Everything is in Place for the Vikings to Trade for Trent Williams
After the way the first round of the NFL Draft played out, the Vikings might just be back in the driver's seat in the Trent Williams sweepstakes. While other potential suitors dropped out of the race on Thursday, Minnesota made a move to put itself in even better position to swing a blockbuster deal for the disgruntled left tackle.
The Vikings have reportedly had interest in Williams throughout this offseason. But coming into the draft, there was a sense that a few teams – chief among them the Browns and Jets – had moved ahead of the Vikings in the pecking order. Then, in a span of four selections, three teams all but pulled themselves out of the running for the seven-time Pro Bowler.
With the 10th pick, the Browns took Alabama tackle Jedrick Wills, pairing him with free agent acquisition Jack Conklin to nail down the bookends of their offensive line. Then the Jets got in on the tackle run, landing the gargantuan Mekhi Becton to protect Sam Darnold's blindside. Two picks later, for good measure, the Buccaneers – who were once in talks to trade O.J. Howard for Williams – grabbed the last top-tier tackle in the class in Iowa's Tristan Wirfs.
That quickly left the Vikings as Washington's most obvious remaining trade partner.
A shrewd move late in the first round by GM Rick Spielman may have even further increased the likelihood of a trade for Williams before the weekend is over. Having landed LSU receiver Justin Jefferson with the 22nd pick, Spielman moved back six spots from 25, receiving a fourth-rounder and a fifth from the 49ers in the process. The Vikings then took TCU corner Jeff Gladney at 31, leaving – you guessed it – offensive tackle as their biggest lingering need.
The Vikings now have 12 scheduled picks to go with the two players they've already drafted, including a whopping nine selections on Day 3. They're probably not going to draft 14 players. The Vikings are set up well to move up the board over the next two days, but they're also in a perfect position to trade for Williams. Washington has seen its leverage vanish, and as much as they may say they're content to wait for their price to be met, they surely would like to end this saga and get something for a guy who has undoubtedly played his final snap in a Redskins uniform. The rumored price is now a Day 3 pick or two, and the Vikings have several of those to spare.
The Eagles are rumored to be another team that's interested in Williams.
The Vikings have more remaining draft capital than the Eagles and every team other than the Dolphins – who took the fifth offensive tackle of the first round in USC's Austin Jackson – and Patriots. More importantly, reputable sources have confirmed that Minnesota has shown legitimate interest in Williams.
However, that doesn't mean they'll necessarily pull the trigger. Although the cost of trading for Williams has gone down, the cost of signing him to a long-term deal has not. There is still a certain risk level that comes with acquiring a soon-to-be 32-year-old tackle and signing him to a massive contract, especially one who sat out all of last season and dealt with injuries before that. The Vikings are in a better financial position than they were a couple months ago, but they're still not loaded with cap space and would likely have to cut Riley Reiff or include him in the trade to create room.
At the same time, the upside of trading for Williams is still massive. He has a decade-long track record of being arguably the NFL's best left tackle, and would give the Vikings a level of production at that position that they haven't had in nearly 30 years. From a talent and positional value standpoint, he's worth the money.
If the Vikings are going to trade for Williams, there's a good chance it happens on Friday night. The two best tackles left on the board are Houston's Josh Jones and Boise State's Ezra Cleveland, and both are expected to find a home early in the second round. After those two, there's a solid dropoff in talent. If the Vikings don't trade up for either player, Spielman might give Washington a call to see what it will take to get a deal done.
The Vikings were big winners on the first night of the draft, but there may be more fireworks coming on Day 2.
Update: The Vikings landed Cleveland with the 58th pick in the second round, presumably reducing the odds of a trade for Williams pretty significantly.
Update, part 2: A Vikings trade for Williams is now off the table, according to Ian Rapaport. The two sides had been in constant contact, but Williams apparently didn't want to go to Minnesota, so a deal never materialized. The Vikings will look to build around young tackles Cleveland and Brian O'Neill going forward.
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