Vikings $4.5 Million Starter Dubbed Trade Candidate Following NFL Draft

The Minnesota Vikings put together a somewhat polarizing draft class, selecting a couple of stars in, or near, the top half of the first round while sacrificing a third position of need in the process.

Minnesota entered the first night of the NFL draft in need of a quarterback to take over for Kirk Cousins, arguably a pass rusher to replace Danielle Hunter and at least one cornerback to upgrade a defensive backfield that has lingered on the lower end of the NFL for the last several years. Rookies J.J. McCarthy of Michigan (No. 10 overall) and Dallas Turner of Alabama (No. 17 overall) took care of the first two needs, though the Vikings waited until the fourth round to select cornerback Khyree Jackson.

The team’s situation in the secondary is sure to be a priority over the remainder of the offseason and could be one of the strongest catalysts for a trade, should Minnesota decide to make one. Will Ragatz of Sports Illustrated’s Fan Nation on May 3 suggested that a deal involving 2023 starting cornerback Akayleb Evans could make sense.

Evans, a 2022 fourth-round pick, still has two years left on his rookie deal. That could make him valuable to the Vikings as a depth piece at a position where depth is often needed, but it could also make him a theoretically intriguing trade chip.

Evans, who turns 25 this summer, has shown some real flashes of upside as a long, athletic corner over the past two seasons. He started two games as a rookie and 15 last year, with inconsistent results. Evans had [1] interception, [3] forced fumbles, and [7] passes defended in 2023, but he also struggled mightily as a tackler (PFF charged him with 18 missed tackles, which was tied with teammate Byron Murphy Jr. for the most among NFL cornerbacks).

Akayleb Evans Could Drop Down Vikings’ Depth Chart This Season

Ragatz went on to suggest that Evans will find himself either fourth or fifth on the depth chart when the regular season rolls around.

“The Vikings’ top three corners this year are Murphy, Shaq Griffin and Mekhi Blackmon, and Khyree Jackson was just added to that mix as a fourth-round pick,” Ragatz wrote. “That could make Evans expendable at the right price.”

Minnesota spent a fourth-rounder on Evans (No. 118 overall in 2022), though that was before the arrival of defensive coordinator Brian Flores. Flores clearly liked what he saw from Evans in comparison to the other options on the roster, elevating him into a starting role, however that favoritism could simply be relative to Evans’ competition.

The Vikings drafted Blackmon in the third round last season and added Griffin in free agency before selecting Jackson in the fourth round last month. Both Blackmon and Griffin played considerably better at the position overall than did Evans, per overall player grades provided by Pro Football Focus. PFF slotted Evans 99th out of 127 cornerbacks who saw enough snaps to qualify.

Vikings May Have Tough Time Improving Secondary in Next NFL Draft

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Minnesota Vikings


Evans may not be a long-term starter in the NFL, but the Vikings’ 23rd-ranked pass defense (4,288 yards allowed) in 2023 displayed that teams can utilize him as such in a pinch. He is also owed less than $2.1 million in base salary over the next two seasons on the $4.42 million rookie deal he signed in 2022.

As Ragatz pointed out, that minimal salary and Evans’ experience last season could argue for keeping him, though only if the Vikings aren’t aggressive in finding another cornerback or two to play in front of him in the upcoming campaign.

Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN offered Minnesota a rough C+ overall grade for its draft efforts this year, in part because the team didn’t pursue more talent earlier in the secondary and — as Kiper contends — mortgaged future chances to do so by giving up capital in trade ups for both McCarthy and Turner.

My qualm about GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s class has more to do with mortgaging the future of this Minnesota roster. He made the move in March to get an extra first-rounder at No. 23, which cost him a second-round pick next year. And to trade up from No. 23 to No. 17, he had to give the Jaguars his 2025 third- and fourth-rounders. That means the Vikings have just three selections next year: one in Round 1 and two in Round 5.

Turner (17) is my top-ranked edge rusher, but Minnesota had a greater need at cornerback. This defense ranked 28th in the league in passing yards allowed to receivers (3,019) last season. I was a little surprised Adofo-Mensah didn’t target one of the top corners instead. He finally went corner with his next pick, but that was all the way in Round 4. Khryee Jackson (108) is a 6-3 defensive back who allowed just one touchdown in coverage last season.

If the Vikings want to improve the CB position in the near future, free agency and trades appear the way to do it, which could result with Evans on the block in multiple viable scenarios.

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