After Weatherly, One More Viking Is Commonly Listed in Trade Theories

Dec 31, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Kendall Wright (13) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings defensive back Harrison Smith (22) and linebacker Anthony Barr (55) and linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) in the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings exist in purgatory at the NFL’s trade deadline for classification as buyers or sellers.

In Week 6, the Vikings downed the Carolina Panthers on the road in a thriller, renewing playoff optimism for the 2021 campaign. And even before the season started, most Vikings fans believed 2021 was a tell-all season for the team’s leadership and perhaps quarterback Kirk Cousins. Here we are — 33% of the way through the dance — and it is unclear if Minnesota is a contender or heading toward a mediocre record. The team possesses a robust roster capable of a deep playoff run, but stretches of bland performance and a murderous remaining schedule generate mystery.

On Saturday, the Vikings traded defensive lineman Stephen Weatherly and a 2023 7th-Round draft pick to the Denver Broncos in exchange for a 2022 7th-Rounder. That idea was accurately predicted by ESPN’s Courtney Cronin.

If the Vikings continued to act as quiet sellers behind closed doors, three separate media outlets believe general manager Rick Spielman would deal one particular player — Anthony Barr.

Antony Barr
Jul 30, 2021; Eagan, MN, United States; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr (55) participates in drills at training camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Barr recently returned from missing over a seasons’ worth of games due to injury and is steadily reacclimating to regular season football. Through two games in his return, Barr has a 52.8 Pro Football Focus grade.

Let’s be clear: The Vikings internally believe they’re contenders and are unlikely to trade Barr — especially when the players behind him on the roster are unproven commodities, Blake Lynch and Ryan Connelly. Too, head coach Mike Zimmer has outwardly professed his ardor for Barr over the years.

But these are the entities listing Barr as a tradeable asset. First, Vinnie Iyer of The Sporting News detailed players who could be traded in the next week, and he nominated Barr for the Vikings, noting:

Barr has had a good run as the Vikings’ versatile second-level defender for Mike Zimmer but the pending 2022 free agent should be shopped hard to help another team as he’s still only 29.

Also, Jack White of VikingsWire (USA Today) identified such a move before Iyer with Barr as a Vikings candidate:

“Barr is a key piece of the Vikings defense, but his stats aren’t eye-popping and he has had injury problems lately. With Barr set to be a free agent in 2022, the team may want to get something back for him right now, and hope a linebacker besides Eric Kendricks can step up.”

And finally, SportsNaut.com, which only listed five trade ideas in its trade article, spitballed Barr to the Washington Football Team. Matt Johnson from SportsNaut wrote:

While linebacker Anthony Barr is finally returning to the field, it might only be a matter of time before the Minnesota Vikings move on from him. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Minnesota isn’t a legitimate contender in the NFC North and Mike Zimmer is probably ready to move on from a linebacker who has played two games since the 2019 season ended.

Contractually, Barr is unlikely to return with the Vikings in 2022. He’ll command a handsome sum on the open free agent market, unlikely to be matched by the Vikings. Minnesota may or may not be in a junior rebuilding mode by then. Stay tuned.

As for this season, idealizing Barr elsewhere adds up for analysts who believe the Vikings are not going far. Yet, inside the organization, optimism is still present the team can “get hot” and bolt to the postseason. Retaining Barr makes that mission more feasible.

Sending Stephen Weatherly to Denver was likely the extent of Spielman’s trade appetite unless he finds a supplemental cornerback for relief amid Patrick Peterson’s injury-related absence. It’s a longshot that trade would involve Barr.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).