With one week to go until the NFL Draft, everyone is making their final observations. Amateur draft scouts are scouring the internet looking for highlight videos. Sports talk radio hosts are threatening to light themselves on fire if their guy doesn’t pan out. But in this draft phrase, there is one take that stands out.
Deebo Samuel has changed the way we think about wide receivers. Ten years ago, we were measuring their ability to run a route and how fast they could get downfield. In today’s NFL, versatility is key. It has everyone trying to find “the next Deebo.”
But why try to find someone you can use like Deebo when the man himself is available?
That became an option on Wednesday afternoon. NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington reported that Samuel has requested a trade from the San Francisco 49ers. In a league that has fallen over itself to find top weapons, a majority of the NFL will be making their bids to acquire Samuel – including the Minnesota Vikings.
You may think this is a pipe dream. The Vikings have only $7.8 million of effective cap space, according to Over The Cap. Samuel is going to command a massive deal. The draft capital you would have to give up in a trade is way too much. But these are minor hurdles to overcome in a league where anyone can acquire a star.
The first argument against acquiring Samuel is the Vikings’ cap situation. The price of receivers continues to skyrocket. The Vikings also have to pay Justin Jefferson at some point. With his price tag certain to be around $40 million a year, there’s no way they could fit Samuel on this roster.
But take a look at how these high-dollar contracts are structured. You will see some top-tier financial gymnastics.
After acquiring Davante Adams from the Green Bay Packers, the Las Vegas Raiders gave him a 5-year, $140 million contract with $65.7 million guaranteed. But those numbers also don’t tell the entire story.
Adams’ contract contains a pair of “dummy” years. With a cap hit hovering around $40 million in 2025 and 2026, they’re designed to bring both parties to the negotiating table for one final payday. Before that, Adams’ cap hit averages $19.9 million between the 2022 and 2024 seasons.
Consider the 5-year, $120 million contract the Miami Dolphins gave Tyreek Hill. While his deal contains $72 million in guaranteed money, Miami also added a dummy year in 2026. Until then, Hill’s contract includes an average cap hit of $22.6 from 2022 until 2025.
Stefon Diggs also got a 5-year, $96 million contract with $72 million guaranteed from the Buffalo Bills. The average cap hit is $24.18 million.
With Samuel at age 26, he could likely command a contract with more money, but it’s all in how the Vikings structure his new deal. Samuel could make $4.8 million in the final year of his rookie contract, but if the Vikings tear that up, they can manipulate it to what they want it to be.
Combined with the annual financial gymnastics, this could create the cap space to sign Jefferson to a similar deal. It kicks the can down the road. But it’s nothing they haven’t done with Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, Danielle Hunter, Harrison Smith, and every other veteran on the roster.
Then it comes down to trade compensation. The Packers kick-started the frenzy by getting a 2022 first- and second-round pick in exchange for Adams. It seemed steep, but we didn’t know the receiver carousel was just getting started.
When the Kansas City Chiefs traded Hill to the Miami Dolphins, the price was similar to what the Raiders had given up for Adams. But the Dolphins also threw in their 2022 and 2023 fourth-round picks and their 2023 sixth-round pick.
Those trades will give Vikings fans sticker shock. With several needs on the roster, how could they give up that much for one player? Well, the reality is, it isn’t much at all.
Giving up picks No. 12 and 45 in this draft could give the 49ers two solid players. But the rest of those picks equate to loose change.
The Vikings have made 48 picks between the fourth and sixth rounds of the draft in the past 10 years. Diggs is the only Pro Bowler out of that group. Oli Udoh and Tyler Conklin are the only other players to earn a meaningful role. That’s a 6% hit rate.
It makes sense to make a splash in this year’s class. The Vikings could stay at pick No. 12 and draft a cornerback. They could go ahead and select Jameson Williams. They could get crazy and take an edge rusher. Nobody would be upset with these moves. But it doesn’t move the needle as much as acquiring an All-Pro offensive weapon.
Imagine Kirk Cousins lining up under center. To his left is Jefferson. To his right is Thielen. Dalvin Cook is in the backfield. Irv Smith is at tight end. And Samuel is in motion from the slot. How are teams supposed to defend this? They can’t.
It also lightens the load for the defense. It’s unlikely Minnesota will have a top-10 defense. But there’s a good chance they can keep opposing teams under 30 points.
The last hurdle may be their plan for the future. But if the Vikings hold on to their 2023 first-round pick, they could make a move for a rookie quarterback in next year’s class. Getting an adequate quarterback to throw to Jefferson and Samuel is a great way to go into the next decade. Getting that quarterback on a rookie contract is straight out of a Madden franchise.
It’s unlikely the Vikings would get this reckless to improve the roster. But if they want to make a move, getting Samuel isn’t impossible.