tender. That will take some convincing, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, as Bell believes his best chance to maximize value toward free agency is to report to Pittsburgh in the next few weeks and reclaim the role that helped him become the most productive back in football. Why risk struggling in an unfamiliar environment with so much at stake over the season's final two months? Bell's incentive isn't the only one in question. Would any of the limited number of teams with enough cap space to absorb Bell's hefty salary be willing to surrender significant draft capital for a two-month rental intent on testing his value?
2) LeSean McCoy, running back, Buffalo Bills
With the odds stacked against a Bell blockbuster, the prospect of a LeSean McCoy homecoming suddenly seems more attractive. The six-time Pro Bowler is coming off his best effort of the season for a franchise in full-blown rebuilding mode. The Eagles have checked in on McCoy's availability, Rapoport and NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported on Tuesday, but time is a factor, with Philadelphia traveling to New York for "Thursday Night Football." If common ground can't be reached this week, perhaps the parties will convene before the deadline.
3) Deone Bucannon, linebacker/safety, Arizona Cardinals
Billed as the vanguard of the movement toward linebacker/safety hybrids under Bruce Arians' departed coaching staff, Bucannon is now a man without a position in Steve Wilks' 4-3 scheme. While 2017 first-round pick Haason Reddick seems to have overcome a September disappearing act to carve out an every-down role in Week 5, his increased playing time came at Bucannon's expense. Will the rebuilding Cardinals find a team desperate enough to take on Bucannon's bloated salary before he reaches free agency in March?
4) Shane Ray, pass rusher, Denver Broncos
While the Cardinals exercised the fifth-year option on Bucannon's rookie deal, the Broncos neglected to do the same with Ray after drafting his replacement in April. Relegated to a situational role behind Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, Ray will likely seek greener pastures as a free agent next offseason. If the Broncos can't pull out of their three-game tailspin, they might as well gauge the trade market to see if the return is preferable to a potential compensatory draft pick.
5) Demaryius Thomas, wide receiver, Denver Broncos
Local media's already calling for a coaching change in the midst of a miserable slump. If the season continues to go sideways, Ray won't be the only Bronco drawing interest at the deadline. While Thomas' scheduled 2019 salary of $14 million might seem excessive to an organization enduring a painful rebuilding process, an aspiring contender desperate for a reliable chain-mover might find that number more palatable. Would the midseason addition of Thomas cure what ails the Titans or Cowboys?
6) DeVante Parker, wide receiver, Miami Dolphins
It comes as no surprise that the Dolphins are shopping Parker, as The Athletic's Michael Lombardi recently reported. The 2015 first-round pick has been an injury-prone tease under Adam Gase, falling behind offseason acquisitions Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson in the pecking order. It's natural to wonder if a change of scenery might benefit a talented underachiever. Parker's contract represents a potential roadblock for front offices, however: Miami has exercised the receiver's 2019 option, which is worth $9.387 million and is guaranteed against injury.
7) Karl Joseph, safety, Oakland Raiders
Coach Jon Gruden's scouting style has led to a divide in the Raiders' building, with general manager Reggie McKenzie's high-profile draft picks twisting in the wind. It seems premature to pull the plug on top 2017 pick Gareon Conley after the cornerback lost his job to Daryl Worley, but Joseph, a 2016 first-rounder, fell out of favor before the season even started. Attrition has left holes at safety in Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Indianapolis, among other locales.
8) Tevin Coleman, running back, Atlanta Falcons
Underperforming pass rusher Vic Beasley has also been whispered as a trade candidate, but his 2019 contract option is worth $12.810 million -- and it is guaranteed in the event of injury. Coleman, by contrast, is an impending free agent with dollar signs in his eyes after watching backfield mate Devonta Freemanbreak the bank two summers ago. Rookie Ito Smith has impressed as a sidekick, rendering Coleman's presence a luxury rather than a necessity. If the injury-ravaged Falcons can't turn the season around in the next week or two, they might be willing to entertain offers from teams in need of a dual-threat playmaker.
9) Ameer Abdullah, running back, Detroit Lions
If interested teams strike out on Coleman, they may consider Abdullah as a consolation prize. Now that rookie Kerryon Johnson and veteran LeGarrette Blount are entrenched as the top backs on the depth chart, Abdullah is an afterthought in coordinator Jim Bob Cooter's weekly game plans. Yet to see a carry this season, the former second-round pick was a healthy scratch for the entire month of September. As a 2019 free agent, he's not long for Detroit.
10) Jordan Howard, running back, Chicago Bears
Suddenly a hot name on the rumor mill, but should it be? The trade speculation that swirled around Howard before April's draft resurfaced on the heels of Tarik Cohen's magical Week 4 performance and Ajayi's injury. Still, this one doesn't pass the smell test. Even if Eagles VP of player personnel Joe Douglas -- who was in Chicago's front office when Howard was drafted -- envisions the Bears' power back as a potential replacement for Ajayi, it takes two to tango. Matt Nagy made it clear that Howard's reduced Week 4 role was specific to the game plan versus the Buccaneers, and both player and coach are comfortable with his workload going forward. A first-place team with Super Bowl dreams can't afford to slough off its No. 1 ball carrier, leaving an undersized scatback to shoulder the load for four months.