Three Trade Targets for the Minnesota Vikings
There are teams in the NFL with considerably worse financial situations than Minnesota. Rick Spielman should thus ensure his Minnesota Vikings are ready to take advantage, doing so by pursuing some reasonable trade targets. It’s safe to say that Minnesota has some holes on their roster, so they’ll need to pursue multiple avenues as they seek to improve.
For this exercise, we’re relying on the cap information from Over the Cap to identify the teams with the least amount of cap space. OTC indicates that New Orleans is $69 million over, Philadelphia is $49 million over, and Atlanta is close to $32 million over. All three teams will need to make several moves to become cap compliant. We’ve thus taken a look at each roster to choose one player who makes sense for our Vikings.
To make sense (at least to our humble minds over here at TVG), the players needed to adhere to certain criteria. First, they need to come from teams with a brutal cap situation; we’ve already established which teams we’re focusing on. Second, they need to fix a clear area of need for Minnesota. And third, they need to be cheap, both in terms of their contract and in terms of what it would cost to acquire them. With that being said, let’s jump in.
NO: Tre’Quan Smith, WR
The 25-year-old WR is entering the final season of his rookie deal. NO would save close to $2.2 million by trading him. Would they actually be interested in making this move?
Well, let’s keep in mind that NO has shown no signs of seeking to tear things down. This is a team that is trying to keep their window open. In other words, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas aren’t going anywhere. They’ll remain as cornerstones of Sean Payton‘s offense. From there, NO’s leadership is going to have some tough decisions to make. They can’t keep everyone.
Smith is a solid part of their offense, but they are likely asking themselves if he is part of their plans after 2021. Moving him now ensures they get a pick who can potentially contribute for cheaper in the immediate. It also brings them a step closer to financial health.
For the Vikings, adding Smith makes sense. Their #3 WR shouldn’t be a possession guy like Chad Beebe (though I do think he has a role on the team). Instead, they should opt for someone who can take the top off the defense. Smith is 6’2, 210 and runs a 4.49. He averaged 13.2 yards per reception in 2020; his career best is an impressive 15.3. That kind of size/speed combo would complement Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook.
Another name to remember is Emmanuel Sanders. Given his bloated contract, Minnesota won’t be trading for him, but they should be interested if he is cut.
PHI: Rodney McLeod, S
It’s not really earth-shattering analysis to suggest that Minnesota lacks some serious depth at safety. Similar to receiver, safety is a top-heavy position on Minnesota’s roster. Anthony Harris, in all likelihood, will be playing for a new team, so Minnesota will be searching for a Robin to Harrison Smith‘s Batman.
McLeod is someone who makes sense. The Eagles are an absolute mess, and they’ll likely spend their 2021 by trying to strip down their team to build toward future competence. Trading the 31-year-old McLeod would clear a little under $2.7 million in cap space, per OTC.
PFF has McLeod as their 23rd best safety from this past season. Perhaps the most encouraging detail from his statistics is that he played the majority of his snaps from the free safety position (the spot Harris is likely vacating). 586 of his snaps came from the free safety position. His next highest was in the box, with 173 snaps. With McLeod primarily patrolling the deep portion of the field, Mike Zimmer could continue using Smith as his defensive utility player.
It’s also worth noting that McLeod’s strength, per PFF, is his pass defense, where he graded as their 9th-best option. It’s hard to envision a scenario where acquiring an older safety with one year left on his deal costs more than a late-round pick.
Another name to keep an eye on from Philly’s roster is DeSean Jackson. Like Sanders, Jackson is likely too expensive for a trade. If he is cut, though, Minnesota should do their due diligence. Again, Minnesota needs to target a speedster for their WR3.
ATL: Hayden Hurst, TE
I’ll begin by admitting that I was tempted to roll with Grady Jarrett. He is an absolute stud who would immediately elevate Minnesota’s defense by addressing the biggest roster weakness. His gargantuan contract, though, is prohibitive for our cash-strapped Vikings. Nothing short of a Brzezinski Miracle could get Jarrett into a purple uniform. As a result, we’ve gone with Hayden Hurst.
For many, adding Hurst would be somewhat underwhelming. It shouldn’t be. We know the Vikings love to operate out of 12 personnel, and we also know that Kyle Rudolph is unlikely to return. Perhaps they’ll be content to roll with Irv Smith and Tyler Conklin, both of whom are popular in this part of the internet. Nevertheless, it would be hard to argue that Hurst wouldn’t be a decent upgrade over Conklin.
Trading Hurst would result in ATL saving his entire $2 million cap hit. The appeal for Minnesota rests in Hurst’s ability as a receiver, the fact that he was a first-round pick, and that he is still only twenty-eight. Similar to McLeod, it’s unlikely Minnesota would have to part with very much to get him. Anything more than a mid-round pick would be misguided.
The Minnesota Vikings are going to pursue a variety of angles to improve this offseason, and we can be confident Spielman is considering various trade targets. Keying in on teams who are in a brutal spot financially makes sense. All three teams will be, by necessity, forced to adjust their roster. We can be sure that all three teams will look to work out trades before just cutting a player. Minnesota should respond by leveraging their abundance of draft picks to help solidify positions of need.