The Minnesota Vikings are attempting to solve the riddle of the NFL’s most vexing and crucial question by finding a sustainable answer at quarterback.
To do so, the team will have get creative or get ready to spend big in draft capital and on the balance sheet. The latter solution involves orchestrating a trade for the likes of Lamar Jackson or dealing for a top-10 pick in order to pursue a prospect like Will Levis. The former is about searching for value that might cost, but won’t break the bank.
Such specific value is often found across sports in high draft picks who didn’t work out at their first stops because of injury, a lack of fit or some other issue that is potentially fixable with a fresh start. Trey Lance of the San Francisco 49ers looks like he could be that player for the Vikings this offseason after a set of unfortunate and unforeseeable events forced him into what is likely a backup role, if not a third-string position, in 2023.
Trade For Lance Likely to Cost Vikings 2023 First-Round Pick
The Niners won’t be giving Lance away after trading two firsts and a third to move up nine spots and select the now 22-year-old at No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. But if the Vikings come with an offer of their first-round pick this year (No. 23) and the willingness to possibly include a sixth-rounder in this draft or the next, the Niners would be foolish not to listen.
Ari Meirov of 33rd Team on Monday, March 27, listed Lance as one of his “under-the-radar players” who could end up traded to a new team before the offseason is out.
“The San Francisco 49ers love what they saw out of Brock Purdy last season, and there are plenty of people around the league who think he is 100 percent their starting quarterback once fully healthy,” Meirov wrote.
“San Francisco signed Sam Darnold in free agency to a one-year, $4.5 million deal that could be worth as much as $11 million with incentives,” Meirov continued. “Some have wondered what that means for Trey Lance, who is nearing a full recovery from a broken ankle suffered in Week 2 last season. For now, it’s all speculation, but there are people who don’t think Darnold signed there to eventually be QB3 on the roster.”
Niners general manager John Lynch was complimentary of Lance during a recent interview, but stopped well short of slamming the door on the possibility that the team might move on from the quarterback after just two seasons.
“We like Trey on our team right now,” Lynch said, per a Meirov article published Thursday. “We always joke, Kyle [Shanahan] and I, we’d trade each other if someone gave us a good enough deal. So we listen to everything, but we like Trey on our team, and we are very excited about the way he is progressing about his opportunity.”
Kirk Cousins May Have Limited Time Left With Vikings
Like Lynch did with Lance, Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has been saying the right things about his quarterback, Kirk Cousins. But there’s a different story being told between the lines.
Cousins came to the Vikings a little over a week ago with a proposal that included a three-year deal at an unspecified, but “discounted” rate. If the new regime in Minnesota believed it could win at the highest level with Cousins under center the team would have agreed to the deal, even despite the quarterback turning 35 this year. However, the Vikings rejected the terms, presumably due to the length of the contract included in the proposal.
It remains unclear if the team has any intention of putting pen to paper on another deal with Cousins, even a one-year extension. The Vikings have found themselves mired in the NFL’s “above average” category for a half-decade with Cousins at the helm, unable to move meaningfully in either direction toward winning a Super Bowl or gaining a top-five draft pick.
Lance is the equivalent of a top-five pick for the price of a low first-rounder. He does come with a few red splotches on his resumé, but is far from a player on whom it is time to give up. Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell is a former quarterback with a background as an offensive coordinator and can help Lance develop for a season behind Cousins.
The solution isn’t perfect, but it’s less risky and less expensive than trading into the top-10 for a rookie replacement or dealing with the Baltimore Ravens for the right to pay Jackson as much, or more, than perhaps any current NFL quarterback. It keeps the Vikings competitive in 2023, while also allowing them to keep one eye fixed on the future.
Dealing for Lance is a compromise, to be sure, but it’s the best compromise Minnesota can make less than one month before draft day.