Friday Mailbag: Free agents to bring back?
Vikings fans are talking QBs and want to know who's returning and who's leaving
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By Matthew Coller
Happy Friday everyone! This will be the first week since August that we haven’t had football and that is terrible but that doesn’t mean we are short on things to discuss with the Vikings offseason so let’s go….
Kip… Hello Matt, love the podcast as always Pie Chart 1) Trading Up. 2) Staying Put 3) Trading Back. 4). Trading out of 1st Round cause Chaos happens
Thanks Kip. I’m assuming your pie chart is based on a scenario where Cousins isn’t the QB? I’ll go with 20% trading up, 40% staying put, 35% trading back 4) 5% trading out of the first round.
I’m having a tough time figuring out how they would muster enough draft capital to trade up with the QB-needy teams at the top. The only hope they have is that one of the top three (Chicago, Washington, New England) isn’t sold on Jayden Daniels. The Cardinals and Chargers both have QBs and should be willing to deal to the highest bidder if there is a QB on the board. Would either of them move all the way back to 11 though? That’s tough. It feels like we have to bank on the idea that either Nix, Penix Jr. or McCarthy have the Vikings’ attention. Is this where I mention that winning those two Josh Dobbs games took them out of contention for a top QB or is that too much salt in the wound?
Matt L… Can you hold an intervention with all the Viking beat writers next training camp that they don’t have to tweet every time Kyle Hamilton does something positive? A) The difference in WAR between him and Metellus (at the safety position no less) has to be about as minuscule as it gets and B) every team could literally do this “should have picked him instead” exercise for pretty much every season for rest of time. I will even add the disclaimer i hated the trade at the time and did really want Hamilton, but more egregious I thought was the value - moving back from 12 to 32 in addition from 46 to 66 for 34 seemed way too light. That being said time to move on!!
The funny thing about the whole “COULDA DRAFTED THAT GUY!” bit with Hamilton is that the other guys taken in that area in 2022 have not done a thing to change their franchises. Jameson Williams has some juice and could end up being really good next year for Detroit but he wasn’t an impact player for the vast majority of the season and Jordan Davis played 519 snaps and graded a 70.5 — so he was basically an average year from Harrison Phillips.
My stance on the 2022 draft class has always been a little ironic. I did not like the approach on draft night because picking a safety there simply made no sense to me. It’s one of the easiest positions to replace and one that’s very reliant on scheme fit. At the same time, this happens to literally every team. If it had worked out the Vikings’ secondary would be in awesome shape right now. The only reason for the obsession is that it was KAM’s first and included a trade down that some people questioned (including me).
Each time the ‘22 draft comes up, I’ll include another example of other GMs having the same thing happen. For this week, how about the genius Chiefs? Well… look at these three drafts before their home runs in 2021 and 2022 (woof!)…
ThePurplePlague… I’m hopeful that they draft best player available at 11, or trade down to get more picks. I’m actually starting to warm to the idea of getting a DE or DT with the first pick, and having the second pick be QB, knowing that they could sit a year behind bridge QB X. Question: why does everyone think Baker Mayfield is going to leave the Bucs?
If there isn’t a first-round QB, fine. I guess that’s what they’ll have to do. But the difference between first and second round QBs historically is significant. In 2014 Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo were both second-round hits but since then the second-rounders taken are: Christian Hackenberg, DeShone Kizer, Drew Lock, Jalen Hurts, Kyle Trask, Will Levis. Not particularly inspiring. Even if we try to expand back in history, we’re talking Brock Osweiler, Colin Kaepernick, Jimmy Clausen, Pat White, Kevin Kolb, John Beck, Drew Stanton, Kellen Clemens, Tarvaris Jackson.
It sounds good in theory but in practice it has rarely been successful.
To your point about Baker, his offensive coordinator left and his WR1 is probably going to leave and maybe even Antoine Winfield Jr. too and their cap is not in great shape. Baker should go hunting for a situation where he can put together another really good year and prove that it wasn’t a one-year wonder type thing. I’d be all about the idea of signing him for a short-term deal so they don’t have to stretch on a first-rounder if they do not want to pick one but also do not have the financial commitment and age/injury concerns that would come along with Cousins.
Don… In your mind, what would a hypothetical 2024 full teardown and rebuild season look like to gain maximum cap room and draft picks? Jettison Kirk Cousins, Danielle Hunter, Marcus Davenport, Jordan Hicks, Dalton Risner, Oli Udoh, Greg Joseph. Cut or trade T.J. Hockenson, Harrison Smith, Josh Oliver, Harrison Phillips, Byron Murphy, Lewis Cine, C.J. Ham, Andrew Booth Jr., Alexander Mattison, Brian Asamoah. Maybe even look at trading Justin Jefferson?
So a total rebuild does not have to mean you get rid of literally every single player. Let’s be a little more discerning here. There’s no reason to trade anyone who’s going to be good for a long time going forward so Hockenson and Jefferson should stay and play supporting cast for the next QB. There’s no reason to get rid of young role players like Harrison Phillips, Byron Murphy or Josh Oliver.
In order to have a rebuild 2024 they basically just have to make sure they don’t do anything insane this offseason. Marcus Davenport’s deal hurts a tiny bit but not massively. They could take more chances on guys like that. Keep guys like Cine, Booth Jr. and Asamoah to see if they turn a corner. Trade down if you’re not picking a QB to get more draft picks and that’s about all they can do. Outside of JJ there isn’t anyone on the team they could trade for more picks, so they’ll just have to find other ways to take shots in other ways.
Joel… Is Brock Purdy the best draft pick in the past 15 years?
