The Minnesota Vikings have a pretty deep roster overall. They are thin at some positions, but at others there will be talented football players who will be unemployed in early September. Instead of cutting them, the Vikings should try to trade them and get some sort of compensation in return.
Here are four prospects who could net something in a trade instead of getting flat out cut.
The Vikings are very deep at tight end. They have one of the best who has ever put on a purple jersey in Kyle Rudolph and second-year man Irv Smith, who is ready to bust out in 2020. Behind them are Tyler Conklin and Brandon Dillon, who are both quality players who would get much more attention in the passing game if they weren’t behind two flat out studs on the depth chart.
The Vikings kept all four a season ago but likely won’t do that again in 2020. The major reason they kept four last year was that they were very thin at wide receiver and decided there was more talent at the tight end position. This year, they are much deeper at receiver and will likely keep at least five, if not more. This will cause the team to keep one less tight end, and as a result, a good player will be without a home at the end of the preseason.
That player will be Conklin or Dillon. At this point, it’s hard to say which one is more likely. Conklin is a more well-rounded tight end who is a better blocker, but Dillon is a more pure pass catcher and has the potential to be a more potent weapon in the passing game. If it is Conklin who gets the axe, he could have plenty of teams interested in his services.
Conklin is still very young and will turn 25 this July. While he’s only caught 13 balls in his career, he is a quality blocker and could be used in an H-back role as a hybrid fullback/tight end. He still has plenty of potential and could net the Vikings a late pick in 2021 if they trade him before giving him his release.
The Vikings defensive tackle group will be a fun unit to watch this preseason. Other than Michael Pierce at the nose tackle position, it’s unclear who will be starting next to him. Players like Jaleel Johnson, Shamar Stephen, James Lynch and Armon Watts all have a shot to earn that job. If it is Johnson and the two younger players who rise up, then Stephen could be the odd man out. The Vikings would be wise to call around and see what the league-wide interest in him is before flat out cutting him.
There’s no real way to sugarcoat it: Stephen was a major disappointment last year. The Vikings brought him back to strengthen their run defense, and that was supposed to be the strength of his game. Instead, it was Stephen who was getting dominated and was easily moved around by opposing guards. He only had 21 total tackles in 15 starts and struggled in the one aspect the Vikings needed him to succeed: shutting down the run.
Despite his down season, there could be some interest in Stephen from a team needing an experienced run stuffer. Maybe if another team’s starter goes down, they could get desperate and notice the depth on the Vikings line and call to see if anyone’s available.
Stephen can be a serviceable starter in that situation and be a band-aid for a team until their starter returns. He wouldn’t net the Vikings much of anything, though. They could ask for a late pick in a draft two years down the road or just swap picks with another team in the late rounds to move up a little bit.
Riley Reiff is the one player on this list who the Vikings could get the most for in a trade. With his age and contract, though, a fifth-round pick is probably the best they could hope for, and that could be on the high end. Reiff will likely be the Vikings’ starting left tackle in 2020, but there is a chance he loses that job to the rookie Ezra Cleveland. Cleveland would have to impress mightily in camp and defy the odds to become the starter. With the loss of mini-camps and OTAs, that seems far-fetched. However, with his athletic ability, he’s a perfect fit for Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme and has a decent shot of surprising.
Not only does Cleveland need to earn the starting left tackle job to make Reiff expendable, but the depth would also have to impress in camp. The Vikings wouldn’t cut or trade Reiff unless they feel good about what is behind Cleveland on the depth chart. Oli Udoh would need to have a strong camp and continue to play with that aggressive style he showed in the game against the Bears a season ago.
If he can do that, the Vikings may feel that with him and Rashod Hill behind Cleveland and Brian O’Neill, they could then look to move on from their expensive veteran. NFL teams are always looking for quality left tackles, and while Reiff’s play is on the decline, he is still an average NFL starter who could garner a draft pick in a trade.
Ben Gedeon is another veteran who could get cut at preseason’s end. The former starter suffered some concussions in 2019, which cost him half the season. Eric Wilson took over his spot and played so well that he’ll head into the 2020 season all but a lock to start once again.
The Vikings also used a fourth-round pick on Oregon linebacker Troy Dye. Those two, along with Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, are locks to make the team, and Gedeon will be fighting for a roster spot with Cameron Smith, Jordan Fehr and Demarquis Gates.
Gedeon is the definition of a solid but unspectacular player. He does his job but nothing more. In 22 career starts, Gedeon has amassed 103 tackles and two passes defended. He has no career sacks, no interceptions and hasn’t forced a fumble. He isn’t a liability on the field, but he doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table either. Gedeon has been a special teams standout throughout his career, but the Vikings have a plethora of young players who can fill that role this year.
Gedeon won’t generate a ton of interest, but a team could be in the market for a veteran linebacker before the season starts if they are hit with injury or just don’t like what they see after the preseason has concluded. If that’s the case, the Vikings could swing a deal scoring a very late-round pick for their former starting weakside linebacker, but shouldn’t hold out for much more than that.