In an Ironic Twist, Vikings Now Get a Shot at 1st-Round Pass Rusher

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Philadelphia Eagles
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The injury to Teddy Bridgewater radically altered the direction of the Minnesota Vikings.

Losing the team’s QB1 meant Rick Spielman was in the unenviable position of trying to find a new starter mere days before the season’s arrival. The former GM ended up pulling off a swap with the Philadelphia Eagles for Sam Bradford. The cost was a 2017 1st-round pick. Philadelphia went on to use that pick on edge rusher Derek Barnett.

In an ironic twist, the Vikings now get a shot at onboarding the pass rusher several years down the road.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team
Jan 2, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) passes the ball as Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett (96) defends during the fourth quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Take a look at the word from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler: “#Eagles DE Derek Barnett, through agent Drew Rosenhaus, is gauging the market for the potential to play more elsewhere, per sources. Philly plans to keep Barnett but understands a deep pass-rush roster limits playing time. The 2017 first-round pick should have trade value.”

Vikings Now Get a Shot at Derek Barnett

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah loves to trade. Of that there can be little doubt.

Since taking over as the general manager, Adofo-Mensah has pulled off 16 trades. Most recently, the GM has shipped Vederian Lowe to the Patriots, recouping a 6th-round selection in the process. Armed with plenty of draft capital and cap space, Adofo-Mensah has the potential to add talent. By no means is he definitively in on Barnett but there’s reason to be paying attention to the possibility.

Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo‐Mensah during the NFL combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Flore is being tasked with reversing the trend for Minnesota’s defense. For three straight seasons, the Vikings have allowed an average of 25 or more points per game. Flores’ job thus involves leaning on a boatload of young talent to get Minnesota back into respectability.

Corner stands out as perhaps the most uncertain spot, with 25-year-old Byron Murphy being the elder statesman in the group. Otherwise, the team is leaning on Joejuan Williams (fresh off his rookie deal) alongside Mekhi Blackmon, NaJee Thompson, Akayleb Evans, and Andrew Booth Jr. (all of whom are on their rookie deals, if not in their rookie season).

Boosting the pass rush is a surefire way of helping the corners.

Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) sacks Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) during the second half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, the edge rushers are led by Danielle Hunter and Marcus Davenport. A tremendously talented pair, Hunter and Davenport will need to be elite for the Vikings to leave their disastrous defenses in the rear view mirror. D.J. Wonnum, Patrick Jones II, and Luiji Vilain offer some upside as rotational players, but Derek Barnett would represent a significant boost.

Since being picked 14th overall, Barnett has played in 65 games with 45 starts. He has picked up 21.5 sacks in his career but didn’t have any last season due to just playing in a single game. An ACL tear ended his year.

In Minnesota, the hope would be that Barnett functions as a menace on third downs. He’s still only 27 — younger than Hunter — so the hope would be that a return to full health and a new environment would lead to the defender blossoming. After all, there’s a reason why he went in the opening round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Given the recent injury and modest production, Barnett could likely be acquired for a mid-to-late round selection. Philadelphia and Minnesota have done business recently. Around this time in 2022, the Vikings brought Jalen Reagor aboard for a conditional 5th and a 7th.

In Week 2, the Vikings and Eagles will play each other. Maybe Barnett will be featured in that game but in a purple uniform rather than a green one.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Spotrac helped with this piece.