The Vikings’ Trade Orbit: 10 Names to Remember as September 10th Inches Closer
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah isn’t shy about pulling off trades. In fact, he is sitting on 15 trades in his still-young career as a general manager.
With the Danielle Hunter restructure out of the way, the Vikings are sitting on more than $10 million in cap space (an amount that gives them the freedom to explore adding more talent). Are there players within the Vikings’ trade orbit? If so, who are they and why are they potential fits? The first regular season game takes place on September 10th. Who can be grafted onto the roster before that date?
Right off the top, I’ll say that I’ve resisted the great temptation. Trey Lance is nowhere to be found on the list. Until we actually get firm confirmation of serious interest, I’ll be doing my utmost to avoid spilling digital ink on that topic. Plenty has already been said, kind reader, so I don’t feel it’s necessary to keep going after that topic.
Now, it’s worth mentioning that Kwesi is by no means beholden to the online chatter. The GM is going to do what he thinks is best for his team for 2023 and beyond. Nevertheless, spending a few moments looking at past trades allows us to see pattern and precedent.
Adofo-Mensah has displayed an affinity for onboarding young, high-upside players who are still on their rookie deals. That’s exactly what he did with WR/PR Jalen Reagor, DT Ross Blacklock, and TE T.J. Hockenson. A major part of the motivation for acquiring these players is that it allows the GM to address a current deficiency while staying true to his competitive rebuild ethos. Someone like Hockenson embodies the team-building philosophy since he allows them to be competitive right now while also being young enough to keep building around for years to come (something Kwesi has discussed).
Training camp and the preseason are critical for the NFL’s trade market. Teams will be assessing their talent over the coming weeks, determining where they’re strong or not as strong. In some instances, teams will decide that they’re bursting at the seams with too much talent at a specific position, prompting trade calls so a player helps to recoup value in a swap rather than just being cut. In other instances, a team determines that there’s not enough talent, prompting trade calls to see about bringing someone in to shore up a weakness.
And, of course, injuries play a major role in whether deals get done. Just think back to Teddy Bridgewater & Sam Bradford, Danielle Hunter & Yannick Ngakoue, as well as Irv Smith Jr. & Chris Herndon as recent examples in Vikings history.
The 10 names below by no means represent players who are definitely of interest to Minnesota. Rather, they’re players who fit a specific criteria. More often than not, we’re discussing a player who possesses some combination of youth, high upside, a small cap hit, the ability to address an area of concern, and/or is coming from a team that has a connection to the Vikings.
With all that being said, the 10 players to keep in the back of your mind.
The Vikings’ Trade Orbit
1) Isaiah Simmons, LB, Arizona Cardinals
Versatility is the name of the game for Mr. Simmons.
The 8th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Simmons can soak up snaps at off-ball linebacker and slot corner. He can blitz, as well. Since the Vikings don’t have a ton of depth at linebacker, Simmons is a name to keep in mind. He just turned 25 on July 26th and his head coach — Jonathan Gannon — was previously employed by the Vikings.
2) Patrick Queen, LB, Baltimore Ravens
Former Vikings GM Jeff Diamond is the original owner of this trade idea, so I’ll very gladly refer to his rationale why Queen may be available in a trade:
Queen was a durable and productive player for the past three years, and his ability to blitz effectively increases his value. He had his best year in 2022 with 117 tackles, five sacks, 14 quarterback hits and nine tackles for loss.
The Minnesota Vikings are an interesting option. Queen would stay in a 3-4 defense and upgrade the Vikings’ linebacker corps for last year’s 31st-ranked defense.
3) Malik Willis, QB, Tennessee Titans
Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Titans GM Ran Carthon are good friends.
Carthon is a recent addition in Tennessee, meaning he wasn’t responsible for bringing Malik Willis to town. Should the Vikings actually have interest in adding more help to their QB room — I’m skeptical that they are — then Willis is a name to monitor.
The 24-year-old QB was a 3rd-round selection in 2022. He’s now in the awkward spot of playing for a team that just sunk a high draft pick into QB Will Levis. A change of scenery and chance to learn behind Kirk Cousins isn’t the worst idea in the world.
4) Chase Young, EDGE, Washington Commanders
Credit to Dustin Baker for bringing up the idea over at Vikings Territory.
Washington is loaded on their defensive front. Meanwhile, Minnesota is fairly unproven beyond certain key veterans. Young won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award back in 2020, but he has struggled to maintain an upward trajectory in his career (largely due to health, or lack thereof).
