The Vikings face the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sept. 13 to start the 2020 season, so bringing in pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue that close to the opener means the front office and coaching staff knew it was necessary for their title chances.
You don’t shake up a roster this close to Week 1 — and the team was ready to release starting tackle Riley Reiff before reworking his contract to bring in Ngakoue — unless it gives you a real shot at winning a Super Bowl.
General Manager Rick Spielman almost never makes trades for players, instead staying focused on draft-day deals and adding picks.
How rare was this deal? Since Spielman took over as GM in 2012, the only player of consequence they have traded for was quarterback Sam Bradford, which was a deal they had to make after Teddy Bridgewater got injured right before the start of the 2016 season.
The only other players Spielman has traded for in his tenure are quarterback Trevor Siemian; wide receiver A.J. Jefferson; kicker Kaare Vedvik; defensive back Mark Field; and offensive linemen Jeremiah Sirles, Nick Easton and Brett Jones.
Still, it was Spielman’s ability to trade for and stockpile draft picks that made the deal for Ngakoue possible.
The club came out of the 2020 draft with 15 rookies, the most in recent NFL history, but they also added three additional picks in the 2021 draft — a fourth-rounder from Buffalo, a fourth-rounder from Chicago and a fifth-rounder from Baltimore.
So Spielman could make this kind of move and feel comfortable losing a few picks to get Ngakoue.
Now this club has added a big-time player who can have a huge impact this season — especially with a rebuilt defensive line after the losses of Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph and a rebuilt defensive backfield with the departures of Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander.
When you look at this deal, the most obvious comparison in Vikings history would be trading for Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen in 2008. The Vikings sent a 2008 first-round pick, two third-round picks and a sixth-round pick to Kansas City for Allen and a 2009 sixth-rounder.
Allen was more established than Ngakoue, having been named an All-Pro in 2008 before forcing a deal out of Kansas City, but he was also a year older than Ngakoue, who is 25.
Ngakoue was a Pro Bowler in 2017 and he will join a defensive line group that has a ton of young talent, including Danielle Hunter (25), Jaleel Johnson (26), Shamar Stephen (29), Ifeadi Odenigbo (26) and Jalyn Holmes (24).
This club always has liked using a lot of defensive line rotations and getting Ngakoue will only add to that depth.
Twins make right call
Unlike the Vikings making a necessary big trade, if there was ever a year for the Twins to stay put at the trade deadline, it was now — with a 60-game season, no minor league games and no reason to make big moves.
With injured players Byron Buxton, Josh Donaldson, Jake Odorizzi, Homer Bailey and Mitch Garver already back or returning over the next few weeks — and 16 teams making the playoffs this season — there’s no reason to sell off your future for a rental player.
And just as important: The club can’t follow player development as easily without a minor league season, even though teams have alternate sites such as the Twins at CHS Field in St. Paul.
Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said that made a big difference.
“Even at the secondary sites, there are some data-sharing opportunities and some ability to dig in, but you’re not scouting it the same way and you’re certainly not playing games against other clubs,” he said. “To say this was business as usual would be a complete misrepresentation of what it was to evaluate players with other teams and certainly to think about prospects. That showed up in some of our conversations, teams not knowing how to think through the prospect valuation going into this summer having not seen them really since last year.”
This season’s MLB playoffs are going to be one of the most unpredictable in sports, and trying to beat seven other American League teams to reach the World Series is unlike any other playoff run in baseball history.
Not to mention the fact that for the bulk of this season, the Twins have been one of the two or three best teams in the American League, and there’s no question they can beat any team when the roster gets healthy.
ISU local ties
With the Gophers, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, South Dakota State and North Dakota State football programs not playing fall football, the college that is playing with the most former Minnesota high schoolers on their roster has to be the Iowa State Cyclones, who have eight local players on the squad.
The local players on the Cyclones are: Aidan Bouman (Buffalo) at quarterback; Parker Rickert (Edina) and Micheal Tweten (Buffalo) at wide receiver; Craig McDonald (Minnehaha Academy) at defensive back; Hunter Zenzen (Barnesville) and Stevo Klotz (Chaska) at linebacker; and Alex Probert (Andover) and Eddie Ogamba (Cooper) at place-kicker.
Ogamba is a redshirt junior, Probert is a redshirt senior and Rickert is a redshirt junior. The rest are all freshman.
The Cyclones had announced last week that they would allow nearly 25,000 fans into Jack Trice Stadium for their home opener against Louisiana but changed course this week and will not allow fans.
• Former Timberwolves forward Robert Covington is having a tremendous playoff run for the Houston Rockets in the NBA bubble. Covington is averaging 12.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting 51.0% from the floor and 48.6% from three.
• It will be interesting to see what former Twin Brian Dozier decides to do after the Mets released him last week. There’s no doubt Dozier can still hit and the 33-year-old will get some looks next season. But during the 2020 offseason, Dozier was only offered a minor league deal with the Padres. Still, whatever happens, Dozier has his place among the best power-hitting second baseman ever.