A (Potential) Vikings Trade Target to Boost the Defense

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Boosting the defense must be a priority for Minnesota. Currently, the team is frightfully thin at various positions, so one wonders if a Vikings trade may help.

Thankfully, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is no stranger to pulling off major moves. In fact, the young executive has developed a reputation as someone who enjoys pulling off a deal, completing an eye-popping 15 trades in less than a year and a half on the job. Across those deals, a pattern has emerged: the GM likes bringing in highly-picked players who are still on their rookie deals. That’s what he did when bringing Ross Blacklock, Jalen Reagor, and T.J. Hockenson to town.

Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles guard Isaac Seumalo (56) blocks Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Ross Blacklock (96) at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Sitting on a hefty pile of gold – a bit below $18 million in cap space – and a surprisingly full amount of draft capital, Adofo-Mensah could reasonably be expected to venture into another trade or two before the season arrives.

What are the chances Isaiah Simmons is someone the Vikings would consider?

Isaiah Simmons: Vikings Trade Target?

Isaiah Simmons was selected 8th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Since that time, the versatile linebacker has had some struggles solidifying himself as an indispensable part of the Cardinals defense.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons
Jan 1, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Tyler Allgeier (25) is tackled by Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons (9) during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Coming out of college, he received plenty of his praise for his unique abilities even as analysts raised concerns about a lack of polish. Take a look at the word from Lance Zierlein:

Ascending hybrid talent with rare length, speed and versatility to create mismatches for the offense, depending upon alignment. He has a bachelor’s at three positions (slot corner, safety, linebacker) but could earn a master’s degree in complex workload with a more focused and defined job description than “jack-of-all-trades.” He can handle zone or man coverage from a variety of spots on the field, which gives defensive coordinators a chance to disguise blitz packages and exotic post-snap looks. He’ll miss run fits and can be misdirected due to a lack of instincts near the line, but his playmaking range outweighs those concerns for now. His unique potential to spy and shrink the field against dual-threat quarterbacks could push him way up the draft board.

In many ways, Simmons has fulfilled the prophecy. Last season, the defender piled up snaps across the entire defense. He had 110 at defensive line, 297 in the box, 409 as a slot corner, 28 as a wide corner, and then 53 at free safety. Truly a breathtaking array of alignments for the 24 year old.

In the Week 8 game against the Vikings, Isaiah Simmons made some notable plays, such as his sack and forced fumble on Kirk Cousins. For good measure, the Arizona defender even recovered the football. Simmons finished the game with 5 tackles in his team’s 34-26 defeat.

Now, why highlight him as a potential trade target? Well, a variety of reasons.

Up top, we noted Kwesi’s proclivity for bringing in young talent. The GM loves adding young, high-upside players on cost-controlled deals (what GM doesn’t?). After the most recent season concluded, Adofo-Mensah discussed the Hockenson deal in some detail, noting that much of the appeal rests in the TE’s embodiment of the competitive rebuild ethos. Adding Hockenson helps now and in the future.

Simmons offers similar upside. He could fill a need on defense right now while also offering (potentially) ongoing help for several more years. Again, he’s only 24.

Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) reacts after a play against the New York Giants during the second quarter of a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Plus, it’s worth remembering that the LB/DB didn’t have his 5th-year option picked up, suggesting the team has at least some doubt about his future in the desert.

Arizona is heading in a new direction with Monti Ossenfort taking over as GM and Jonathan Gannon taking over at HC. In other words, the new leadership tandem likely doesn’t have the same loyalty to Simmons as the previous regime. And, it’s worth remembering, Gannon used to be employed by the Vikings, perhaps making the conversations between the franchises a touch easier to navigate. Oh, and one more thing: Ossenfort got his start working for the Vikings.

May 6, 2022; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nakobe Deean (R) talks with defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon (L) during Rookie Minicamp at NovaCare Complex. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals aren’t going anywhere fast. They’re rebuilding under new leadership, so perhaps they’ll have an appetite for saving a few bucks on the salary cap while gaining some draft capital. Trading Simmons leaves behind a bit more than $3.1 million while freeing up more than $3.4 million.

And, to be sure, the Vikings could use help at the precise positions Simmons can play. The team needs slot help beyond just Byron Murphy. Adding someone who is also capable of soaking up snaps at linebacker is an added bonus, especially since Simmons can rush the passer. He picked up 4 sacks last season.

Keep an eye on Isaiah Simmons as the calendar creeps closer to Week 1. Brian Flores loves versatile defenders and Simmons certainly fits the bill. The former Clemson standout is coming in at 6’4″, 238 pounds. He had 99 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 TFLs, 7 PDs, 2 INTs, 2 FFs, 1 FR, and I TD last season.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference, PFF, and Over the Cap helped with this piece.