The harsh reality of the NFL has slugged a few teams across the face, instantly putting their seasons in the gutter with 12 games left on the schedule. With the NFL trade deadline three weeks away on Oct. 31 at 4 p.m. ET, this is the point where some of the flailing teams have to make a decision on what they’re going to do for the rest of the season: keep pushing and trying to salvage a terrible start, or sell off assets to try and make a play for the future?
A handful of teams are sitting at 1-4, but three have some pieces that other teams might want if they’re going to press the reset button on their franchise. The Vikings, Giants and Broncos all find themselves in a tough spot at this point in the season and potentially needing to ship off pieces to prepare for 2024.
At first, this piece was going to explain whether or not these teams should or should not start selling pieces away, but it’s pretty obvious that all three teams need to press the detonate button — especially in the wake of the Justin Jefferson injury for the Vikings.
Football is the greatest sport in the world because it truly is a game of inches. Most games could go either way based on the result of a few plays. No one has felt the benefit and pain of that more than the Vikings, who have played almost exclusively one-score games going back to the start of last season. They hit the positive side of regression in 2022, going 13-4 before a wild-card loss at the hands of the Giants. This year, they’re hitting the negative aspects of regression and sit at 1-4 through five games — oh, yeah, and Justin Jefferson is going to be shut down for a minimum of four weeks with a hamstring injury.
The Vikings’ season is over unless they can beat up on the Packers and the Bears throughout the rest of the season. They might as well start loading up for the next era of the franchise. They have a bright young head coach in Kevin O’Connell, arguably the best wide receiver in football and a couple other spots to build around. How much they decide to ship off will be interesting.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins is the biggest piece that the Vikings have to trade. He’s more than serviceable at this point and would still be a big upgrade over what a lot of teams have. If the Vikings actually want to move on from Cousins, they could receive a Day 2 pick for his services, and even a first-round swap is not out of the realm of possibility if a team finds itself desperate enough. That with the Vikings’ own first-round pick (and a whole bunch of losses) could give them the ammunition needed to go get a player like Caleb Williams or Drake Maye in the draft. Pulling the cord is a tough pill to swallow, but the Vikings could jumpstart their franchise by admitting the 2023 season is a lost cause.
A rookie quarterback walking into an offense with O’Connell, Jefferson and Jordan Addison is a nice place to be in. Think about it, Vikings. This season is big over.
Yeah, this one seems less complicated than the Vikings. The Broncos don’t really have a shot to be competitive with any teams that matter — at least the Vikings can say they earnestly gave the Chiefs a run for their money after losing Jefferson to his hamstring injury. The Broncos are currently fielding by far the worst defense in the NFL. Counting stats, rate stats, advanced stats — it doesn’t matter, this defense can’t stop a cold. Maybe it’s time to start from scratch to some degree. It’s tough to want to pull the trigger on a season and stop trying, but the Broncos are getting the same results as if they weren’t trying.
The Broncos could field offers for Russell Wilson or Pat Surtain II to try and see if they can get some real draft capital, or ship off lesser players like Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton to try and stay competitive while they restock. Apparently, head coach Sean Payton doesn’t seem too interested in either of those options, but he did leave the door open.
“We’re not looking to do business with any of our players,” Payton said Tuesday. “But that doesn’t prevent teams from picking up the phone and calling.”
He could be using that figuratively, saying it’s open season on the Broncos roster, or mean it literally saying that the Broncos really are not going to change anything going on. Regardless, the Broncos should probably at least hear what teams have to say for some of the few tradable assets currently in their possession.
PRESS THE BUTTON, JOE SCHOEN! PRESS IT!
In the same manner as the Broncos, the Giants really have no hope of pulling their season back together. The team has given up 30 sacks in five games, been blown out almost every other week, and doesn’t have a prayer of competing against anyone in their current state. Time to start shipping things off and starting over so they can figure out what to do with Daniel Jones after the season.
The problem is, the Giants haven’t really assembled anything that other people would want. Andrew Thomas, Dexter Lawrence and Kayvon Thibodeaux are probably the only guys that should be blocked off from other teams. Even if they wanted to trade Jones, that would come with heavy ramifications on their salary cap. Saquon Barkley, Leonard Williams, Xavier McKinney and Azeez Ojulari might be the only pieces for which other teams would be willing to part with real draft capital.
This team is so far away from competing that picking up the phone to see what they can acquire from other teams is worth the risk. The only thing more risky for the Giants is actually playing another football game. At this point, it’s fair to wonder if they even push for their guys on the injury report to hurry and get back to the field. The Giants are dead last in point differential at minus-91 through five games, but maybe they can start to close that gap with some draft picks.