The only bright spots about the country-wide quarantine are: no work or responsibilities for the majority of Americans, an excuse and socially acceptable reason to get drunk before noon on a Tuesday (or is it Thursday today?), and endless free trials of services that want to suck people in before hammering their credit card for 6 easy payments of $29.99.
I, and I’m sure most of you reading this, have been exploiting one of those free services religiously, NFL Game Pass.
The other day I was sitting in my pajamas with my third (or maybe seventh?) screwdriver watching Minnesota Vikings games from the 2011 season. If you are unfamiliar with the 2011 season, thus was the reason for my seven screwdrivers. Watching games from that season without alcohol consumption is on par with Chinese water torture.
There was a standout, however.
Buried deep in the 3-13 record, past the atrocious and borderline offensive Donovan McNabb Vikings career, you will find the best statistical year of Percy Harvin’s career. Amassing over 1300 all-purpose yards, 520 return yards, and 8 touchdowns, Harvin looked to be a standout for the Vikings for years to come.
Then, he wanted out.
The Vikings would eventually trade the star wide receiver to the Seattle Seahawks in 2013 for a number of draft picks, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of many fans of the organization. Despite the multitude of trade requests, Harvin has gone on record to say that his best days were with the Vikings and regretted forcing himself out.
This got me contemplating in a drunken haze how the future of the Vikings would have looked different with Harvin on the roster, which in turn, led me down another rabbit hole of all the recent trades and free agent signings around the league.
The 2020 NFL free agency period has mostly settled down after an initial flurry of activity, and a number of players were reportedly being hunted by multiple teams at the same time.
What would have happened if this player stayed with his team? What would have happened if this player signed here instead of there?
What are some trades and free agency moves that could have been?
1. Stefon Diggs traded to the Arizona Cardinals
A couple of weeks ago, among all the subliminal social media posts that indicated he could be on the trade block, Diggs posted a video of himself running routes on Instagram in an Arizona Cardinals shirt. His explanation was that “He didn’t have a shirt with him and his brother gave it to him.”
In reality, Stefon Diggs being traded to the Arizona Cardinals may have been much closer to finalization than a lot of us may think. The Cardinals were clearly looking for a top-tier receiver to pair alongside Larry Fitzgerald, and Diggs to the Cardinals may have been the reality if Houston Texans’ head coach/GM Bill O’Brien hadn’t slithered in and executed the worst trade in recent memory.
The Cardinals made out like bandits. Swapping David Johnson and essentially a second-round pick for DeAndre Hopkins is criminal, and would be vetoed in every single (key word: competent) fantasy football league on the planet.
I’m not going to even spend a nano-second trying to come up with a better trade than what the Cardinals got from the Texans, but what could have been different for the Vikings?
I think everyone can agree what the Vikings received from the Buffalo Bills for Stefon Diggs is more than acceptable, but the Cardinals have the 8th pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Could a trade package centered around Stefon Diggs for the 8th overall pick have been in the works?
2. Teddy Bridgewater signing with the Chicago Bears
There are two types of Vikings fans: those that wish Bridgewater well in his career, and those that think – to this day – Bridgewater should be the starting quarterback over Kirk Cousins. For the latter, facing Teddy Bridgewater twice a year and having to root against him would be just too much.
And yet, it was almost a reality.
A number of different sources during the free agency period stated that Bridgewater was close to signing with the Bears – very close actually – but in the end he didn’t want Mitch Trubisky breathing down his neck for the starting job.
In reality, Trubisky may have tried his best to breathe down Bridgewater’s neck, but it would have ended up going over his head instead.
Nonetheless, Bridgewater decided to take pressure off himself by signing with the Carolina Panthers and *checks notes* displacing arguably the greatest and most beloved quarterback in their franchise history in Cam Newton.
But the question is: would Bridgewater have made a difference in Chicago? More so than new presumed starter Nick Foles or village idiot Mitch Trubisky?
Bridgewater’s game is very similar to Trubisky’s, in that he favors a high percentage check-down throw instead of game breaking deep shots. However, Bridgewater did look very competent in his five starts for the New Orleans Saints while Drew Brees was injured, and a starting job in Chicago would have been a very interesting and conflicting journey for Vikings fans every Sunday.
3. Todd Gurley signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Yes, the Rams voluntarily released Todd Gurley only two years after signing a $60 million contract. Yes, Gurley’s production has dropped significantly. Yes, Gurley’s knee may very well resemble a Chinese finger trap.
