Top Trade Targets for the Minnesota Vikings This Offseason
The Minnesota Vikings may be watching the playoffs from home this year, but they are a few prudent moves in the offseason away from being right back in the postseason race in 2021.
That's because they are in line to get plenty of talent back on the roster if some COVID-19 opt-outs for this season opt back in and others get healthy.
Danielle Hunter missed the season with a neck injury. Michael Pierce, the team's prized free-agent acquisition, opted out of the season, and Anthony Barr was limited to just two games with a torn pectoral muscle.
The secondary was impacted throughout the season as well and should be better next season with more experience and better health.
Unfortunately, the margin for error will be thin in improving the roster next season. The Vikings are projected to be $14 million over the cap to start the offseason which means they will need to get creative.
Big spending in free agency will not be an option. Instead, the Vikings' best option to add fresh blood outside of the draft is to try to find some trades for players who are on affordable deals and would be worth adding to the roster.
The following players are on decent deals who would bolster a position of need for the Vikings while being plausible trade targets.
TE David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
Kyle Rudolph has seen a dwindling role in the Vikings offense over the last two campaigns and will turn 32 next season. He carries a $9.45 million cap hit as well, which makes him a prime candidate to be cut.
The only problem is the Vikings' fairly heavy use of two-tight end sets (31 percent of the time, per Sharp Football Stats). They would need someone to pair with Irv Smith Jr. Tyler Conklin showed some promise, but the fourth-year player doesn't move the needle.
That's where David Njoku comes in.
He'll enter the fifth year of his rookie deal, so he will only count for $6 million against the cap. The athletic tight end showed a lot of potential in his second season in 2018 with 56 catches for 639 yards and four touchdowns.
Unfortunately, that production was fleeting. He's essentially become the Browns' third tight end behind Austin Hooper and rookie Harrison Bryant. The result has been rumors about Njoku wanting out of Cleveland, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
In Minnesota, he would have a bigger opportunity as Smith Jr. and Njoku would fill the void left behind by Rudolph.
DT Vernon Butler, Buffalo Bills
The Vikings' defensive line will be aided by the return of Pierce and Hunter. But there will need to be additional steps to improve the team's pass rush.
The Vikings were 28th in the league in sacks. They had a hard time finding pressure on the edges, but the interior didn't do much to help. Hercules Mata'afa and Jaleel Johnson were the biggest pass-rushers on the inside, and they combined for four sacks.
Butler was a big free-agent signing for the Bills this offseason, but it hasn't worked out all that well. After compiling six sacks in his final season with the Panthers, he didn't register a single one while playing 40 percent of the team's snaps.
Pierce's return may help the run defense, but he won't help with the pass rush. He's a traditional nose tackle with four career sacks.
Butler has just one more year left on the deal he signed last offseason and would only cost the Vikings $7.85 million next season. The Bills would only take on a $1 million dead cap charge, which isn't much to part ways with someone who has underperformed this season.
A change of scenery could help Butler return to the form he showed in Carolina. That would be a welcome addition for Minnesota.
Draft Capital for Expensive Veterans
While adding some proven pieces would be nice, it's much more realistic to expect the team to trade some veterans of their own. The easiest way to fix the team's cap woes is to exchange some veterans for players who will be on rookie contracts.
Ideally, Rick Spielman will be able to find some takers for some of the veterans who would help create cap space. Getting something in return for someone like Kyle Rudolph would be more beneficial than cutting him.
Riley Reiff, who will turns 33 next season and carries a cap hit of $14 million next season, is another candidate to be traded. He played well this season but hard decisions will have to be made. The general dearth of tackles and the ability to put Ezra Cleveland in his role should have the Vikings looking into Reiff's market.
This isn't to say the Vikings should be ripping things down to the studs a la the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, there are some veterans who could bring back draft capital and give Spielman some financial breathing room while maintaining the core the Vikings have.
There are some deals in which the Vikings could be buyers, but the reality is they are more likely to win the offseason by being sellers.
All salary-cap information courtesy of Spotrac.com, unless otherwise noted.