When you are a fan of a 1-4 football team — even if it is one of the best 1-4 teams in history — in the midst of a pandemic, you tend to look for any glimmer of hope to keep you interested.
And while some Vikings fans have hitched onto the optimism that an easier future schedule could produce a chance to get back into the playoff picture, others have moved on to more immediately gratifying fodder: the NFL trade deadline.
We’re less than three weeks away from the deadline — it’s Nov. 3, and yes it’s hilarious and very on-brand that the NFL would not pick any of the surrounding days for that distinction and instead keep it on what happens to be election day this year.
For two consecutive weeks, we’ve been asked (and addressed) on the Access Vikings podcast the subject of whether the Vikings might make any moves (and who might be involved).
On the most recent episode, Andrew Krammer mentioned one interesting player who could be a target in a medium-level move: tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Rudolph has been targeted just 10 times in five games this season, though he remains a viable red zone target as evidenced by his acrobatic touchdown catch against Tennessee (his only TD so far this season after getting six last season).
Fellow tight end Irv Smith Jr. had his best game of the season against Seattle, grabbing four catches for 64 yards.
Would a team like New England, which has shown interest in Rudolph in the past, be interested for a mid-to-late-round pick?
I brought up safety Anthony Harris as a possibility as well. While the Vikings have perilous depth behind Harris and Harrison Smith, they did try to trade Harris in the offseason. It’s hard to imagine trading Harris if the Vikings think they can still salvage this season, but what if they lose Sunday and are staring at a likely 1-6 start with Lambeau looming post-bye?
Ben Goessling made the point, though, that the Vikings don’t have a lot of overall tradeable assets because their roster is short on the sort of “middle class” players who are often dealt — productive but not overly expensive, young but experienced. They have a lot of veterans and a lot of inexperienced young players.
For what it’s worth, no Vikings showed up on Bill Barnwell’s list of 13 potential NFL deadline deals. But the ESPN writer noted two names in possible deals with other teams that caught my eye: Sam Darnold and Dwayne Haskins.
Both young QBs might be falling out of favor with their current teams. The Jets could jettison Darnold, the 2018 No. 3 overall pick, and start over in 2021 with another young QB. They are bad enough to win the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. Washington went through a regime change since picking Haskins No. 15 overall in 2019 and he, too, could be on his way out after an unproductive start.
I’ve become enamored in recent years with both the potential and cost associated with trading for a young QB with upside, even with Kirk Cousins on the roster.
Because the team that drafted the QB would be on the hook for much of the salary cap hit because the signing bonus money sticks to the trading team, each QB could be had for just $2-3 million dollars a year. Haskins has two years left (and a fifth-year option) beyond this season, while Darnold has one plus the option.
At worst, these young QBs would serve as functional backups. At best, they would develop into potential successors to Cousins if his production and that relationship go downhill.
The price for Darnold suggested by Barnwell (a second- and third-round pick) might be too much for a team like the Vikings, but the Haskins cost (a player plus a fourth-round pick) seems like a worthy pursuit. Plus he’s under team control for a year longer and is less expensive because he was a lower pick in the first round.
Maybe that’s the kind of move better suited for the offseason, but it’s also more fun to think about than a 1-4 record right now.