It has been reported by Albert Breer of SI.com that the Vikings have put Laquon Treadwell on the trading block, which really shouldn’t be surprising at this point. Per multiple reports, including our own Eric Thompson, he appears disinterested in practices, buried on the depth chart, and at this point a change of scenery appears in order for both the Vikings and Treadwell. Whether that happens remains to be seen, but if no trade happens, it could mean the Vikings will release Treadwell when rosters have to be cut down from 90 to 53 players.
But to me, that’s not the big story in all of this.
No, it’s not that Treadwell is a bust, either. Well, it is part of the story, but that happens to a lot of first round picks, on every team, every year. Don’t get me wrong, it sucks, but the inability of Treadwell to develop into at least a dependable WR3 has really put the Vikings offense in a bind.
After Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, the Vikings WR corps is untested, unproven, and so far, unreliable, and this latest development really shines a light on this group. Let’s take a look at Treadwell and the rest of the receivers on the roster, and see what we find:
So, that’s 21 catches, 271 yards, and two TD’s by receivers not named Diggs, Thielen, or Treadwell. Treadwell has more than double the catches and yards than all the other Vikings receivers combined, yet the chances of him being on the final 53 man roster appear very slim right now.
Woof. What a damning indictment, both on the player and the organization.
Assuming Treadwell is either traded or released, the Vikings will enter the season with a group of guys that have virtually zero experience on the back end of the depth chart. Now, it’s more than possible that WR3 (and WR4?) aren’t even on the roster yet, as Minnesota could look to sign a free agent or two. But let’s look at past moves the Vikings made on the assumption that Treadwell would develop, and that will help us understand where we are today.
At the end of the 2017 season, the Vikings let Jarius Wright leave via free agency. Look, at the time, it seemed reasonable that Treadwell was figuring out the NFL, as he had more receptions and yards than Wright did, and he was younger. And when you look at last season, Treadwell had career highs in receptions, yards, and scored his first NFL touchdown.
Which, in theory, made the decision to not pursue WR Aldrick Robinson at the end of last year sensible. Well, that and the fact that the Vikings were only about eight bucks under the salary cap at the time. They just didn’t have the money to keep Robinson back then, and he eventually signed a one year deal with Carolina.
Oh hey, speaking of the salary cap, the Vikings now find themselves with over $5 million in cap space, per Over The Cap. Why is that a big deal? Because now the Vikings have plenty of room to sign a free agent that is either currently unsigned, or a guy that might get cut from one of the other 31 teams. That almost seems like a certainty at this point, but that’s just me. This flexibility also means the Vikes won’t have to keep Treadwell just because of his salary. Releasing him puts $2.5 million of dead money on the cap, but they gain over $600,000, so they can let him go and still have room to sign his replacement if they choose to do so.
Still, all is not lost with the receivers. At the top of the depth chart is the best WR combo in the NFL in Diggs and Thielen. Yet in some respects, the Vikings are very fortunate there, too. Diggs was a fifth round pick, and Thielen, as we’ve all heard about a bazillion times, was an undrafted free agent. The odds of one of them panning out was pretty slim, much less both. So to say it would happen again with one of the current players on the depth chart just seems like it’s going to that well once too often.
To further bolster the receiving corps, the Vikings drafted Irv Smith, Jr. in the second round of the draft. I believe he is a legit defacto WR3 option this season, although he’s actually a tight end. Was Smith drafted because the Vikings were unsure of Treadwell? I don’t think so, as Smith was a heck of a pick in his own right, regardless of the WR situation. But, is it fair to assume that the Vikings were already planning on a post-Treadwell roster this year, and the Smith Jr. pick was a step in that direction? In the short term, yeah, I think so. Smith is the heir apparent at TE, but his athletic ability gives the Vikings a lot of options, and they’re going to use him as a third receiver a lot in their ‘12’, or two tight end packages.
If a team trades for Treadwell, what could the Vikings get in return? Well, Optimistic Ted would like to think that they could recoup the fifth round pick they gave up for Kaare Vedvik, but Pessimistic Ted feels that might be too high, and a 6th or 7th might be the best the Vikes could hope for. Realistic Ted feels that most teams will wait until cut down day, though, and whoever wants him will sign him without giving up any compensation at all.
Snarky Ted feels that if the Vikings called the Giants, Giants GM Dave Gettleman would give the Vikings a one, a two, and a future three for him.
Laquon Treadwell is a case study in what happens when a first round pick doesn’t pan out. We saw it with Cordarrelle Patterson, Matt Kalil, and Teddy Bridgewater, too, among others. It puts the team in a bind, leaves a hole in the roster the organization chases to fill for several years, and when it comes time to move the player, the Vikings end up getting little or nothing in return.
I’m still excited to watch Thielen and Diggs, because I think they’re going to have monstrous years.
Just stay healthy, okay?