Should We Be Keeping an Eye on a Vikings and Rams Trade?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
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The Vikings and Rams appear to be heading in different directions.

After a remarkable 2021 season that culminated in a Super Bowl, the LA Rams experienced a brutal hangover that torpedoed their 2022 season. Sean McVay’s squad ended with a 5-12 record, resulting in a 3rd-place finish in the competitive NFC West. Their offense averaged a modest 18.1 points per game (27th) and their defense 22.6 points against per game (21st).

Meanwhile, Kevin O’Connell was enjoying his rookie season as the Vikings’ head coach. The QB-turned-coach shepherded his team to a stellar 13-4 record before sputtering in the opening round of the playoffs. Overall, much to be encouraged about, but there’s still plenty of room to improve.

Are these teams plausible partners for a trade?

The Possibility of a Vikings and Rams Trade

There are plenty of reasons why a deal between the two teams makes sense.

For starters, there’s the obvious connection between the franchises since O’Connell was the OC for LA’s Super-Bowl-winning team. Those relationships matter, folks. He’ll have a strong understanding of LA’s players and (potentially) what kind of return they could be interested in for a trade.

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Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell looks on before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Moreover, we’ve seen the Vikings bring a couple former Rams aboard. Yesterday, we learned that WR/PR Brandon Powell and LB Troy Reeder have signed in Minnesota. Both will need to earn their roster spot. Nevertheless, it’s notable that the Vikings have proven they have a desire to reunite with players formerly on the Rams’ roster.

Bringing it all together is that LA is a team in transition.

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Dec 8, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner (45 celebrates after the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium. The Rams defeated the Raiders 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Are they completely giving up on the 2023 season? Maybe not, and yet it’s impossible to ignore some of the moves they’ve made. Gone are sensational veterans like Bobby Wagner, Jalen Ramsey, and Leonard Floyd. They’ve also seen several players leave in free agency that should net compensatory selections. In other words, they haven’t been too active when it comes to bringing in well-paid free agents.

Add it all together and there’s a very reasonable case to be made that the Vikings and Rams could be dance partners. After all, the NFL Draft is a bit more than a month away. It’s an event that commonly functions as the spark to light the trade fire.

Potential Trade Targets on the Rams Roster

Let’s start on offense.

Allen Robinson has been in the rumors, but one wonders if Minnesota is in the market for a veteran who underperformed last season. Instead, what about a young wideout who has a history with O’Connell?

Van Jefferson – a 26-year-old receiver entering his 4th NFL season – is a name to consider. Last year, his stats dropped (like a lot of his teammates). He had a modest 24 catches for 369 yards and 3 TDs. The year before featured 50 catches for 802 yards and 6 TDs. The 16.0 yards-per-reception average is impressive. O’Connell was his OC during that season.

What would it take to pry the 6’1″, 200 pound receiver loose? He had 378 snaps out wide and 118 in the slot during the 2022 season. He’d be similarly tasked with moving inside and outside in the Vikings’ offense.

Now, the main name on LA’s roster is Aaron Donald. Donald is indisputably the greatest DT of his generation; he may even go down as the best defender to ever play. As we’ve discussed before, the Vikings could have selected him but instead opted for Anthony Barr.

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Sep 27, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) in the fourth quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Rams defeated the Vikings 38-31. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The sensational 3T is nearing his 32nd birthday and playing within a defense that’s demonstrating a major lack in talent. Does it make much sense to keep him? The Rams currently have more than $11.5 million in cap space but only 44 players under contract. They’re suffering under a truly gargantuan $52,773,395 dead money cap hit. In other words, the financial landscape brings some concern to LA.

Acquiring Donald would be a true home-run swing for Minnesota. Financially, the Rams would (very likely) only trade Donald if it was designated as a post-June 1 move. Opting for the pre-June 1 trade would leave behind more than $40 million in dead money.

The Rams are sitting on a dozen draft picks. The final possibility, then, will simply be that the two sides could negotiate a pick swap. If a player they love slides to #23, the Rams have the assets to make the leap up into the opening round (they don’t have a 1st-round selection). They own the 36th pick, an attractive starting point for any team picking in the 20s.

Pairing the 36th pick with another pick or two could be enough to convince Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to ship out his top draft pick.

The 2023 offseason will continue to offer more twists and turns. Don’t be at all surprised if LA and MN end up connecting for a trade before it’s all said and done.

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