The Vikings have been low-key active on the first day of the soft opening of free agency, aka the legal tampering period. The past few days have mainly been about shedding salary cap space by releasing Eric Kendricks and Adam Thielen and cutting pay for a few other players. Talk continues about cutting Harrison Smith’s contract, potentially trading Dalvin Cook, among other things. Certainly this makes sense as the Vikings remain over the salary cap limit and need to under it by Wednesday.
The only additions so far has been TE Josh Oliver, formerly with the Ravens, who was the best blocking TE in the league last season. And, more significantly, ED Marcus Davenport to a one-year deal.
It would seem that with limited salary cap space, the Vikings may not be too active in free agency this year. But that hasn’t always precluded deals getting done in the past, even big deals. And there is one big deal out there that has been pretty quiet so far: Lamar Jackson.
Why Kwesi Adofo-Mensah May Make an Offer for Lamar Jackson
Earlier this off-season, it was reported that the Vikings were not interested in another one-year extension for Kirk Cousins. They wanted some medium-term clarity at the quarterback position, so it was either going to be a multi-year deal or no extension. Since that time, it’s been reported that there have been some extension talks between Kirk Cousins and the Vikings, but nothing is imminent, and they may be in-limbo. Darren Wolfson reported today that Kirk appeared a couple weeks ago at a Spire CU event and seemed unsettled and uncertain when the conversation turned to the football business. It may be nothing, but expected roster changes were something Kirk touched on at his end of season press conference, mentioning Garrett Bradbury and a few others. Kirk is close with Bradbury, and with Adam Thielen, neither of whom are with the team now. CJ Ham is another who could be cut.
Okay, all this innuendo doesn’t mean the Vikings are preparing to deal Cousins (who has a no-trade clause) but if the Vikings are prepared to have Cousins play out his contract, why not trade him? That would make more sense, as the best they could get otherwise is a late 3rd round compensatory pick in 2025 if they let him play out his deal.
It would at least make sense for Kwesi to explore the idea of trading Kirk if they’re not committed to him beyond this season. The QB merry-go-round has been proceeding apace, except where Aaron Rodgers is concerned, so some potential trading partners for Cousins- like the 49ers- are probably off the table now.
Which brings us to Lamar Jackson.
There are reports that teams are interested in Lamar Jackson, but due to his non-franchise tag status cannot do anything about it officially until Wednesday. Apparently, the legal no tampering period doesn’t apply to franchise tagged players. In any case, the Ravens are in a bit of a quandary with Jackson. They haven’t been able to agree on a long-term deal- or even get all that close. They put the non-exclusive franchise tag on him, which would allow them to either match any offer for Jackson or accept two first-round picks as compensation. In the meantime, Jackson is under contract for $32 million under that franchise tag.
The problem for the Ravens- who are hoping at least one team makes an offer for Jackson which they can match- is that teams aren’t interested in making a big offer for Jackson and parting with two first-round picks. In part because they don’t want to be in-limbo for the five days the Ravens have to match the offer or not. They’d rather make a trade offer that offers more immediate certainty. And for the Ravens, if they don’t agree to a trade offer, and get no offers via the non-exclusive franchise tag, they have a problem. Yes, they have Jackson under contract for $32 million in 2023, but there are reports that Jackson won’t play for that amount and may sit out the season instead.
Enter Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.
As a second-year GM that may not have had a lot of time or opportunities to make a big splash his first off-season as GM, but potentially wanting to make his mark, trading for a superstar quarterback would certainly have a significant impact. His old boss and mentor, Andrew Berry, certainly made one last season.
The Ravens are an organization that is in the habit of making team-friendly deals. Lamar Jackson is proving a difficult customer in that regard (he represents himself) as he’s not budging from wanting a fully guaranteed contract. The Ravens have refused. It may be that the Ravens feel that unless they get a team to bite on the non-exclusive franchise tag, and match that offer, things aren’t going to work out with Lamar Jackson. In which case they’re better off trading him.
Kwesi could approach the Ravens with an offer that includes Cousins, Za’Darius Smith (who the Ravens thought they had acquired last season until they didn’t), and some amount of draft compensation. Assuming Cousins would okay the deal and the Vikings could sign Jackson to a long-term deal, Kwesi would have his championship caliber quarterback for the next decade.
Of course such a deal could fall through for any number of reasons, but if the Vikings are not able/unwilling to sign Kirk Cousins to an extension, then taking a shot at a potential upgrade and long-term solution at quarterback makes sense. What wouldn’t make sense is for Kwesi to ignore the big fish at quarterback in free agency this off-season when he could be in the market for just that.
We’ll have to wait and see how things play out, and I doubt the Vikings would want any leaks on such a deal unless it’s actually done, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Kwesi was exploring such a deal either.
Should the Vikings explore a deal for Lamar Jackson?
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Waste of time