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5 splash moves the Vikings can still make

With defensive end Everson Griffen announcing on Friday that he will not be staying in Minnesota, the Vikings will be on the hunt over the weeks leading up to the NFL draft for talent that can fill the shoes of the productive players who have exited this offseason. While they are short on cash ($14 million in cap space as of Sunday, per OTC), the Vikings have enough wiggle room to still find ways to bring in top-end talent. How could they make a splash move? Let’s have a look…

Trade draft picks for Trent Williams

How it could happen

The Washington left tackle sat out last season over frustration with the way a medical issue was handled by his franchise and despite the hiring of Ron Rivera the All-Pro still wants out, opening up the door for a possible trade. The extra draft capital acquired by the Vikings in the Stefon Diggs deal gives them a chance to be top bidders. One potential holdup is that Williams wants a lucrative contract extension but Vikings’ front office has been savvy in its structuring of contracts, often lowering cap hits in Year 1 of the deal in order to fit under the cap. They can create $8 million in space by releasing/trading Riley Reiff. Restructuring his deal to move him inside to guard is also an option.

Why it makes sense

At the NFL Combine, Mike Zimmer acknowledged that providing better pass protection for Kirk Cousins is a top priority. Even in a down 2018 season in which he battled injuries, Williams allowed just one sack (per PFF) and graded as the 14th best pass blocking tackle in the NFL. Last year Reiff gave up five sacks and ranked 26th in pass blocking.

Williams’s age (31) could be problematic but elite tackles like Andrew Whitworth and Jason Peters continued to play at an elite level into their 30s. Not to mention that signing Cousins to a contract extension through 2020 points to a win-now mentality that should have them searching for any and all ways to make the veteran QB better.

Sign Jadeveon Clowney

How it could happen

An interesting wrinkle to the free agency period is that the league’s top available player has not found the market that he expected. The 2014 No. 1 overall pick put together a strong season in Seattle after being traded by the Houston Texans, pressuring the quarterback 58 times on 482 pass rush snaps but only came away with four sacks and battled injuries. Like former Seahawk Sheldon Richardson, Clowney could be looking for a short-term prove-it deal, which opens the door for the Vikings to pour a good chunk of their remaining cap space into one star player.

Why it makes sense

The San Francisco 49ers were pretty good evidence in 2019 that nothing slows down opposing passing games quite like pressure. Clowney on the opposite side of Danielle Hunter would make it pretty tough for opposing QBs to sleep the night before facing the Vikings. Even if the secondary is weakened, Zimmer’s schematic savvy (combined with Dom Capers’s 3-4 pressure ideas) would give Minnesota a shot at maintaining an elite defense. Clowney is also a terrific run stopper. Add him with Michael Pierce and the Vikings could rank No. 1 against the run in the NFL.

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Trade Anthony Harris and sign Logan Ryan, Ndamukong Suh and Robby Anderson 

How it could happen

If the Vikings move Harris, they will open up $11 million in space to go along with the $14 million they presently have. After one week of free agency, several quality players are still waiting on deals. The Vikings could spread out that money by luring three good players rather than pouring all of their cash into someone like Clowney.

Why it makes sense

Needs are all over the field for Minnesota but the biggest are at cornerback and receiver. Ryan isn’t an elite player at his position but he’s good enough to solidify one side of the field and allow the Vikings to draft one corner and have Mike Hughes and Holton Hill fill in where they are needed.

While Suh was not his old self for the Bucs last season, he still has gas in the tank and could be a decent bargain on a short-term deal. He is one year removed from creating 57 pressures with the Rams and the Vikings were short on pressure from the three-technique position last year.

Without another receiver across from Adam Thielen, it will be tough sledding for Cousins, even if the Vikings hit on a rookie receiver draft pick. Anderson has been held down by poor quarterback play but has still averaged 14.8 yards per catch over the last four years. With Cousins he would likely put up his first 1,000 yard season.

Trade Riley Reiff, sign Jason Peters 

How it could happen

This one is pretty straight forward. The Vikings would need to open up space by moving on from their current tackle and convince Peters to come to Minnesota on a one-year deal. If Peters is looking for somewhere in the ballpark of $12-$15 million, the Vikings can get more than halfway there simply by cutting Reiff.

Why it makes sense

The 38-year-old tackle is still kickin’ after 14 seasons in the NFL. Last year he still graded by PFF as the fourth best pass blocker in the NFL. He would make the perfect transition player, allowing the Vikings to draft a tackle in the first round and give that player one year to sit behind Peters as Andre Dilliard did last year in Philadelphia.

Trade low picks for Brandin Cooks or Alshon Jeffery 

How it could happen

Both players are reportedly on the trade block — and for good reason. Cooks enters next season with a $16.8 million cap hit and Jeffery carries more than $15 million on the cap into 2020. Considering their teams are looking for salary relief, it would be surprising if either team demanded much more than a fifth-round pick. Jeffery could be open to restructuring his deal.

Why it makes sense

While neither player’s deal sounds attractive to the cash-strapped Vikings, they would provide an instant boost to the offense in the absence of Diggs. In 2018, Cooks caught 99 passes for 1,496 yards and Jeffery had 76 receptions for 988 yards in ’18. The Vikings showed interest in signing Jeffery in the 2017 offseason before he joined the Eagles. Adding either player would require maneuvering but trading Harris gets the Vikings 70% of the way there on either contract.





vikings

Previous Story Zulgad: No laughing matter: Vikings’ moves create confusion, not confidence Next Story Former Vikings first-round pick Laquon Treadwell agrees to deal with Falcons