Vikings $34.1 Million Target Predicted to be Traded in NFL Draft

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Vikings

Getty General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings are on the hunt for a new signal-caller to replace Kirk Cousins in 2024 and they may land that player during the NFL Draft — one way or another.

Traditionally the way to secure a player in the midst of the draft is by actually drafting him, but that’s not the only option. In this case, Minnesota could look to make a draft-day (or draft-weekend) trade for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance who has already been in the NFL for two years.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported on April 19 that Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah engaged in discussions with the Niners about Lance during the NFL Combine at the beginning of March. On the same day Florio reported that the Vikings and Niners had discussed Lance, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that San Francisco was fielding calls about the QB’s availability.

Not much else has been reported around the Vikings and Niners doing a deal for Lance, though the timing of the reports from Florio and Rapoport just eight days prior to the draft offers strong evidence that at least one side is trying to get the ball rolling.

If the Vikings decide not to move on Lance prior to or during the draft, the franchise could miss out on the opportunity to pursue him entirely. Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report on Monday, April 24, listed Lance as among five players who are “likely to be traded” during draft weekend, meaning the time may be fast approaching for the Vikings to take their shot or move on to another option.

Circumstance Cost Trey Lance Shot at Franchise QB Position With 49ers

Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

GettyQuarterback Trey Lance of the San Francisco 49ers scrambles with the football during a game against the Arizona Cardinals in October 2021.

Lance, who will turn 23 years old in May, has played just two seasons in the NFL. He was a situational quarterback during his rookie campaign, playing in six games and starting two of those while backing up Niners starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

He took the reins as the starter to kick off the 2022 campaign, a move that made sense after San Francisco traded up nine spots from No. 12 to No. 3 in 2020 to select Lance, giving up two first-round selections and a third-round pick in the process. However, bad injury luck struck in Week 2 as Lance broke his ankle, which required a season-ending surgery.

In the meantime, seventh-round rookie QB Brock Purdy rose to prominence after Garoppolo went down with an injury of his own. Purdy led the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game and appears to have secured his position as the franchise’s starter moving forward.

“It’s tricky to gauge Lance’s trade value,” Ballentine wrote. “He hasn’t started and played two full back-to-back games since 2019, when he was a redshirt freshman at North Dakota State.”

“Purdy underwent surgery on his elbow in early March, but it’s unclear when he’ll be cleared to return to play,” Ballentine continued. “The Niners signed Sam Darnold, the No. 3 pick of the 2018 NFL draft, as a hedge against Purdy’s health and a potential Lance trade. If San Francisco wants an earlier pick, it may have to trade Lance and roll with Darnold under center until Purdy comes back.”

Trey Lance Offers Vikings Value Play at Quarterback

San Francisco 49ers, Trey Lance

GettyThe San Francisco 49ers are fielding calls about quarterback Trey Lance.

Lance makes a ton of sense for the Vikings, as his is the classic situation of an elite talent who can be procured at value.

There is not a lot of evidence that Lance can be great, but there’s almost zero evidence that he can’t. A dual-threat quarterback with minimal collegiate experience, Lance was always going to be a test case in how an unteachable skill set can be molded by coaching into a successful NFL quarterback. That’s what last year was supposed to be all about for Lance under guru head coach Kyle Shanahan, but then the injury happened.

Lance’s evolution under center would have been the top storyline in the Bay Area in 2023 had Purdy not burst onto the scene out of essentially nowhere as a third-string quarterback who led a dominant team to a 7-1 record and the brink of the Super Bowl.

Events completely out of anyone’s control and unable to be foreseen have transpired to apparently end Lance’s tenure in San Francisco before it ever got the chance to properly begin. That said, he’s a former No. 3 overall pick and the Niners brass, which is respected throughout the NFL, saw fit to mortgage two future drafts to move up just nine spots and select him.

Lance no longer carries that kind of value due to his circumstances since entering the NFL, but that doesn’t mean the talent that earned him that value in the first place is at all diminished. He is currently playing on a four-year rookie contract worth $34.1 million, a much better price than the Vikings could have gotten on any free agent quarterback this offseason, including the aforementioned Garoppolo and former Las Vegas Raiders signal-caller Derek Carr.

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell on April 19 pitched a three-team trade between the Vikings, 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles, which he said values Lance at approximately the “39th overall pick in a typical draft.” In Barnwell’s scenario, the Vikings would surrender the No. 23 overall pick and backup QB Nick Mullens, while getting back Lance as well as a third-round pick and a sixth-round pick in this week’s draft.

In this scenario, the Vikings procure an elite talent at the quarterback position on a reasonable contract for the next two or three seasons. Lance will be allowed a year to learn the Vikings’ system under head coach Kevin O’Connell, who has a playing history as an NFL quarterback and a coaching history as a Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator. The Vikings will run out Cousins for the 2023 season, after which his contract ends and the two sides can part ways.

Lance represents one of the best values, if not the very best, the Vikings can find under center. The team’s other options are to mortgage this year’s draft to move up and make a play for Anthony Richardson or Will Levis, both of whom are great prospects but carry their own sets of risks. Otherwise, Minnesota can hold fast at No. 23 and draft the best quarterback remaining on the board.

In either case, the contract offered to whichever QB the Vikings ultimately draft in those hypotheticals would be substantial and essentially on-par with Lance’s deal. However, Minnesota has less information on any player it could draft than it does on Lance.

Lance also offers more flexibility than rookie quarterbacks, as the Vikings can move on from him in two or three seasons if he doesn’t work out, depending on whether they exercise his fifth-year option should he land in Minnesota via a trade.

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