The Vikings’ Trade Candidates Aren’t Who You Think They Are

Former Vikings CB Cam Dantzler
Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler Sr. (3) reacts late during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

For a little while, we’ve seen the GMs of Twitter prophecy about which purple players are going to get shipped out of town. Quite often, the discussion has centered around high-priced, well-known veteran players who have entered the back nine of their career. Indeed, the Vikings’ trade candidates in these conversations are players like Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Harrison Smith, and Eric Kendricks.

In reality, how likely is it that we’ll see these players moved? Forced to guess, I’d say exceedingly small. The more likely trade options are much younger and much cheaper.

The Vikings’ Trade Candidates

Part of what makes the offseason so captivating is that every fanbase gets a fresh infusion of hope. The NFL is the master of hope. What happened last season doesn’t matter; all that matters is what could happen in the upcoming year. Fans of the Minnesota Vikings are by no means impervious to the charms of hopeful thinking.

On the other side of hope is the obstacle, the issues that have the potential of undermining the offseason’s pursuit of glory. One of the main impediments toward offseason improvement is cap space, or lack thereof. That’s where much of the trade chatter comes from.

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Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Take, for instance, Adam Thielen. Thielen’s stats were modest in 2022. In fact, it was the fourth-straight season of finishing below 1,000 receiving yards. He’s going to be 33 next season, so Thielen is unlikely to regain some of the suddenness and elusiveness that helped him thrive for so long. Many are left wondering if Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will look to ship him out of town, especially since he’s going into next season with a cap hit nearing $20 million. There has even been some chatter from Thielen’s camp that the end is approaching.

C.J. Ham
Nov 8, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings fullback C.J. Ham. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Similar conversations could be had for Cook, Smith, Kendricks, C.J. Ham, and (for some) Kirk Cousins. For the record, the QB1 isn’t going anywhere. Plus, I don’t know if any of these players will or even should be sent somewhere else. All of them are great veterans who have proven to be invaluable throughout the years. I, for one, would have some serious reservations about moving on from any of them willy-nilly.

I acknowledge the difficulties that the NFL salary cap presents. Resources aren’t infinite; eventually, players become too old. Thankfully, I’m not the one in charge of sorting out who should stay or go on Minnesota’s roster. Minnesota’s GM will need to be the one who makes the final call on any potential trades.

The Actual Candidates

Now, with all that being said, let’s bring things around to players who have an easier path toward being traded. Basically all the reasons why some fans believe a trade should occur – advancing age, injury concerns, declining statistics, massive cap hits – are the same reasons why a player is difficult to move.

Many teams simply can’t/won’t make it a priority to acquire oft-injured veterans playing for huge money as their numbers decline. That’s a tough sell to ownership (which is to say nothing of the fans).

Minnesota’s actual trade candidates likely find themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum of the previously discussed players. A lot of teams are interested in young, upside players who don’t carry a huge cap hit.

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Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Reagor. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

For an example, just look at a couple of the deals Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made before the start of the most recent season. He brought in DT Ross Blacklock and WR Jalen Reagor, two players who were chosen in the second and first round of recent drafts. The hope was that a fresh start could spark renewed vigor and production. If it didn’t, at least Minnesota wouldn’t be on the hook for huge money.

When we look at the current roster, we can see several players who fit the criteria. One thinks of Cameron Dantzler, a 24-year-old corner who was a third-round selection in 2020. At the end of the year, Dantzler lost his starting spot to Duke Shelley, an indication that the team may be looking to go in a different direction. Trading Dantzler would open up $2.745 million.

Every team wants corner help. Will a GM be willing to part with some decent draft capital to bring him in? Would Minnesota even be interested in a deal? As we’ve explored, the current corner depth isn’t abundant.

Minnesota could plausibly have similar conversations about other players who fit into the still-young, cheap contract criteria. K.J. Osborn and D.J. Wonnum fit. Though not a young player, Chris Reed would be desirable to some teams and a trade would free up $2.5 million. Heck, even Reagor and Blacklock could be in play given that they don’t leave behind any dead money, are still young, and are recent high picks.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is very willing to pull off trades. He has proved that much in his first year on the job. We’ll see what he decides to do as the 2023 offseason gets underway.

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