The Minnesota Vikings entered the offseason in a similar position they have been in during the past few offseasons, facing a tight budget, needing to cut costs. With that, we’ve seen long-time fan favorites move on, with both Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks landing elsewhere after being asked to take a pay cut.
Even with these cutbacks, the Vikings still don’t have much space to work with, but team insider Darren Wolfson recently noted the front office is working to clear cap space for an upcoming move. While this could range from even minor additions such as bringing in Troy Reeder, or extending C.J. Ham as they did on Thursday night, we have a feeling Wolfson is hinting at something a bit bigger.
Since it’s always fun to speculate, here are three moves the Vikings could be trying to clear some cap space for ahead of the draft.
Sign D.J. Chark to replace Adam Thielen
Even before the Vikings decided that Thielen’s $19 million cap hit was too rich for their blood, adding D.J. Chark to the roster always felt like a possibility. He has a personal connection with Minnesota’s widely-respected receivers coach Keenan McCardell from their time together with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where Chark enjoyed his lone Pro Bowl, 1,000-yard season.
It’s hard to imagine the two not wanting to reconnect. Who else holds a bigger belief in eachother than Chark, who had his best year under McCardell and for the coach, knowing what he can get out of the 6-foot-4 wideout.
- D.J. Chark’s stats last season: 30 receptions, 502 receiving yards, 3 TD
The receiver market started out fairly hot, with No. 2 receivers getting as much as $11 million per season. Chark is a bit more accomplished than most of the players who have already agreed to a new contract in free agency, yet most of the money has dried up. It’s hard to envision him getting a salary nearing $10 million for 2023.
In turn, he could see the opportunity available in Minnesota, where he’d have a chance to become the team’s third target in the passing offense behind Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson, yet competing with K.J. Osborn may not be ideal. Still, he knows he’d be joining a pass-heavy offense with a coach he can trust.
Sign Odell Beckham Jr. to pair with Justin Jefferson
Another familiar face, only this time it’s for head coach Kevin O’Connell from his Super Bowl run with the Los Angeles Rams, in which Odell Beckham Jr. may have been in position to win MVP before his ACL injury. Still unsigned, the Vikings at least have showed some level of interest in the three-time Pro Bowl receiver, by being one of 12 teams to show up for OBJ’s workout.
The biggest question seems to be how much teams are willing to offer Beckham, who’s now 30, and coming off his second ACL injury. Similarly to how Chark could find comfort in playing for his old coach, OBJ could find the same situation in Minnesota.
- Odell Beckham Jr. stats with Rams: 48 receptions, 593 receiving yards, 7 TD catches
What might make the Vikings an attractive landing spot for Beckham is the fact that he’d get to enjoy being the complementary piece to not only the best receiver in football, but also a Pro Bowl tight end with Hockenson. This is even better than what he got to work with in L.A., when OBJ benefited from not having defenses focused on his every move.
Just imagine how much extra space the former LSU star could enjoy in Minnesota’s offense, pairing up with Jefferson, who’s also a former Tiger himself, and these alumni love to stick together. If the Vikings don’t want to head into the draft with a strong need at the receiver position, a one-year stopgap such as Beckham could make a lot of sense, he might even become more of a long-term solution than we think.
Minnesota Vikings stun NFL world with Lamar Jackson trade
The ultimate swing-for-the-fences move for the Minnesota Vikings organization would be going all-in for a Lamar Jackson trade. Of course, this would come with tons of complications.
If the Vikings decided they wanted to make a true push for Jackson, they’d have to sign him to an offer sheet, which the Baltimore Ravens have the power to match. The biggest problem may be, A), that the Ravens will likely not want to part with the 2019 NFL MVP, and B), the message it sends to Kirk Cousins if/when the Ravens inevitably match the offer.
Any team that decides it wants to sign Jackson to an offer has to proceed with caution. The Vikings are in the unique position of having an above-average, established starter, yet they have yet to commit to Cousins past this upcoming season, meaning a long-term solution is needed soon.
At some point, the 35-year-old (in August) Cousins won’t be able to play at the level he is now. Meanwhile, Jackson is still just 26, already has an MVP trophy to his name and is one of the best ten players in the entire league. Any team in Minnesota’s position would be foolish not to look into the idea, but only if they actually feel bringing Jackson to town is a strong possibility instead of a pipe dream.
Even though the Vikings hold just five draft picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, there won’t be a single player available in the talent pool who is guaranteed to be as good, or better than Jackson. From a team-building standpoint, when it comes to having the franchise’s first Super Bowl in it’s eyesight, maybe a trade for Jackson is what they’re missing in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.