Charley Walters: Trading Justin Jefferson might be the right move for Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings won’t admit it, but it looks like a full-scale rebuild could be ahead.

That would mean not re-signing free agents Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter, and possibly even trading Justin Jefferson.

>> There could be a better chance of Jefferson, 24, getting traded than anybody’s saying. That’s because it doesn’t make sense to pay the NFL’s best receiver the money he wants (expected to be at least $150 million over five years) on a team that’s not expected to be seriously competitive for several more years.

>> The market for Jefferson would depend on where a team trading for him is picking in April’s draft. But it would be more than two first-round picks. Trading Jefferson for high draft picks would allow the Vikings to rebuild the way the Lions and Bears have done the last two years, from the ground up. Don’t think Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, who have made the playoffs just seven times in 17 seasons, haven’t watched those rebuilds.

The Jets, who will try again to win with QB Aaron Rodgers, would seem viable for Jefferson. The Chiefs need a great receiver, but that would require even more draft picks because they select in the bottom rounds of the draft.

>> The only two players the Vikings could get a lot for in a trade would be Jefferson and offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw.

>> The Vikings have so many holes that it could take several years to adequately fill them. They probably have the worst defensive line in the NFL, need help in the secondary and on offensive line, and have nearly two dozen free agents. Besides Cousins and Hunter, Dalton Risner’s a free agent, K.J. Osborn’s a free agent, and Harrison Smith — not one penny of his 2024 contract is guaranteed — seems likely to retire. Smith, who someday will be chosen for the Vikings Ring of Honor, turns 35 in three weeks.

>> Replacing Cousins probably would mean signing a journeyman — free agent Gardner Minshew, 27, from the Colts would make sense — and signing a QB in the draft. J.J. McCarthy from Michigan probably would be available at the Vikings’ No. 11 spot, but the guy the Vikings would hope for would be Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels from LSU.

>> Word was the Vikings in last April’s draft tried to move up from No. 23 overall to No. 4 to take Florida QB Anthony Richardson, but didn’t have enough capital. That desperate to take a QB in the draft, they’re expected to try the same this April, probably for Daniels.

The problem for the Vikings is that the top three drafting teams — Chicago, Washington and New England — could end up taking QBs Caleb Williams from USC, Drake Maye from North Carolina and Daniels, leaving perhaps McCarthy for the Vikings.

>> If the Vikings don’t end up with McCarthy, they project to take edge rusher Laiatu Latu from UCLA.

>> Michael Penix Jr. from Washington isn’t rated as high by NFL teams as fans think because of a serious shoulder injury and two ACL surgeries.

>> A full Vikings rebuild could be shaky for GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and coach Kevin O’Connell, both of whom next year enter the third of four-year contracts. Adofo-Mensah’s two draft classes have been underwhelming. Even Adofo-Mensah’s predecessor, Rick Spielman, whom Washington has solicited to help in its coaching search, drafted better than has Adofo-Mensah.

>> It still looks like Atlanta, depending on who the Falcons’ next coach is, could be Cousins’ next team. His wife Julie is from there and that’s where they were married and where they spend time in the offseason. The Falcons have decent young players but are without a decent quarterback. And owner Arthur Blank is 81 and eager for a contender after a 7-10 season and missing the playoffs.

>> Cousins’ next contract is expected to be for two years in the $75 million range, but all of it guaranteed. A 7-10 team going forward with Cousins’ salary makes no sense.

A decision on Cousins, who turns 36 in August, probably won’t occur until early March, when free agency begins. Another team won’t be able to sign him until March 13 and would want as much time as possible to check his Achilles recovery. Even if he were a free agent today, no one would sign him without knowing the risk of his medical condition.

>> From a Minnesota sports fan last week: “There are eight billion people on Earth and the NFL can’t find 30 competent quarterbacks.”

>> It would be surprising if the Vikings would dare increase ticket prices for next season.

>> Look for the Vikings by next August to have a market valuation of $5 billion by Forbes. They were $4.65 billion last August. Red McCombs sold the Vikings to the Wilfs for $600 million in 2005.

Speaking of McCombs, who died last February at age 95, since he bought the Vikings in 1998 only a handful of the NFL’s owners at that time remain alive.

>> Still-rising men’s basketball coach Niko Medved, the Roseville and University of Minnesota grad, the other day coached Colorado State (13-3) over ex-Gophers coach Richard Pitino’s New Mexico (13-3) 76-68.

