After a terrible start to the 2020 season the Vikings have quickly pulled the plug one of their worst decisions of the 2020, a trade of a 2nd and 5th round draft pick for defensive end Yannick Ngakoue by trading Ngakoue to the Ravens for a 3rd and 5th round draft pick. Obviously many will pan the move by Minnesota who will have spent $6.82 million for 6 games of Ngakoue, but for a team going nowhere it is a move that really had to be made to fix the original mistake of trading for him.
The problem with the original trade, from my perspective, was not really the cost but the expected benefit. Minnesota needed to use the 2020 season to kind of get their salary cap in order for the future but wound up making a few bad decisions along the way and this was the most glaring one. From the Vikings perspective I am sure that they saw this as a great opportunity to get a discount on a potential top end pass rusher to replace injured defensive end Danielle Hunter, but the Vikings were not one or two players away from a championship. This should have been a reset year for them, especially following the Diggs trade, but between using a franchise tag on their safety, extending a running back and this trade it was anything but.
By moving Ngakoue the team will shed $5.18 million in salary and at least come recover some of what they gave up to acquire him. Given that the Ravens are a good football team the drop in draft selection will wind up being close to two rounds, but better that than nothing at all. The Vikings should now have 11 draft selections next year to find a way to return to respectability.
I am not sure how much harm this offseason created within the locker room of Minnesota. They pushed tackle Riley Reiff into a large pay cut to make this move happen and while Reiff was always a pay cut candidate there is a big difference between doing the move in March versus the way it went down. In addition they could not come to terms with Anthony Harris and traded Stefon Diggs during the offseason Reportedly Hunter is now looking to become the highest paid defensive player in the NFL and that is a lot to ask considering he is coming off what sounds to be a major neck injury and has three years remaining on his contract.
The Vikings do have some parts that they could move if they go into a wheeling and dealing mode. Reiff would be a good target for any team with injuries on the line and Harris might also be a good piece for a playoff team.
Ultimately this is likely going to be an offseason for Minnesota to forget. They had done, in my opinion, a very good job in building a team that was to compete between 2018 and 2020. I thought that they saw the peak in 2019 and realized it would not be good enough so they began to make hard decisions about 2020 to better position themselves for 2021 to 2023. But they seemed to waver between a short term and long term focus and have ended up in a bad situation with a failing team with an expensive failing QB. Now they will have to continue to make some tough decisions in 2021 with this current roster concerning who should stay and who should go, when it should have mainly be solved in 2020.
The other possible loser in this may be Ngakoue though he will now get a chance to shine on a playoff team. Ngakoue took a $5 million+ pay cut to be traded out of Jacksonville and did not receive any concessions about trades or franchise tags. While he still is a productive pass rusher I lean toward people looking at his quick run in Minnesota as forgettable. If he does not stand out in Baltimore that will be too many different teams in a short period of time and it could hurt his eventual free agent prospects. If, however, he has a major part in a playoff run he could really be positioned well.
Baltimore winds up the winner here. They get a pass rusher for the important part of the year with the Vikings picking up most of the cost. They have the right to tag him next year if they want and if they want to let him walk will likely be in a position to receive a compensatory pick of a 3rd rounders back in 2021. If you were an AFC contender it would have been worth considering this trade just to block the Ravens from making it.
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Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.