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Super Bowl week rumors include trade-up scenarios, Danielle Hunter, Sam Darnold

Looking into the Vikings-related buzz coming out of the NFL's lead up to the Super Bowl

Well, we have a new Super Bowl champion and now the NFL offseason begins. In the lead up to the Super Bowl there were a number of reports and rumors that are relevant to what comes next for the Vikings. Let’s dive into them and what they mean for the offseason…

ESPN's Dan Graziano: Patriots might not select a QB, Vikings a team to watch for trading up to No. 3

Of course, the report comes along with the stipulation that the Vikings could be a trade-up candidate if they do not re-sign Kirk Cousins. Graziano reports that the Vikings would “like to have an answer” from Cousins “in the next few weeks so they can plan accordingly.” Cousins’ $28 million dead cap hit kicks in on March 13, so a decision has to be made before then.

Based on recent history it stands to reason that the Vikings will have a number set for Cousins and are willing to move on if he won’t sign at their price. Last offseason the two sides negotiated throughout the spring but Cousins’ side reportedly wanted another year that the Vikings were not willing to add to their offer. Cousins said that structure of the deal was most important to him, which could refer to length, guaranteed money and/or a no-trade clause.

The Vikings will almost certainly meet with Cousins’ rep at the NFL Combine and come away with a sense of whether they will need to look elsewhere for a quarterback, particularly in the draft. There are debates ongoing about whether the quarterbacks likely to be available at No. 11 overall — JJ McCarthy, Bo Nix or Michael Penix Jr. — are worth a first-round pick. If the Vikings do not think so, that would leave them in position to potentially pool all their assets to attempt to acquire either Caleb Williams, Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels.

Tigers Quarterback Jayden Daniels 5 runs the ball as the LSU Tigers take on the Auburn Tigers at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023.

Tigers Quarterback Jayden Daniels 5 runs the ball as the LSU Tigers take on the Auburn Tigers at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023.

Considering all three teams at the top are in need of QBs, it wouldn’t be surprising if Williams, Maye and Daniels are off the board instantly but Graziano reports that the Patriots (No. 3 pick) might wait to fill their quarterback position in the future and trade down to accumulate draft picks rather than putting all their eggs in the rookie QB basket. New England may feel they aren’t in a position to win with a young quarterback yet considering their cupboard is empty along the offensive line and wide receiver. They might prefer to let a veteran get them through a year or two before they look to the draft. Or the Patriots could be putting feelers out to see what type of offers they could get.

That brings us to the tough part for the Vikings. Graziano also mentioned Atlanta along with the Vikings as a team that could trade up. The Falcons are three spots ahead of Minnesota in the first round and have two third-round picks in 2024.

So the question is: How much would the Vikings have to give up to stave off other QB-needy clubs? Would they need to include a player like Jordan Addison, Brian O’Neill or Christian Darrisaw in order to convince the Patriots to give them the No. 3 pick? Could they get the job done with three first-round picks and multiple seconds? Would it be feasible for them to give up that much draft capital and still build a complete team around their rookie QB in the future?

As far as the trade-up market goes, we will know much more after the dust settles on free agency and the Chicago Bears’ decision with Justin Fields. Where Fields, Baker Mayfield and Kirk Cousins land will determine how many teams are actually bidding.

NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah: 2025 QB class isn’t expected to be good

Also relevant to the idea of the Vikings moving up in the draft is the growing sentiment that the 2025 QB class might not be as strong as this year’s group. Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders is projected as the top QB but things are murky after that. NFL Network’s top draft analyst believes that will make clubs more desperate to move up.

Outside of the Vikings and Falcons are teams right behind Minnesota in the draft order like the Raiders and Broncos, who should be in the market for quarterbacks.

One thing to keep in mind is that QBs like Jayden Daniels and Anthony Richardson were not expected to be at the top of the draft going into their respective final college seasons but ended up emerging as the year goes along. While that often happens, it probably doesn’t change the perception that it’s now or never for some clubs to get a quarterback of the future. If the Vikings do want to trade up, they have to hope that other teams find answers in free agency or trades and they aren’t competing with a bevy of clubs to make a big move.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler: Bears want Danielle Hunter

Unsurprisingly it appears there will be a lot of interest in the Vikings’ pass rusher, who had 16.5 sacks in 2022. But the top team mentioned, Chicago, should be unsettling to the Vikings. The Bears acquired Montez Sweat and signed him to a four-year, $98 million extension yet they still have a projected $46 million in cap space (per Putting Hunter with Sweat would be similar to what the Vikings had with Hunter paired with Everson Griffen. Chicago’s top corner Jaylon Johnson has also expressed interest in returning. That could make the Bears the scariest defense in the NFC North and possible one of the best in the league under their defensive guru head coach Matt Eberflus.

The Vikings would also take a $14.9 million dead cap hit for 2024 if Hunter hits free agency.

With the sheer amount of teams that could be bidding for Hunter’s services and the fact the Vikings refused over the last few years to go all-in on an extension for him, the likelihood seems high that he will be playing elsewhere next year. Vikings fans will just have to hope it’s somewhere like Jacksonville rather than with their rival.

NFL Network's Tom Pelissero: Sam Darnold a name to watch if Vikings move on from Cousins

A few weeks ago we mentioned Darnold as a possibility in the “Future of the Vikings” series, so it’s not a complete shock that his name would come up. The former top pick has ridiculous arm talent and has spent the last year working with Kyle Shanahan after years of ineptitude around him in New York and Carolina. The Vikings may have a sense for what he could be with the right circumstances or find him to be a better veteran option because of his upside than a clear journeyman backup type like Gardner Minshew or Jacoby Brissett. Pelissero mentions that Darnold would be paired with a QB in the draft as well. That makes a ton of sense as a direction if they move on from Cousins.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport: Pass rusher Hasaan Reddick could be traded

If the Vikings lose Hunter, their free agent options are limited to only a handful of difference makers on the market like Brian Burns, Josh Allen and Andrew Van Ginkel. They might have to look for trade options if other clubs out-bid them for those players’ services. Rapoport’s report did not include the Vikings as a team that could be interested but noted that Reddick will be available via trade as his cap hit jumps to $21.8 million next year and he’s set to hit free agency in 2025. Reddick has produced double-digit sacks for four straight seasons and is 29 years old. He could be a player to acquire and extend if the Vikings do not think that Hunter is coming back.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport: Giants could be in the mix for QB

Yes, more teams vying for QBs. Rapoport reports that Daniel Jones is on track to return after an injury last season but the Giants could be looking to take a quarterback following Jones’ disaster 2023 season — and the fact he only produced one quality year since coming into the league in 2019. The Giants are picking sixth overall, putting them in the driver’s seat if New England does elect to sell the third pick to the highest bidder.