Vikings

Minnesota Would Probably Benefit From an NHL-Style Expansion Draft Right Now

Photo Credit: Chuck Cook (USA TODAY Sports)

The National Hockey League will host an expansion draft on Wednesday night as they welcome the Seattle Kraken. With teams able to protect 11 players, the weeks leading up to the draft have been littered with trades and counter moves to protect their rosters. This has created plenty of suspense toward who will be available and who will actually wind up on Seattle’s roster.

The NFL hasn’t had an expansion draft since the Houston Texans entered the league in 2002 but the process was an interesting one. Instead of protecting players, each team submitted a list of five players that the Texans could select in the draft.

When Houston selected a player off a team’s list, that team could protect a player from the list. The process continued until the Texans claimed 30 players or used 38 percent of the salary cap.

If this method were used today, it would create some hard decisions for the Minnesota Vikings. While they could use the bottom half of their roster, the Vikings could also use the expansion draft to get out ahead of some moves and keep their roster competitive and under the cap for years to come.

So which players would be put on the list?

Jeff Gladney

The Vikings would be wise to add some players they wouldn’t mind getting rid of. One of those players is Gladney, whose career is up in the air after a domestic violence allegation.

The off-the-field situation with Gladney is one reason to put him on the list but another is his performance during his rookie season. Gladney ranked first among cornerbacks with 17 missed tackles and second with seven touchdowns allowed last season. Quarterbacks also produced a 124.7 quarterback rating when targeting Gladney.

Despite his struggles, the, um, expansion London Monarchs might be interested in adding a former first-round pick. The Vikings would be able to get the salary off the books, and the Monarchs could see what happens with his legal issues and hope they can turn him into an adequate player.

Michael Pierce

Why would the Vikings want to add one of their key free-agent acquisitions to the list? Because Pierce’s health is uncertain heading into this season.

The Vikings signed Pierce prior to last season to be a penetrator in the middle of the defense. While he’s succeeded in the Baltimore Ravens’ 3-4 defense, he has no experience in a 4-3. With the added responsibilities of rushing the passer, Pierce hasn’t shown much, collecting 16 pressures in 13 games during the 2019 season.

Pierce is also a redundant player next to the younger, cheaper Dalvin Tomlinson. Mix in his decision to opt-out of last season and his recent calf injury, and the Vikings might be wise to dangle him in front of the Monarchs.

Anthony Barr

A lot of fans are counting on Barr to rejuvenate the Vikings defense and the coaching staff believes he is the perfect piece at outside linebacker. But Barr’s game has come up short of expectations and now could be the perfect time to cut bait.

The Vikings will tell you that Barr does a lot of things that don’t show up on the box score and they’re correct. But Eric Wilson stepped in last year and did an adequate job while making the splash plays that Barr hasn’t made since his rookie season.

Barr is due $6.1 million next season and is a free agent after the 2022 season, so he may be another player the Vikings could put on the list and rescind if someone is taken. If Barr is the selected player, they could turn the job over to Chazz Surratt and see if he can become the heir apparent.

Dalvin Cook

I know what you’re thinking. Putting Cook on this list is insane and would never happen under Mike Zimmer’s watch. I would say you’re right, but there’s a logic to having Cook on the list.

Running backs age in dog years given the demanding nature of the position, and Cook turns 26 in August. Although he’s coming off a career year, Cook’s injury history suggests that he may not be able to perform at the same level for long.

This is the opportunity for the Vikings to get ahead of the curve. Instead of having Cook handle 500 touches this upcoming season, see if the Monarchs would take the bait and give their franchise a star in the backfield. This could allow the Vikings to go younger and cheaper with Alexander Mattison for two seasons and open the door to take a running back in the loaded 2023 class.

Kirk Cousins

The Vikings want to win this year, so there’s no way Cousins would be put on this list. Well, unless the Vikings wanted to get rid of Cousins and his contract.

They have said they want to move on from Cousins without actually saying they want to move on from him. Although his $45 million in guaranteed salary has been locked in for next year, they tried to trade up for Justin Fields before taking Kellen Mond.

Mond is not ready to become the starting quarterback but getting rid of Cousins would give the Vikings financial freedom, and they could dip into next year’s draft if Mond isn’t going to work out. If our hypothetical London team takes Cousins and puts Minnesota in the rookie window, it allows them to upgrade the team in free agency and gives them a chance to become a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Even if the Monarchs take someone else off the list, Cousins can be pulled and the Vikings can see if he pans out. Entering his age 33 season, the expansion draft could offer a way out.

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