But placing Todd Gurley in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense could have been something special, and Tampa Bay was on the shortlist for Gurley before he eventually signed with the Atlanta Falcons.
If you haven’t heard, the Buccaneers, who ranked 3rd in the NFL last year in offensive yardage and points scored, just added the greatest quarterback of all time to their roster.
Tom Brady will now be throwing to Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, the best receiving duo in the NFL, rather than a slate of rookies, washed-up veterans, and the white slot receiver of the month, which has been par for the course the last two years for New England.
Opposing defenses will have no choice but to respect the pass almost every down, and adding a potential threat like Todd Gurley to the backfield could have solidified the Buccaneers as the odds-on favorite best offense in the NFL.
Gurley has clearly regressed from his early-career form, but PFF still ranked him the 9th overall running back in pure rushing grades from last season, and a hobbled Gurley is still a massive upgrade over the teams’ current running backs, Dare Ogunbowale and Ronald Jones.
Tom Brady and company won’t lose a minute of sleep over the Gurley signing with the Atlanta Falcons, but adding him to the Buccaneer’s roster could have awakened the type of production that fans haven’t seen out of Gurley for years.
4. Stefon Diggs traded to the Indianapolis Colts
This is the potential trade that actually keeps me up at night.
This is when Don Corleone has a heart attack in the garden. This is when Tom Hanks first comes home from a deserted island and sees the love of his life remarried. This is when Perriman High loses to Dallas Carter in the state championship of ‘Friday Night Lights’ (the movie, not the show you heathens).
My disappointment is immeasurable and my month is ruined. In the end, I have no one to blame but myself, because I connected the dots and formulated this myself without any outside information.
I just couldn’t help myself; it’s too perfect of a hypothetical trade.
In 2019, the Colts only had three receiving plays of 40-plus yards, second to last in the league behind only the Chicago Bears. Stefon Diggs, meanwhile, had eight catches of at least 40 yards in 2019, tied for first in the league. Acquiring Diggs would have added a much-needed deep threat to the Colts’ offense.
What would the Colts offer in return? They have 23-year-old all-pro guard Quenton Nelson. The Vikings desperately need to upgrade their offensive line with the guard position being the most urgent, and a trade centered around Diggs for Nelson would fill much needed gaps for both teams.
The Vikings would have had stability at the guard position for years to come.
But, is that too unrealistic? Already deemed generational 23-year old guards certainly don’t come cheap, and the price tag could have very well been out of the question for the Vikings.
If Vikings General Manager Rick Speilman did indeed reach out to the Colts, they might have been asking for Diggs plus a first round pick and quite possibly more for Quenton Nelson.
It keeps a guy up at night, though.
5. Amari Cooper signing with the Washington Redskins
Amari Cooper going to the Washington Redskins wasn’t a long shot – in fact, he turned down a bigger deal from Washington to stay put in Dallas.
On the surface, Amari Cooper spurning Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys to go to the division rival Washington Redskins may have excited football fans as much as finding out they had to have an emergency colonoscopy. What difference would a top 15-ish receiver make to one of the worst teams in the league?
But, let’s really think about the implication.
The audacity of skipping town to sign with a heated division rival is the type of middle-finger move that would have thrown everclear on the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry.
What if Adam Thielen turned down a contract extension and chose to sign with the Green Bay Packers? What if Adrian Peterson left the Vikings for the Chicago Bears instead of the New Orleans Saints? What if Teddy Bridgewater did in fact sign with the Chicago Bears and started giving Randy Savage-esque interviews shit-talking the Vikings?
Jerry Jones, having already lost Randall Cobb to the Texans and Jason Witten to the Raiders, may have been inclined to make a major splash to put another weapon alongside Michael Gallup.
In addition, the Redskins become much more interesting than people would like to believe.
The inevitable implosion of Dwayne Haskin’s NFL career aside, the team has promising wide receiver Terry McLaurin, and the number two pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, which, by every indication will be defensive end Chase Young.
McLaurin had a fantastic rookie year, finishing just outside the top-10 in yards per target and ranked 5th in PFF’s receiving grades for wide receivers. Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio are seemingly building a new culture in Washington, and the addition of Amari Cooper lining up with Terry McLaurin, as well as potential defensive-end phenom Chase Young, would have made for a very interesting team to watch.