Well, here we are at 1-4, in a season that feels all but lost.
Sunday’s game at Chicago will be a real turning point in this season as the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears fight to stay even remotely relevant in what has been a largely disappointing season for both franchises.
The Bears’ first few weeks of the season were about as bad as any team could hope to start a season. The Bears’ first two losses were fairly pedestrian affairs, losing at home to Green Bay (20-38) and Tampa Bay (17-27). No one had high expectations for this team, and these were pretty expected losses.
Then, everything blew up. The Bears were decidedly routed (10-41) at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City while becoming the butt of every joke on the national stage regarding one Travis Kielce and his significant other. It was a brutal dismantling, and everyone saw it.
They then lost in heartbreaking fashion to a terrible Broncos team (28-31), who was fresh off what will be this season’s largest blowout loss (20-70 @ Miami).
The explosion of suck was finally extinguished in a feel-good 40-20 victory @ Washington. Watching that game felt like watching a little kid finally fight back against a bully.
Where the Bears’ version of suck was the continuation of a nosedive of epic proportions, the Vikings misery strikes me as Tom the cat fighting fruitlessly against Jerry the mouse. The thing that has doomed this Vikings squad, like Tom, is usually themselves.
That’s essentially how we’re here, in a contest of the top laughing stocks of the NFC. It is hard to think that great football will be played in this one.
Last week the well-respected Football Analysis YouTube page (the creator of which is also a Vikings fan), released a video in which he went in on the Vikings and their need to deconstruct “NOW”, and who would be ideal candidates for departure.
Kirk Cousins, QB
At this point, Kirk’s departure is not an “if” but a “when”. He’s been with the Vikings since 2018, has made the playoffs twice and won only one game in three post-season contests, despite putting up a very good statistical profile (many will point to the receiving talent at his disposal, and they kind of have a point).
God love the guy, but if it hasn’t happened by now it looks very unlikely with the myriad of foundational problems this franchise is currently facing. He’s 35, in the last year of his contract, and will be looking to command a decent salary wherever he ends up going due to those aforementioned stats.
The most likely outcome here is that Cousins will play out this season and then walk. The more games the Vikings play with him under center, the more likely this becomes. His no-trade clause also looms large... He holds all the cards in any trade scenario, and likely would not go to anyone but a contender or at the very least a fringe playoff team with a good receiver.
Vikings QB Kirk Cousins was asked if he'd waive his no-trade clause…— SleeperNFL (@SleeperNFL) October 11, 2023
“I’m just very focused on the Bears and going 1-0 this week.”
A trade is exactly what the Vikings faithful want right now. The option for our team to cut their losses and get something for the guy would be equivalent to pushing the theoretical Big Red Button on this season and going all in for a high pick. The Vikings have not given these fans anything to dissuade them from that belief.
He doesn’t make for a great addition to any team that is not going through an extreme QB injury situation, which is why the NY Jets have been mentioned so frequently. To a lesser extent the Pittsburgh Steelers have also been mentioned, but not through injury concerns.
For the Jets, with each week that goes by, Zach Wilson continues to slowly prove himself more and more capable. This is decreasing the likelihood of that move, or frankly any move. I can’t see another team that is currently desperate for a good but aging quarterback, and certainly not a team close to contending or worth waiving the no-trade clause to Kirk and moving the comfortable life he has here in Minnesota.
The Vikings, in almost every possible scenario, will not be able to pay for him and Justin Jefferson next off-season. We all know who takes priority there.
Danielle Hunter, OLB/DE
Danielle Hunter is likely the most attractive piece of trade bait the Vikings have.
He’s been solid this year with 6 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble, and is also not under contract next season.
Like Cousins, if Hunter is going to go, now is the time for it to happen so the Vikings can get something, anything back for any sort of rebuild (“competitive” or not). Whatever would be left on his 1-year/$17 million contract would not be the worst possible deal for one of the better pass rushers in the game.
Danielle Hunter pinning Jawaan Taylor's arm in place so he can't move while getting up field for a pressure in one motion is a thing of art pic.twitter.com/rARILScZp4— Football Analysis (@FBallAnalysisYT) October 13, 2023
Also similar to Cousins, the Vikings’ best trade partner will be if someone needs a top-tier pass rusher and they need one now, likely through any possible significant injury or a close-to-contender looking to sell out in hopes of a playoff push.
With the return of Marcus Davenport, the Vikings would have at least one solid pass rush specialist if Hunter were to go. It’s a very “meh” idea (going on without Hunter) but it has been a pretty “meh” season. Pat Jones II would likely have to slot in.
TJ Hockenson is not going anywhere, despite the fact that he is not producing... The Vikings simply have invested in him too much and too recently to do something so impulsive as a trade. His contract is really becoming quite a big problem for this team given his current level of production, which is also not attractive to any prospective suitor.
Hockenson is also suffering from the kind of gaffes and drops that do not look attractive to other teams. Josh Oliver is also guilty of this, but is doing so less and at a fraction of the price. Besides that horrible game-opening fumble against Kansas City, Oliver has been decent enough for the Vikings with 1 TD, 4 first downs, 8 receptions, and 64 yards on 10 targets. He’s been making the most of playing second fiddle.
Oliver also has a trade-friendly contract that ends in 2026 and carries a $7 mil/year average salary. For any team looking to turn Oliver into a high-level TE, that seems pretty worth any assessed risk given the relative promise he has shown in a limited role. Oliver also has some decent chops when it comes to blocking.
Who did I miss? Let us know in the comments.