The Vikings’ 28-22 upset victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field likely created some optimism in the visiting locker room. But while the Vikings were the only team in the NFC North to win on Sunday, the reality is they are still a 2-5 team that has the worst point differential in the division (minus-31) and their cornerback position has been decimated by injuries.
All of this gives general manager Rick Spielman plenty to think about as he works the phones before the NFL trade deadline at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Spielman started making deals early, sending defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to Baltimore on Oct. 22 for a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 fifth-round selection. That was followed by reports that Spielman was shopping multiple veterans in an attempt to dump salary. The list included safeties Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris, tight end Kyle Rudolph and left tackle Riley Reiff. Wide receiver Adam Thielen’s name also came up.
The Vikings have claimed they aren’t giving up on the season, but they also need to be realistic. Minnesota remains three games behind the first-place Packers and are 14th of the 16 teams in the NFC. The NFL has expanded to a seven-team playoff format in each conference, but right now the last spot would go to the Rams (5-3), who are 2.5 games up on the Vikings.
Unless the Vikings get an overwhelming offer, one has to think that Smith and Thielen aren’t going anywhere. Either would be a tremendous addition to any contender, but the price would be steep. That likely was true before Sunday. So who might still be on the move?
If Spielman remains realistic about the Vikings’ season, there are three obvious choices: Harris, Reiff and Rudolph.
The Vikings shopped Harris during the offseason after placing the franchise tag on him but were unable to get the return they wanted. Harris, who tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions last season but has yet to get one this year, is playing under a one-year, $11.4 million contract and figures to depart as a free agent this spring. The salary cap is going down because of the pandemic — it’s at $198.2 million this season but could be as low as $175 million in 2021 — and the Vikings aren’t going to be able to afford Harris.
The key is that if the 29-year-old leaves, the Vikings figure to get a third-round pick as compensation, so they aren’t going to give him away. But if they can get multiple picks, or a second-rounder, Harris’ time in Minnesota could be done by Tuesday evening.
Reiff, 32, who took a pay cut that reduced his salary-cap figure to $8.2 million just before the regular season after Ngakoue was acquired from Jacksonville, has one season left on his contract and a cap hit of $13.95 million for 2021. However, he doesn’t figure to be back with the Vikings and could be in demand since he plays such a key position. Reiff isn’t a Pro Bowl player, but he’s solid and has started all seven games this season. The Ravens could be a potential landing spot, given the fact they lost left tackle Ronnie Stanley for the season on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ravens’ HC John Harbaugh said LT Ronnie Stanley suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 1, 2020
The 30-year-old Rudolph has been with the Vikings since being a second-round pick in 2011 and is signed through 2023. Rudolph, however, only has guaranteed money coming through this season. It might have been telling that he only caught one pass for 12 yards on Sunday. Tight end Irv Smith Jr., only had one reception for 16 yards but was used as a blocker on several key plays. Rudolph’s reception has dropped from 64 in 2018, to 39 last season, to only 11 in seven games this year.
Rudolph isn’t likely to get the Vikings a high draft pick in return, but at this point every pick they obtain could help. Especially since Spielman could be looking to package picks together to replace the second-rounder he traded to Jacksonville in the Ngakoue deal.