The Vikings Were Better Off Standing Pat At the Trade Deadline

Photo Credit: Denny Medley (USA TODAY Sports)

The trade deadline is one of the more anti-climatic dates on the NFL calendar. Teams have complex playbooks and schemes that don’t always translate from one organization to another. Trades still happen, but they usually don’t happen in the way they go down in Madden. Typically, general managers trade depth pieces or unload a disgruntled player. Every once in a while, a team like the Los Angeles Rams will trade second- and third-round draft picks for a player like Von Miller, believing he could be the final piece on a contending roster.

Many believed that the Minnesota Vikings should try to trade veteran players on one-year deals for future draft picks. Following a brutal loss to Cooper Rush and the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, fans believed that the Vikings ship had capsized. Any support for Mike Zimmer has dissipated. So wouldn’t it make sense to trade away someone like Sheldon Richardson to a team in need of depth at defensive tackle? Or Alexander Mattison to a running back-hungry team?

On paper, it sounds great. The Vikings are 3-4 traveling to face the Baltimore Ravens, who are coming off of a bye week. The Los Angeles Chargers and Green Bay Packers are next. The season could be over by Thanksgiving. However, the Vikings are one game out of the final wild-card spot in the NFC. Conducting a fire sale would be waving the white flag. It would be horrible for team morale. There are too many veterans and talented players on the roster to justify giving up before the season’s halfway point.

Ownership probably won’t bring Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman back if the Vikings don’t go on a deep playoff run. While a GM must be forward-thinking, he knows that the past and present affect his job status. Trading away players when depth is already paper-thin would make an already middling team a disaster.

However, any reasonable trade wouldn’t have yielded much in return. When the Vikings traded defensive end Stephen Weatherly to the Denver Broncos for a seventh-round pick on Oct. 23, fans met it with sarcastic applause. Typical Spielman, hoarding seventh-round picks. But look at the trades that went down before the deadline. Only Miller warranted pre-sixth-round draft compensation. Do the Vikings have that type of player on their roster that they’re willing to depart with? Probably not.

So, they weren’t sellers. But why weren’t they buyers? Most fans would say that Spielman has been good to great at roster-building since the Vikings named him GM in 2012. But he hasn’t had much luck with trades, especially when trying to patch holes on the roster after training camp begins.

Look no further than last year when he traded away a second-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars to acquire defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. The move was made in desperation as Danielle Hunter‘s, ahem, “tweaked” neck ended up keeping him out of the first six games of the season. Ngakoue notched five sacks in those six games. But he wasn’t committed to stopping the run game, something that Zimmer and his staff prioritize. At 1-6, the Vikings were sellers heading into the deadline and traded Ngakoue to the Ravens for a third-round pick. Hunter went on IR shortly after the trade.

The Vikings felt the effects of the Ngakoue trade when the 2021 NFL draft came around. The Jaguars had pick 45 in place of Minnesota in the second round. They got pick 90 from Baltimore, way at the bottom of the third round. That pick turned into Patrick Jones II, who has yet to play this year.

With Hunter once again injured and on IR, it was tempting for the Vikings to make an aggressive move on Tuesday to bring in another pass rusher. Zimmer admitted on Wednesday that the team attempted to make a move but couldn’t get anything done. A late-round pick in exchange for a serviceable replacement wouldn’t have been detrimental. But should be some trepidation around the Vikings trying to send a high draft pick to secure an impact player. The replacement would likely not be as good as Hunter, and this team doesn’t appear to be capable of the deep postseason run with or without a solid replacement. It’s not worth hurting the future by trying for one last grasp at salvaging the season.

In the end, the Vikings were in a weird spot leading up to the trade deadline and made the correct move by standing pat. The season isn’t over, and it was a sign that the team isn’t waving the white flag. Although the roster isn’t perfect, Zimmer and Spielman didn’t try a desperation Hail Mary that could have hindered the team next year. Fans want something to be excited about in a season like this. But sometimes the best move is the one you don’t make.

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Photo Credit: Denny Medley (USA TODAY Sports)

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