Justin Herbert Rumors Just Won’t Die for Vikings

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings need a quarterback, and the Los Angeles Chargers like J.J. McCarthy — that’s why the rumor won’t quite die.

Justin Herbert Rumors Just Won’t Die for Vikings

Quietly, for about six weeks, some have envisioned a trade between the Vikings and Chargers for superstar quarterback Justin Herbert, even if the swap seems wildly unfeasible.

justin herbert
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) looks for a receiver downfield Monday, Dec. 26, 2022, during a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. © Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The idea goes like this — new head coach Jim Harbaugh, at all costs, could find a way to draft McCarthy, his quarterback at Michigan, a squad that won the National Championship in January. Then, Herbert would apparently become expendable, and a quarterback-needy team like Minnesota could swoop in for the swap.

“I’ve been to a lot of pro day workouts. That was the best I’ve ever seen from a quarterback. That was the best throwing day I’ve ever seen,” Jim Harbaugh said about McCarthy in March. “I think he’s the best quarterback in the draft,” Harbaugh added, calling his Michigan quarterback a “killer.”

“He plays quarterback the best of all the quarterbacks,” Harbaugh concluded about McCarthy.

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Last week, SKOR North’s Judd Zulgad kept the Herbert rumors alive: “So a month ago, I would have said this entire scenario was, like, absolutely crazy. And I think I might have dismissed this at one point. But in light of the information that we have received, and in the light of the fact that I do think it is incumbent upon the Vikings to explore — and I’m guessing that they are — every option possible … If you’re the Vikings and let’s say Jim Harbaugh has called ya, I don’t think you’re gonna hang up the phone.”

On March 17th, SI.com’s Chris Schad published an article about Herbert to Minnesota, “This is a crazy scenario — especially since trading Justin Herbert would result in a $108.5 million cap hit as a pre-June 1 move — but Harbaugh once drafted Colin Kaepernick to sit behind Alex Smith during his time in San Francisco. Would he pass on a player that he believes should be the No. 1 overall pick? Or would he choose to trade down and surround Herbert with a new cast of weapons?”

a Wild Free
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

“If Harbaugh chooses McCarthy — or the Giants leapfrog the Vikings to take him — it could lead the Vikings to another path,” Schad added.

And right before the Zulgad comments, SB Nation explored the Herbert-Vikings fodder, too. James Dator wrote about the possibility, “Why the heck would the Chargers consider this? Simply put: They’re not winning. The NFL has drastically changed in the last 24 months where it’s no longer a necessity to have an elite quarterback to win. Los Angeles gets a quarterback Harbaugh knows he can win with, if they make this trade and two additional first round picks this year to fill gaps.” He continued, “The team gets another in 2025, and an emerging receiver in Jordan Addison who could legitimately be a No. 1 guy on any team that doesn’t have Justin Jefferson.”

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.

The Harbaugh-McCarthy theory really does make sense; we won’t dispute that. But two items separate the Chargers from trading Herbert to the Vikings or anywhere:

  1. He’s borderline elite.
  2. $63,500,000.00 in dead cap funds.

The NFL is about finding a franchise quarterback to indefinitely establish and prolong a Super Bowl window. It’s why the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills tunnel deep into the postseason annually. Herbert isn’t far from Josh Allen’s talent. Los Angeles has the hard part figured out — finding a magnificent young quarterback.

If Harbaugh, though, loved McCarthy as his NFL QB1, the Chargers would have to justify eating $63.5 million in dead cap just to trade Herbert before June 1st. It’s a double-whammy.

Minnesota would need Los Angeles to commit a cardinal sin for this trade to materialize. The Vikings actually have the trade capital to make the deal work — and would then have to figure out how to pay the Justins for the next five years — but theorizing the Chargers as willing offloaders of Herbert is just too far-fetched.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.