>> Ex-Gopher Jamal Mashburn Jr. leads New Mexico in scoring (16.2-point average).

>> DeLaSalle grad Reid Travis, 28, after playing in Germany and Japan the last four years, is averaging 10 points and 20 minutes per game for the G League’s Indiana Mad Ants.

>> Dennis Evans, the 7-1 Louisville freshman who de-committed from the Gophers, was averaging just 1.6 points and 0.9 rebounds in seven games when it was announced he has left the program for an undisclosed medical reason. Evans has an $86,000 name, image and likeness (NIL) valuation by, and the Louisville NIL Store has had Dennis Evans hoodies for sale for $59.99.

>> Lakeville North grad Nolan Winter, the 6-11 Wisconsin freshman and son of ex-Gophers 7-foot center Trevor Winter from Slayton, is averaging 9.8 minutes, 3.1 points and 1.9 rebounds for the Badgers, who play at Williams Arena Jan. 23. Winter’s fee for a NIL event appearance is a minimum $134.

>> Duluth Marshall High girls basketball point guard Chloe Johnson is averaging 31 points per game. She’s an eighth grader already offered by the Gophers.

>> The Twins are favorites to repeat their AL Central championship with 85 1/2 victories, easily ahead of, in order, Detroit, Cleveland, Kansas City and Chicago, per

>> The Gophers baseball team, in coach John Anderson’s final season, will play the Twins on Feb. 23 in Fort Myers, Fla.

Anderson, Rocco Baldelli, Derek Falvey, Jim Rantz, Jerry Bell, Sean Aronson, Derek Sharrer and Tim Tschida headline the Old Timers Hot Stove League banquet on Jan. 24 at Southview Country Club.

>> Gophers’ sophomore guard Mara Braun’s 94 percent from the free-throw line is the best in the country.

>> Iowa 6-9 basketball starter Patrick McCaffery, who plays the Gophers at Williams Arena on Monday, is the son of 6-1 former Cretin-Derham Hall basketball star Margaret Nowlin.

>> Simley grad Michael Busch, 26, the utility player traded by the Dodgers to the Cubs last week, has been working out in Minneapolis.

>> Former Twins pitcher Tom Johnson, 72, who is a pastor at the Church of the Open Door in Maple Grove, continues his youth sports building program, which centers on baseball, in June in Slovakia.

>> St. Paul native Pat Sweeney, 66, who’s been a highly creative and award-winning sportscaster in North Dakota, retired last week after nearly 50 years in the TV-radio business.

>> Feb. 1 will be the 40th anniversary of the Minnesota State junior middleweight championship fight between hall of famers Brian Brunette and Gary Holmgren from St. Paul that Brunette won in a 10-round decision before a sold-out Prom Center crowd. Considered among the greatest bouts in Minnesota boxing history, the match has been viewed more than 3,000 times on YouTube.

>> Happy birthday: Legendary Hamline University football-track coach Dick Mulkern turns 99 on Tuesday./l

Don’t print that

>> Former Twin Joe Mauer these days should be feeling petty good, at least for now, about chances of being elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

It’s not guaranteed, but on Saturday trending at 84 percent (75 percent required for election) among 156 voters who have revealed their ballots to the HOF’s tracker is a good indication that he’ll trend even higher among voters who don’t reveal their ballots. That’s because those voters tend to emphasize traditional stats, and three batting titles is a major traditional stat.

Hall of Fame voting results will be announced on Jan. 23. Inductions will be July 23 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

>> Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva and Kirby Puckett have bronze statues outside Target Field. Fellow former Twins Hall of Famers Bert Blyleven and Jim Kaat do not have statues.

Mauer, who spent each of his 15 major league seasons in Minnesota, certainly would seem statue-worthy if elected.

>> Only two catchers — Johnny Bench and Ivan Rodriguez — have been Hall of Fame-elected in their first year on the ballot. It took Yogi Berra — an 18-time All-Star who played on 10 World Series champions with the Yankees — two years of eligibility for election.

