Minnesota Vikings fans from Bloomington to Baudette collectively held their breath as picks 14 through 22 came off the board. Rick Spielman had stared Alijah Vera-Tucker in the eyes and banished him to the New York Jets in exchange for the 23rd pick and two third-rounders.
There sat the Vikings, a team that needs offensive linemen, passing on one of the best O-line options in the draft. We all know that it worked out. Christian Darrisaw was there at 23. Plus, they picked up a potential Kirk Cousins replacement in Kellen Mond at 66 and an additional O-lineman, Wyatt Davis, with pick 86.
You’d be forgiven if you checked out during the second round. As everyone knows, the Vikings didn’t have a pick because of the failed Yannick Ngakoue trade. And, frankly, most of the fanbase seems fine with them passing on Kyle Trask or, God forbid, trading back into the second to take Asante Samuel Jr.
But there is a player in the second round who every Vikings fan should be clued in on. The Arizona Cardinals used their second-round selection on Rondale Moore, a receiver out of Purdue. “The selection of Moore comes after they signed A.J. Green in free agency,” wrote Mike Florio in reaction to the pick. “That move seemed to close the door on Fitzgerald returning; this move seems to nail it shut.”
Yes, we’re talking about Larry Fitzgerald here.
The Cardinals made it clear that Fitzgerald’s decision to return for an 18th season would not affect their draft plans. “No matter what Larry decides, it does not affect our draft plans,” Arizona general manager Steve Keim told reporters last week. “Again, to me, you can’t have enough good players at one position.”
It doesn’t mean they’re out on Fitzgerald, who they drafted third overall in 2004 and would be entering his age-38 season. But it’s hard to see him returning to a team that has every incentive to work Moore in. Christian Kirk, their second-round pick from 2018, will line up opposite Green, leaving Fitzgerald as the fourth receiver on their depth chart if he returns.
Arizona isn’t his only option, however. While it’s hard to see him finishing his career with the New England Patriots or the New Orleans Saints, Minnesota almost makes too much sense. Returning home would be a coda to his Hall of Fame career.
From a sentimental standpoint, he’d be returning home to play with Adam Thielen and a team that could win the NFC North should Aaron Rodgers hold out or be traded. And unlike in Arizona, he’d have a natural spot on the depth chart. Ihmir Smith-Marsette has the potential to be their WR3 of the future, given his natural athleticism, but he’s a fifth-rounder who is considered a project.
Fitzgerald could step in and be their third receiver right now.
It’s a win-win solution for everybody involved. Fitzgerald gets to finish his career with the team he grew up rooting for. With a viable WR3 on the roster, Minnesota will be incentivized to modernize their offense. And, for fans, it can’t get much better than this: Fitzgerald returns home, and the Vikings throw the ball more.
It sounds too good to be true. But in this case, there’s a pragmatic reason for him to return. He gets to play on a team that needs a third receiver instead of being a depth option. After Arizona took Moore in the second round and the Vikings waited until the fifth round to take a receiver, Fitzgerald’s return to the Twin Cities makes more sense than ever.