Coming out of the bye week with a 1-5 record, the Minnesota Vikings have some tough decisions to make. With the 2020 season dead in the water, Rick Spielman has his hand over the button that will disband a team that has had its moments during the latter half of the 2010s but is in need of a massive overhaul.
While some deals should already be in the process of being completed (ie. Anthony Harris to Cleveland, Riley Reiff to Tennessee), Spielman shouldn’t handcuff himself to just take the easy layup. Instead, he may find more values in some deals outside of the box that can add draft capital and clear up cap space.
Adam Thielen to Cleveland
While many eyes are fixated toward the possibility of Harris heading to Cleveland, there might be an opportunity to get more from the Browns by floating Thielen in a deal.
The Browns just got word that Odell Beckham Jr. is lost for the season with a torn ACL. This leaves them with a starting receiver tandem of Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins. While Donovan Peoples-Jones is an intriguing prospect as the third receiver, Cleveland will probably be looking for an upgrade.
As Pro Football Focus’ fourth-ranked receiver, Thielen would fit right in as the top target for Baker Mayfield. In addition, the presence of former Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski would make for a seamless transition on the field.
It seems far-fetched that Cleveland would make a massive deal to acquire a 30-year-old receiver, but the Browns are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. If Cleveland makes a godfather offer to acquire Thielen, the Vikings could recoup the second-round selection lost in the Yannick Ngakoue trade while also clearing $8.5 million in salary space next season.
Irv Smith Jr. to Buffalo
If the Vikings want to build a better core for the future, it might not get done by just trading away veterans with lousy contracts. If they want to recoup some of their picks higher up in the draft, they might have to part ways with some younger players such as Irv Smith Jr.
Smith is an interesting prospect. He is the youngest player in the entire 2018 NFL Draft class, and the Vikings have tried to get him more involved in his second year in the league, but it’s only translated into 10 catches for 133 yards over six games. In addition, he only ranks 25th in PFF’s receiving grades among qualifying tight ends and 33rd overall.
While there’s a chance that Smith could get better (and he should), that’s replaceable production from the tight end position. With Dawson Knox testing positive for COVID-19 and also struggling to connect with Josh Allen, the Vikings could give the Bills a call to give them another dynamic weapon to help conquer the AFC East.
This will be another unpopular move, but the Vikings are unlikely to convince a team to pay Kyle Rudolph $8.8 million for one random one-handed touchdown grab in the end zone per season. By getting another pick from Smith, the Vikings can keep Rudolph around and dive into a draft class that contains Kyle Pitts, Pat Freiermuth and Brevin Jordan as potential replacements as the tight end of the future.
Harrison Smith to Kansas City
As mentioned earlier, a lot of people expect Anthony Harris to be the Viking safety traded at the deadline. But what if it’s Harrison Smith? As one of the best safeties in the league, he still carries value and at age 31. Pivoting to Harris would turn the clock back two years at the safety spot.
There are plenty of teams that could use a safety like Smith, but the Chiefs may be the one willing to pay the most. With Patrick Mahomes‘ contract serving as a ticking time bomb, Kansas City has done their best to load up on players in order to get another ring before it inflates their salary cap.
For a player like Smith, getting out of Minnesota might be intriguing at this point of his career and would give him a chance to get a Super Bowl ring. Like the other two trades, it won’t be easy to let go. But as we’ve mentioned before, “It’s not your fault.”