>> A Mauer election would be the ninth time that two players from the same high school — Mauer and Paul Molitor from Cretin-Derham Hall and Cretin, respectively — were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Others are Ozzie Smith and Eddie Murray, Locke High in Los Angeles; Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Larkin, Moeller in Cincinnati; Tom Seaver and Frank Chance, Fresno High in California; Arky Vaughn and Walter Johnson, Fullerton High in California; Joe Dimaggio and Tony Lazzeri, Galileo in San Francisco; Frank Robinson and Ernie Lombardi, McClymonds in Oakland; Joe Cronin and Harry Heilmann, Sacred Heart Prep in San Francisco, and Tony La Russa and Fred McGriff, Thomas Jefferson in Tampa. La Russa went in as a manager.

However, no high school is believed to have graduated two Baseball Hall of Famers plus a Heisman Trophy winner (Cretin-Derham’s Chris Weinke).

>> Minnesota high school baseball coaches will introduce a “Joe Mauer Award” to a baseball player who plays three sports, as Mauer did at Cretin-Derham Hall, also excelling in football and basketball.

>> In his fourth time as a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, ex-Viking Jared Allen now has a 50-50 chance for 2024 election. Electees will be announced on Feb. 8.

>> It was nearly two years ago that Jim Harbaugh, who last week coached Michigan to the national football championship, interviewed for the Vikings job and it appeared to outsiders that the job would be offered. But five minutes after the interviewed ended, simultaneously it was announced that Harbaugh was returning to Michigan and that the Vikings were hiring Kevin O’Connell.

It remains puzzling that the Vikings would bring in a coach of Harbaugh’s stature to interview, then not hire him. Usually those deals are done even before the interview.

>> While Glen Taylor is selling the Timberwolves and Lynx for $1.5 billion, the average NBA franchise valuation is $4 billion, a 685% increase over the last decade, Huddle Up points out. But TV viewership, 2.99 million during the 1995-96 season, was 1.59 million last season, a decrease of 47 percent.
Meanwhile, when the NBA expands by two teams, new Wolves majority owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore, and minority partner Taylor, will enjoy a $300 million expansion payment.

>> The recent passing of Billy Gardner at age 96 recalls the time in 1983 that the hilariously funny Twins manager was jailed in Maplewood for driving under influence. Gardner was put in a cell with a guy covered in vomit after a drinking experience, Gardner told the Pioneer Press.

Upon entering the cell, Gardner’s disheveled jailmate looked up and asked his name.

“My name’s Billy Gardner, pal,” Gardner said.

“What do you do?”

“I’m the manager of the Minnesota Twins,” Gardner answered.

The jailmate said, “Really? You’re the manager of the Minnesota Twins?”

Yes, Gardner said.

“Any chance I can get two tickets for tonight’s game?” the cellmate asked.

Responded Gardner, “I don’t think you’re going to be in shape for tonight’s game, pal.”

>> With Gardner’s passing, Al Worthington, 94, becomes the oldest living former Twin.

>> It turns out ex-Viking Adam Thielen, 33, wasn’t over the hill after all this season. He finished with a team-leading 103 catches and 1,014 yards and four touchdowns for a horrible (2-15) operation in Carolina.

>> Ex-Twin Miguel Sano, 30, is batting .231 with two home runs and 30 strikeouts in 107 at-bats for Estellas Orientales in the Dominican Republic winter league.

>> Besides his $17 million salary, Vikings pass rusher Danielle Hunter’s 16.5 sacks were worth a $3 million incentive bonus this season.

>> One guess is that the Vikings will play Houston in their designated international home game in London next year.

>> Junior Joe Alt, the Notre Dame All-America offensive tackle from Totino Grace, is expected to go among the top eight picks in April’s NFL draft.

>> Don’t be surprised if former Eastview football coach Kelly Sherwin joins head coach Mike Grant’s Eden Prairie staff for next season.

>> Ex-Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski is favored to be NFL coach of the year, ahead of the Lions’ Dan Campbell, who this season beat the Vikings twice.

>> The Twins have analytics people who measure the spin rate of curveballs of every pitcher in the major leagues.

>> After screening 21 applicants and interviewing six for the GM-head golf professional position at Stillwater Country Club, David Malatak from Sewickley Heights Golf Club near Pittsburgh, Pa., has been hired.

>> Wishing the best for hall of fame former Hill-Murray football coach Barry Persby, hospitalized at University of Minnesota Medical Center with a serious health challenge.


>> Recalling Bud Grant’s three requirements for coaching success: “A patient wife, a loyal dog and a great quarterback, not necessarily in that order.”

Related Articles