Vikings Are Predicted to Trade for Star Safety

Expectations for
Nov 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah talks with head coach Kevin O’Connell prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings will soon return for their annual training camp at TCO Performance Center. All rookies are expected to report on July 23rd and the veterans a couple of days later. Training camp is the time to get ready both physically and mentally for the challenging season. Coaches make decisions for the starting lineup and finalize the 53-man roster but there can also be some other roster moves that can shake things up.

Vikings Are Predicted to Trade for Star Safety

The Vikings made all kinds of roster moves last year between the start of training camp and the beginning of the season. The trades for Nick Mullens, Jalen Reagor, and Ross Blacklock were certainly the most significant acquisitions. This year, a more notable player could enter the building according to Bleacher Report‘s Maurice Moton.

trade for Star Safety
Dec 18, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker (3) reacts to his interception in the second half against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The writer foresees general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah pulling the trigger to trade for star safety Budda Baker from the Arizona Cardinals and a big reason is the remaining salary cap space.

Budda Baker has already made it clear that something has to change in his situation with the Arizona Cardinals. He wants to be the highest-paid safety or a change of scenery, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

In Year 1 under a new regime, the Cardinals may opt to trade Baker rather than pay top dollar for a player at a low premium position. Keep in mind that the club outright released three-time All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in May.

Baker attended but didn’t participate in mandatory minicamp practices while working “through some things” related to his contract. Potentially on his way out of Arizona, he could draw interest from a playoff-caliber squad.

Even though the Minnesota Vikings are at a contract impasse with defensive end Danielle Hunter, Baker may not want to reset the safety market with a viable contender (based on the wording in Schefter’s report). Perhaps the Vikings can satisfy Hunter and Baker with short-term pay raises; they have $18 million in cap space.

In the early weeks of training camp, Minnesota may not see enough out of second-year safety Lewis Cine, who’s coming off a compound leg fracture that required surgery, to trust him in a starting role. As a solution to bolster a pass defense that gave up the second-most yards last year, the Vikings could make an attempt to acquire Baker.

Maurice Moton, Bleacher Report

Baker is a fantastic player and deserves to be paid like an elite safety. He’s currently under contract for only one more season of his four-year $59 million deal signed in 2020. That signature made him the highest-paid safety at that time. Three years later, he ranks fourth in average salary behind Derwin James, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Jamal Adams. Of course, he now wants to sign a new contract with long-term security.

Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon speaks to the press at the Cardinals facility in Tempe on Feb. 22, 2023. © Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The Cardinals are in total rebuild mode after already getting rid of some veterans. Meanwhile, Kyler Murray’s immediate future is a mystery after suffering a torn ACL in the 2022 campaign. Arizona is a franchise whose newly-hired head coach and general manager have no connection to their star safety whatsoever (although defensive-minded head coach Jonathan Gannon should be a fan of his top defender).

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has made it clear with his actions in the last 17 months that he is willing to make moves and isn’t afraid to trade for players. T.J. Hockenson is the best proof. Baker would be another big-time addition but is he even a fit in Minnesota?

The Vikings have been employing Harrison Smith ever since he was drafted in 2012 and he was one of the top safeties for years. Now, aged 34, he is past his prime days. He agreed to a pay cut to stay with the organization and 2023 could be his last season in the NFL. Smith is an easy bet to be a starter at one of the two safety spots in Brian Flores’ defense.

Vikings Players' Reactions to Win No. 10 
Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Camryn Bynum (24) reacts after intercepting a pass against the New York Jets during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Training camp will show who the other starting safety will be. The three contestants are 2022 starter Camryn Bynum, 2022 first-round pick Lewis Cine, and versatile chess piece Josh Metellus. Bynum struggled in his lone season as a starter but players can always improve. Cine is uber-talented but his gruesome leg injury slowed down his development and Metellus has outside chances after drawing praise all offseason.

Baker would be an upgrade, no doubt about it. However, the regime around Adofo-Mensah has shown hesitancy to make long-term commitments to players. Despite the $18 million in salary cap space, the Vikings seem to be willing to keep the majority of it for the next year when the contracts of Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson become more expensive instead of spending it on a safety that demands a record-breaking contract.

Danielle Hunter’s contract situation will dictate other moves that could become necessary. Hunter is the team’s top defender but could be demanding too much money to be part of the defensive rebuild.

Feb 5, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; NFC strong safety Budda Baker of the Arizona Cardinals (3) celebrates after intercepting a pass against the AFC during the Pro Bowl Games at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The trade for Baker should be considered highly improbable since the new regime is unlikely to move on from Cine, their first first-round selection, even though the Arizona safety would immediately upgrade Flores’ defense.

Baker is a two-time first-team All-Pro and a five-time Pro Bowler. The 27-year-old played with Vikings’ cornerback Byron Murphy in the last four seasons.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt