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No time to waste: Here’s why the Vikings need to aggressively make deals in the next few days

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Minnesota Vikings’ Harrison Smith (22) makes a catch before an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

There is a substantial list of players whom Vikings general manager Rick Spielman could be looking to move before the NFL trade deadline arrives next Tuesday. Spielman already started the process of making over his team’s roster last Thursday when he dealt recently acquired defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens for a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick.

Who will be next to go? The list could include everyone from tight end Kyle Rudolph and left tackle Riley Reiff to standout wide receiver Adam Thielen and safeties Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris. The question is what will contending teams be willing to offer in return?

And therein lies the problem for the Vikings (1-5).

While it seems the NFL trade deadline has been a bit more active in recent years, it’s still nothing like we often see in Major League Baseball, the NHL or NBA. There are deals here and there in the NFL — sometimes even a significant one — but overall it’s usually pretty quite. The amount of speculation about potential trades this year gives it a very different feel.

This could be because in the pandemic-impacted season, there are so many awful teams that will be looking to move contracts, in part because the salary cap for 2021 is definitely going to fall. There are currently 13 teams with two or fewer victories, including every club in the NFC East. The Jets are the only winless team, but the Vikings are among six teams with one victory.

This likely is part of the reason why Spielman attempted to get ahead of the game when he moved Ngakoue during the Vikings’ bye week. The closer we get to the 3 p.m. trade deadline, the more flooded the market is going to become and the tougher it will be to move players. Thus, Spielman would be wise to continue with an aggressive approach as he tries to get draft picks in return for veterans.

I know what you’re saying: The last thing Spielman needs is more picks after he used 15 on players in last April’s draft. But getting those picks to select players isn’t the important thing here. What Spielman needs to do is accumulate picks so he can use them as part of potential trades to move up in the draft. Ngakoue, for instance, cost the Vikings a 2021 second-round pick when he was obtained just before the season. The Vikings need to find a way to get a second-rounder back.

The Vikings have to be thinking of ways to move up from say the sixth or seventh pick in the draft to the top so they can grab a quarterback like Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State’s Justin Fields. The competition to do this is going to be fierce, but if the Vikings want to get to a Super Bowl this is the type of move a team has to be willing to make.

So why would Lawrence not end up with the Jets? Lawrence and his agent would be wise to tell the Jets he will not play for them and force their hand. The Vikings need to be in a position to offer the Jets a package that would begin with a swap of first-round picks in 2020, and include more top draft-pick compensation. That’s why you can’t dismiss the idea of trading a player like Thielen or Smith, if the return is right.

Guys like Rudolph and Reiff should be moved for whatever the Vikings can get because they almost certainly won’t be back next season and both are a point of their career where they should have no interest in being part of this rebuild. Reiff’s departure would give the Vikings a chance to plug second-round pick Ezra Cleveland in at left tackle and begin getting him experience at the position he’s expected to hold down for several seasons. It became clear last season that Irv Smith is the Vikings’ tight end of the future and, if anything, he need to be used far more on a consistent basis.

Any trade the Vikings make, there will be fans who object in part because we are talking about some well-established players who long ago became favorites and contributed to some successful seasons. Spielman, however, can’t afford to think about that. He has to take a business-like approach to what has happened to the franchise and begin making sure the future is addressed in the present.

The Vikings’ struggles this season don’t make it a sure thing that Spielman will be the guy sitting in the GM’s chair in the spring when more key decisions are made. But whomever is occupying that chair needs to be put in a position to succeed. That’s why making trades in the next few days, and not waiting until the last minute, would be the prudent thing to do.