The Minnesota Vikings have clawed their way back to relevancy and to buyer status ahead of the NFL trade deadline.
After upending the San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota’s chances of making the playoffs leaped above 50% for the first time in several weeks, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI). The jump coincides with the October 31 deadline and changes the calculus on how the Vikings should operate over the next week.
It also necessitates an examination of where the Vikings can get the most bang for their buck on a roster that remains full of holes. While offensive line depth and a bonafide No. 1 running back is needed, some help for Danielle Hunter off the edge will allow Minnesota to maximize the production of its best defensive player.
Dianna Russini of The Athletic reported last Sunday that the Washington Commanders are making and taking calls on defensive linemen Chase Young and Montez Sweat.
“Both have contracts expiring after the season and could be on the trade block. I was told Washington has made calls to take the temperature of the market but is staying patient now, and that the next two weeks of play will shape the decision on their futures,” Russini wrote. “The sense I get out of Washington is one of them will be on the move if Washington can get the proper compensation.”
Chase Young is Among the Best Defensive Linemen on the Trade Block
Young and Sweat are both viable candidates to contribute in Minnesota, though Young is three years Sweat’s junior and has played one fewer NFL season.
Washington drafted Young No. 2 overall in 2020 and the defensive end is playing in the final season of his four-year, $35 million rookie deal. The Commanders had the opportunity to exercise a fifth-year team option on Young’s contract last offseason because of his status as a former first-round pick but chose not to do so.
The reasoning behind Washington’s decision to allow Young to potentially hit free agency next March is two-fold. Young has battled injury, playing just 12 games across the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Those issues followed a rookie campaign in which Young made the Pro Bowl and earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Washington’s second reason for not picking up Young’s option exists in the same position group. The Commanders have built a stellar defensive line over the past several years, which has resulted in several big paydays coming due.
Chase Young’s Resurgent Season Means He Will Cost Vikings More in Trade
Young is in the midst of a resurgent season in 2023, amassing 18 pressures, 9 QB hits, and 5 sacks through six games, per Pro Football Reference. His play will allow for the Commanders to sell high ahead of the deadline, which means a 2024 second-round pick is definitely in play, if not more.
The Vikings control their own second-round selection next year and could put it on the table if necessary to acquire the 24-year-old Young. The Commanders are in a position to demand that pick, and potentially more because they still hold the trump card of keeping Young and using the franchise tag to lock him in through 2024.
The argument for Minnesota to part with a major draft asset for Young, beyond his own production, is how much easier Young will make game day for Hunter. Through seven contests, Hunter is leading the NFL in both tackles for loss (12) and sacks (9).
But despite those results, there is a minor flaw in Hunter’s process. Hunter’s pressures are coming a little more slowly than those of players considered to reside at the top of the position across the league, such as Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns and T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Young’s presence should offer Hunter more freedom and reduce double-teams from opposing offensive lines, driving up production from both edges of the defense and helping the Vikings compete for a playoff spot in a top-heavy NFC.