It is unlikely that the Minnesota Vikings concoct a trade akin to last summer’s edition, a transaction that brought Yannick Ngakoue to the franchise. The Vikings didn’t necessarily need a pass rusher at the time as Danielle Hunter had not yet been ruled out for the 2020 season.
Indeed, Hunter was supposed to patrol the defensive line, partnering with Ifeadi Odenigbo on the opposite side. It didn’t happen in 2020. Instead, Ngakoue played six games, tallying five sacks amid Minnesota’s grisly 1-5 start. He was traded during the bye week thereafter for a clawback 3rd-Round draft pick to the Baltimore Ravens.
Fast forward to 2021 with Danielle Hunter back from injury — contractually happy to boot — and the Vikings are mildly deficient on the other side of the defensive line. Stephen Weatherly, D.J. Wonnum, or Patrick Jones II might do the trick, but might leaves a lot to chance with head coach Mike Zimmer staring down the barrel of an ultra-pivotal season.
And that’s probably why Bleacher Report theorized on Thursday that Minnesota could be in the market for a pass rusher. Chris Roling of Blecaher Report jotted down 32 trades for each NFL to ponder, nominating EDGE rusher Derek Barnett to the Vikings from the Philadelphia Eagles. Roling sent a 3rd-Round pick to Philadelphia for Barnett and wrote on the deal:
“Mike Zimmer’s defense got a bit of an overhaul this offseason after a down year, perhaps most notably adding veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson. But Peterson and Co. can’t hold up in coverage forever, so looking for ways to add to the pass rush is always a good idea. Being yet another team to reach out to Philadelphia in an effort to poach likely outgoing players could work toward this goal. Think 2017 first-round pick Derek Barnett, who has yet to live up to expectations and could now be considered expendable with free agent Ryan Kerrigan joining the team. Barnett is a gamble, but not one that’s too costly. At worst, he bolsters the rotation, and at best, Zimmer’s defensive acumen helps him start realizing some of his potential.”
Barnett has not been a pass-rushing tyrant to date, but he is a 1st-Round talent picked by Philadelphia in the 2017 NFL Draft. He will earn $10 million during 2021, the final year of his rookie deal. That sum is a bit spendy for the Vikings. However, with roughly $14 million available in cap space, general manager Rick Spielman could make the deal work if Barnett was indeed on his radar.
For Philadelphia, Barnett is pseudo-expendable now because general manager Howie Roseman welcomed Ryan Kerrigan to the team, a defensive end formerly of the Washington Football Team. It is unclear if Barnett or Kerrigan will start opposite Brandon Graham. Should the Eagles nominate Kerrigan for the gig, Barnett could be lonesome on the Eagles roster.
The University of Tennessee alumnus, Barnett, was not used all that much during the pandemic season. He played on 49% of all Eagles defensive snaps, missing time due to a hamstring strain. Barnett has tallied 19.5 sacks in 48 career games — not exactly a figure that screams trade for this man. Often, though, pass rushers start their respective careers modestly. Through 48 career games (Barnett’s current total), Jason Taylor accrued the same total (19.5), Chris Doleman registered 17 sacks, Michael Strahan had 16 sacks, and John Randle totaled 9.5. Just like Everson Griffen — who Barnett would theoretically replace — took a handful of seasons to get cooking.
The x-factor would be head coach Mike Zimmer’s tutelage along with co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson. $10 million is a large investment. Yet, Barnett would start at RDE — a spot that is weirdly up in the air for the Vikings at the moment. Spielman has poured his heart and soul into revamping the 2021 defense. For DE, though, the mentality feels like “it’s good enough.”