Vikings Top Trade Candidate For $15 Million Deep Threat, 1st-Round Pick

Kirk Cousins, Vikings

Getty Quarterback Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates on the field after defeating the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 17, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Vikings are still hunting for a second wide receiver to pair alongside All-Pro Justin Jefferson.

The team was casually engaged in talks with Mecole Hardman until the former Kansas City Chiefs pass-catcher signed with the New York Jets on Wednesday, March 22. Now back to the drawing board as a once-weak wideout free agent class grows ever more depleted, the time has come for the Vikings to look to the trade market for a solution at the position.

One well-known entity on the market is Jerry Jeudy of the Denver Broncos, who are openly shopping both Jeudy and teammate in the receiver room Courtland Sutton. Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus on Wednesday named the Vikings among the top trade destinations for Jeudy.

“Jeudy has been an elite separator in the NFL, excelling against man coverage, but has yet to fully realize his potential within a struggling offense,” Monson wrote. “He may be limited to a No. 2 type of role in the NFL, but he can be an exceptionally effective receiver as part of a receiving corps in a more functional passing offense. Several teams would love to have him as a complement to their already established No. 1 option.”

Jeudy Perfect Fit With Vikings, But Price May Not be Right

GettyDenver Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy runs past Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Ja’Sir Taylor during an NFL game.

The Vikings were interested in Hardman for his speed, something Jeudy offers in droves. Minnesota was second in the NFL in passing yards gained in 2022, per StatMuse, compared to Denver’s ranking of 15th. Kirk Cousins was a Pro-Bowler while Russell Wilson looked hapless, and offensive-minded head coach Kevin O’Connell took the Vikings to the playoffs and an NFC North Division title while Nathaniel Hackett was fired before his first regular season in Denver had even ended.

All that is to say that the match between Jeudy and the Vikings is there, to say nothing of the fact that he would be playing alongside arguably the league’s best receiver in Jefferson. The issue at hand is cost.

On March 14, The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider ball parked the asking price for Jeudy somewhere between a first-round pick and two second-rounders.

Jeudy would be Denver’s highest-value asset in a trade, but would he fetch a first-round pick? Two second-rounders?

Jeudy is due to count $4.83 million against the salary cap in 2023, the fourth year of his rookie deal. The Broncos, or any team that was to acquire Jeudy in a trade, would also have until May 1 to pick up the fifth-year option on Jeudy’s contract, which would come with a fully-guaranteed salary of roughly $12.7 million in 2024.

If Jeudy’s closing stretch to last season was an indication of an upward trajectory, both of those figures could be bargains. It’s why the return would need to be significant.

Vikings Must Acquire 2nd-Round Pick to Trade For Jeudy

Justin Jefferson

GettyWide receiver Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates after scoring a touchdown during a game against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 17, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Despite what is a rational argument from the Broncos’ perspective, a first-round pick is a stretch for Jeudy. The 23-year-old wideout was the No. 15 overall selection in 2020, but he has yet to perform up to his draft position. Jeudy made 67 catches for 972 yards and six touchdowns last season, all career-highs, but still fell well shy statistically of the status of a legitimate No. 1 target for a competitive NFL team.

Two second-rounders is arguably a more valuable package than one first-round pick, depending on where the seconds fall. The Vikings own the No. 23 overall pick in this year’s draft and don’t select again until No. 87 in round three. The team will pick just five times across all seven rounds, as things currently stand.

Jeudy isn’t worth the Vikings’ first-round pick, and the third-rounder isn’t going to get a deal done. Denver’s new head coach Sean Payton is going to be looking for immediate assets to help his quarterback return to Pro-Bowl form, meaning a 2024 pick is extremely unlikely to satisfy the Broncos as the centerpiece of any Jeudy trade.

If Minnesota can get creative and pick up a high second-round choice through another deal and package that with a Day 2 selection in 2024, then the Jeudy match makes a ton of sense. If the Vikings can’t, it is hard to see how a deal gets done.

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