That would be Patrick Mahomes. I know what you’re getting at with his production vs. value but Mahomes wasn’t even the No. 1 overall pick and the man is in his fourth Super Bowl before age 30. The weird thing about Purdy is that there was some real buzz about him before his junior year and then it died out totally when he was a senior. Kind of a Sam Howell type situation, only very different situations they fell into.
I will say, Purdy is the worst debate of the past 15 years. “Would he be good without all those weapons and coaching?” Who cares. “He didn’t even play great en route to the Super Bowl!” Also, who cares. The league isn’t a QB traits ranking contest. Is he the 10th best player on his team? Who cares. Kurt Warner didn’t have to give the ring back because he had Holt, Bruce, Faulk, Pace and Martz.
Some of you might parallel this with Case Keenum but there is a significant difference: The head coach was consistently making it known that he didn’t believe in Case and he had a huge sample of play before the ‘17 season. Brock has been nothing but great. Anyway…
Jim… It's great that the Vikings finally have their offensive line looking good and our tackles are great. But what if a team came to the Vikings offering a little less than the Tunsil trade for Christian Darrisaw do you pull the trigger? A refresher the Texans got two firsts and a second for Tunsil. If the team needs assets to trade up for top QB, would you consider it even if it makes your line weaker?
Let’s say the Patriots would accept No. 11, 2024 first-round pick and Darrisaw to trade up and get Jayden Daniels, I’d have to say yes. And that’s with massive respect for Darrisaw and total understanding that if Daniels busts it’s going to be crushing to have given up Darrisaw. But you have to take the shot. I respect what the Panthers did, even if it hasn’t worked yet.
Thomas… The fact that Flores hasn’t been offered any interviews for a head coach position proves that collusion is very much alive in the NFL. Would you agree, Matthew?
Possibly. I’m sure he knew when he sued the league that his odds would significantly drop of getting a HC gig any time soon but we have seen a serious uptick in minority hires so maybe his efforts forced more attention to the issue and helped get others opportunities. I don’t think Ryan Fitzpatrick did him any favors by saying on TV that he didn’t handle Tua correctly. There’s also this: Even if it wasn’t his fault going 7-10 doesn’t catch anyone’s attention and the end of the season saw the magical defensive run come to an end. It’s not like he had any momentum.
Anyway, I would guess that someday Flores gets another shot.
Speedi… With all the information available on draft prospects, are we getting to an efficient market on drafting players? The analogy is the stock market where its been proven that throwing darts at a list of stocks performs as well as stocks selected by professionals. The premise is that the price of the stock reflects all known information and has an equal chance to go up or down. The implications for the draft is the strategy of multiple picks improves the odds. It also means that "reaching" for a player seldom works as the consensus of where a player will go in the draft reflects all known information.
Teams are still all over the map when it comes to things like this but we have definitely seen the NFL sharpen massively when it comes to where they draft players and which positions they select. Two teams picking RBs in the first was a shocker. That wouldn’t have been the case years ago. I’d imagine they continue to get better at picking the right players because of all the data available. That part has only just begun. I’m not sure teams care about consensus boards because they are so focused on looking for players that fit their specs but they should at least understand what the consensus is regarding the top 50-75 players.
Thing is, you would think the league would be rapidly improving when it comes to the draft but the NFL thought last year’s receiver class was terrible and it turned out to be terrific. It’ll always be a mystery as long as college football is like Single-A compared to the major leagues.
Bradley P… Who are the free agents that you would prioritize bringing back? Does it make more sense to let both Hunter and Kirk walk, eat the dead cap next year and be flush with cash in 2025 with a young quarterback?
It definitely makes more sense in my mind to let Hunter and Cousins walk and deal with those dead cap hits. I understand people want Hunter back because he’s awesome at football but you’d be buying at his absolute peak after a 16.5 sack season and despite his greatness they haven’t been able to put together a complete defense in years. That’s always going to mean more than one rusher. As far as the free agents, not many. David Quessenberry was a really nice swing tackle. Johnny Mundt might have to come back with Hockenson’s injury. Brandon Powell is a good player. Maybe DJ Wonnum as a rotational edge rusher. I was fine with Greg Joseph this year. That’s pretty much it. I have a lot of respect for Jordan Hicks but he might rather go ring chasing after a good year. Another offseason of a lot of talent leaving, even if they do bring back Cousins and Hunter.
Ralph… When was the last time in the NFL there was forward motion penalty?
I have no idea. Do we think that’s because receivers use motion all the time and they don’t break the rule or that the refs don’t call it? Maybe it’s like the NBA when it comes to illegal screens. If they start calling it all the time we’re just going to be killing good plays. Crazy thing about the last few years in the NFL is that scoring hasn’t been out of control. It’s been a talking point forever that offense was increasing but the average points per game was exactly the same as 2002 this year. It actually hasn’t changed significantly aside from a season here or there since 1993.
Stephanie… Unless I've missed it somewhere, I think there is one glaring consideration that is completely absent when I see others analyzing the worth/value of bringing Cousins back based on how well he was playing last year when he got hurt. It was Kirktober. He got hurt during the typical peak of his season. To be fair in analyzing, shouldn't one consider how his Nov-Dec usually fares and aggregate or average or process that into one's calculations? Am I the only one seeing this, or what am I missing?
Yeah, the final impression certainly played a role in the narrative. He has never had a season in his career where he put up huge numbers from start to finish. Another thing to keep in mind is that they racked up a lot of stats when playing from behind over those first few weeks. When Cousins got hurt he had 1,202 yards and 12 TDs 2 INT when trailing and 1,029 yards 6 TD 3 INT when tied or leading. That’s not to take away from those wins vs. SF and GB at all, he was terrific, but we can safely guess there would have been rocky times along the way like there were vs. Carolina and Chicago. The brass should keep in mind the bias that’s involved with that last impression and how that could make for some unrealistic expectations if they bring him back.