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Photo courtesy of Vikings.com

The Vikings are 5-2, sit comfortably atop of the NFC Wild Card race, and yet, may find themselves in the thick of negotiations when the NFL trade deadline closes at 4 pm ET today. General manager Rick Spielman — known draft pick hoarder and trade aficionado — could very well be planning to swap a player like Chase Ford for future late-round picks. Or, he may do the unexpected and use some of the team’s $3.49 million cap space to add a veteran offensive lineman to a struggling unit.

Fortunately for the Vikings, making a “splash” move this afternoon isn’t a necessary evil. Teams gasping for life this season, like the 49ers, Browns, and Chargers, have been at the center of trade rumors and  speculation in recent days. Their playoff hopes are all but dashed, and the trade deadline offers hope as those franchises shift their focus to rebuilding in the offseason. The Vikings, meanwhile, are a team built for long-term success — 16 of their 22 starters were drafted and developed in Minnesota, per CBS Sports.

The trade deadline, then, is a chance for Rick Spielman to go “window shopping.” If something catches his eye or makes him stop and evaluate, there’s no harm in asking for a price. Is he willing to spend a little more and add to the quality of his roster now, or will Spielman barter for the future and accumulate even more draft picks?

Flash in a pan?

As Ben Goessling wrote yesterday, Cordarrelle Patterson could very well be on the way out of Minnesota. The 2013 first-round draft pick has played just 53 offensive snaps this season, which is the team-low among all six wide receivers. In Week 8 alone, Stefon Diggs and Mike Wallace nearly eclipsed that mark, playing at least 79 percent of the Vikings’ snaps against the Chicago Bears.

Even when Patterson is on the field to return kicks, he’s been a disappointment. This season, he’s returned 15 for 371 yards, which puts his average return at 24.7 yards. Not only is that a career-low, his long on the year is just 33 yards; Patterson’s impact on special teams is almost negligible at this point.

Spielman will never receive the four picks he sent to New England to draft Patterson, but a strong mid-round compensation offer may be enough to warrant a trade. With Stefon Diggs emerging as a superstar and the team’s other receivers playing well enough to win the Vikings games, Patterson’s role on the roster is becoming less clear by the day. Although the Vikings deny Patterson is on the trade-block, we’ve seen crazier things happen in Minnesota’s front office.

Chased out of Minnesota?

Chase Ford started five games for the Vikings last season, catching 23 passes for 258 yards in place of an injured Kyle Rudolph, but the fourth-string tight end’s time with Minnesota may be coming to a close. Rumors swirled of a potential Ford trade this offseason, but the Vikings held on to their valuable backup. Now, their patience may pay off as tight end-needy teams look for value at the season’s midway point.

“It’s not my call what happens,” Ford recently told Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “It’s up to (general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer). I’ll be where I’m supposed to be.” Like Patterson, Ford is buried on the depth chart at a loaded positional group. Kyle Rudolph is the entrenched starter, MyCole Pruitt is seeing the field more and more each week, and Rhett Ellison is a sneaky weapon on offense, leaving Ford little room to contribute.

Veteran options?

The Cleveland Browns have one of the league’s best offensive lines thanks to a number of veteran players, including future Hall of Fame left tackle Joe Thomas. Why then,  would Cleveland’s front office look to trade away the strength of their offense? According to NFL network’s Ian Rapoport, Thomas isn’t the only lineman on the trade block:

Mack, the team’s Pro Bowl center, is refusing a trade by enacting the no-trade clause in his contract, per NFL.com. Thomas, however, is still one of the league’s best left tackles. He makes little sense as an option to the Vikings, as Matt Kalil continues to play well following a disappointing 2014 season. With John Sullivan out the rest of the year — and possibly longer — Mack would have been a high-profile trade target for the Vikings this season.