The Minnesota Vikings swung into their bye week in dramatic fashion, winning 34-28 in overtime over the Carolina Panthers. Now, sitting at 3-3 with a brutal stretch of games coming up after the break, the team is in a weird spot as the Nov. 2 trade deadline approaches. Minnesota isn’t in sell-the-farm mode, but they aren’t Super Bowl contenders who only need one or two pieces to make a push.
Will they do anything at the trade deadline? There are a few players on one-year deals they could trade to upper-echelon teams to get the most value out of their roster without completely derailing their ability to compete for a playoff spot right now.
The first of these players is Stephen Weatherly. The defensive end took a pay cut to come back to play for Andre Patterson and the Vikings. Still, he hasn’t had much opportunity with Everson Griffen’s resurgence and second-year player D.J. Wonnum taking most of the snaps behind Danielle Hunter.
In fact, over the last few weeks, Weatherly’s snap counts have decreased to single-digit numbers. Minnesota trade Weatherly to a contending team like the Los Angeles Chargers to add to their stable of rotational pass rushers in exchange for a low draft pick.
The Vikings selected a defensive end, Patrick Jones II out of Pittsburgh, reasonably high in the 2021 draft. Jones has yet to dress for a regular-season NFL game, but Weatherly’s absence would offer him the chance to play a few snaps a game, fueling his growth and development.
In June, the Vikings signed Sheldon Richardson to a one-year deal, adding to their revamped interior defensive line. Richardson, who is used to being a starter throughout his career, has embraced the rotational role in Minnesota behind Dalvin Tomlinson, Michael Pierce, and Armon Watts. He is averaging around 30 snaps a game and provides reliable depth at a position that the Vikings have struggled with for quite some time.
However, this also gives him good value. Richardson could be shipped off to a team with desperate needs in the middle of their defensive line for a fairly high Day 2 pick. He is a seasoned veteran with playoff experience.
The Vikings have to love the way that Armon Watts is playing right now. The third-year nose tackle posted a career-high PFF grade against the Panthers (91.8). He had four pressures, a strip-sack, and added a couple of hurries.
Plus, in his pre-bye week press conference, head coach Mike Zimmer said he expects starting nose tackle Pierce to “return pretty quick.” So, with the trade deadline following the Vikings’ Week 8 matchup against the Cowboys, they would have a larger incentive to trade Richardson if Pierce can get back. However, it’s hard to trust Zimmer with injury news, so trading Richardson could be risky.
The final player, also on defense, is Nick Vigil. He did a satisfactory job filling in next to Eric Kendricks when Anthony Barr was out. From a critical third-down sack against the Cincinnati Bengals to a thrilling tone-setting pick-six in Arizona, his impact plays have been important to Minnesota’s defense.
However, like much-maligned former Viking Eric Wilson, Vigil’s highs come with his lows, primarily his lack of awareness in the ground game. His run defense has been a liability. Nevertheless, if the Vikings looked into trading him, they would have to be sure that the younger developmental linebackers they have, like Troy Dye and even Chazz Surratt, wouldn’t be too much of a dropoff.
Minnesota could get a lower-round draft pick for Vigil. This potential trade is probably the riskiest for the Vikings because their linebacker depth is unproven, and Barr hasn’t shown that he stay healthy consistently.
The biggest incentive to trade any of these players is that they are on one-year deals. The chances that they will be re-signed by the Vikings is pretty low given the circumstances, so Minnesota may be wise to cash in on their value while they can.