The 2nd overall selection from a few seasons ago won’t come cheap. In all likelihood, Kwesi would need to be willing to part with at least a 2nd- or 3rd-round pick.
5) Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Miami Dolphins
A buy-low candidate with a Flores connection.
The smaller corner — 5’11”, 197 pounds — hasn’t been the best corner in the NFL since being taken 30th overall in 2020. Miami has a crowded corner competition and one wonders if there will still be a spot for him. Presumably, Flores was high on him coming out of college, so perhaps there’s still a belief that the defensive mastermind can unlock the corner’s potential. He’s still only 23.
6) Van Jefferson, WR, Los Angeles Rams
How many offensive weapons are too many?
Kevin O’Connell worked directly with Van Jefferson since he was formerly the offensive coordinator in Los Angeles. The Rams don’t appear to be going anywhere fast. Recouping some value for the 4th-year wideout (who was a 2nd-round pick) may help Los Angeles keep progressing in their rebuild.
With O’Connell as the OC in 2021, Jefferson put forth 50 catches, 802 yards (16.0 YPC average), and 6 TDs. Those numbers dropped to 24 catches, 369 yards (15.4 YPC average), and 3 TDs in 2022.
Might an OC/WR reunion be in the works? The Vikings continue to tinker with the WR position, as evidenced by their recent signing of N’Keal Harry.
7) Liam Eichenberg, OL, Miami Dolphins
After a strong career at Notre Dame, Eichenberg became a 2nd-round selection. The Dolphins picked the 25-year-old offensive lineman 42nd overall, but he has struggled since entering the NFL. Working in his favor is that he has been able to pick up snaps at LT, LG, and RT since being picked. The versatility, youth, and draft slot suggest he’s someone GMs may be calling about.
Recent days have featured a lot of o-line shuffling in Minnesota. The team has hosted Dalton Risner on a visit, waived Sam Shlueter and Bobby Evans, and then signed Christian DiLauro as well as Jarrid Williams. Clearly, there’s some interest in improving the OL.
Eichenberg is 6’5″, 306 pounds.
8) Cordarelle Patterson, WR/RB, Atlanta Falcons
Someone whom Vikings fans know well, Patterson is an absolute stud.
In his trade piece on The 33rd Team, Jeff Diamond suggests that the WR/RB/KR could be in play for a trade, reasoning, “With so few kickoffs returned due to excessive touchbacks, Patterson is a luxury the Falcons could move on from and try to garner a late-round pick in return.” Plus, Diamond foresees less rushing attempts for Patterson since the Falcons just sunk the 8th pick into Bijan Robinson.
Patterson would instantly add an entirely different dynamic to Minnesota’s offense (which is to say nothing of the various ways he could help the special teams).
9) Raekwon Davis, DT, Miami Dolphins
Another Flores connection.
Davis, 26, put forth a strong 71.1 grade on PFF as a rookie. During his sophomore season, that grade sunk down to 36.5. Both seasons occured while under the tutelage of Mr. Flores. The Vikings don’t have the most inspiring group of defensive tackles, and we’ve already seen Kwesi Adofo-Mensah seek to make it more fearsome when he traded for DT Ross Blacklock last year (who, like Davis, is a 2nd-round selection from the 2020 NFL Draft). The recent ACL tear for James Lynch makes the position even more thin.
Davis is 6’7″, 330 (one thinks of the 6’8″ Calais Campbell but with more weight). Not too many players are as large as him, so perhaps that’ll be appealing enough to pick up the phone to see about bringing him to Minnesota.
10) Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams
Let’s end with one that’s extremely unlikely to come to fruition.
Arguably the greatest defender in NFL history, Donald is a complete menace on the football field. Any team that doesn’t put considerable effort into game planning for him will almost certainly be facing constant pressure up the middle. Even those who try to account for him are often destined for failure.
So, why the inclusion?
Well, it’s simply because the Rams are likely to struggle in 2023. True, Cooper Kupp, Matthew Stafford, and Donald remain, but they’re down a ton of tremendous players in recent seasons (Andrew Whitworth, Leonard Floyd, Jalen Ramsey, Von Miller, etc.). Is there any chance the first-ballot Hall of Famer (someday) wants to go elsewhere to give a SB run one more shot?
Donald will know Kevin O’Connell well since they were both in LA together. Snagging the DT before the season begins looks incredibly unlikely. Instead, the possibility would exist if the Rams are horrendous to start the season, the Vikings are fantastic, and Donald requests a trade leading up to the NFL trade deadline.
If those things occur, maybe Kwesi Adofo-Mensah fully leans into the competitive portion of his competitive rebuild.