Relationships matter in the NFL, a reality that may matter when considering a potential QB trade from the Vikings.
Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Titans GM Ran Carthon meet. In fact, Adofo-Mensah referred to him as his “good friend” in January. Currently, Minnesota has some uncertainty about the long-term outlook at quarterback, while Tennessee seems inclined to hand things over to Will Levis.
Where does that leave Malik Willis, the 24-year-old who was taken 86th overall in 2022? Don’t be surprised if Carthon, a GM who wasn’t responsible for turning Willis into a Titan, looks to win back some draft capital for a player whose future in Tennessee doesn’t look particularly rosy.
A Vikings quarterback trade: Malik Willis
Quite often, rumors have danced around Trey Lance, one of the many quarterbacks in San Francisco. Originally from Marshall, Minnesota, Lance makes sense when it comes to the purple dot connection. What has been less certain, however, is whether there is current Interest from Minnesota to move him away from Kyle Shanahan’s team.
In the end, Lance to Minnesota still exists as a possibility. Kirk Cousins will enter free agency next year if there isn’t an extension, a situation that has surprised me, no doubt, and Lance may be looking for a different opportunity if things continue on his modest trajectory in San Francisco. At this time, a deal with the Vikings and 49ers doesn’t seem imminent.
However, one wonders about Malik Willis. spots like The network project and CBS Sports have addressed the issue. One team not to sleep on is the Vikings, especially once the schedule shifts to 2024.
The aforementioned TDN article thinks Willis would offer an intriguing update: “It’s a crowded room, but Willis would add a layer of excitement to a franchise that lacks a long-term answer at the center. Head coach Kevin O’Connell runs an offense similar to what Malik Willis learned in Tennessee, giving the sophomore the advantage of applying recent teachings to a new destination.”
Yes, the QB room is already very talented. Cousins isn’t going anywhere in 2023; he’s QB1 and you can’t argue with that fact. Behind him are Nick Mullens, just signed for 2 years, and Jaren Hall. The rookie is someone the franchise is at the top of its game for, so he hopes to see him on the list.
Willis’ appeal is that he is a still-young quarterback who was highly regarded heading into the 2022 NFL Draft. He struggled as a rookie, finishing his year with a 1-2 record and completing 50.8% of his passes for 276 yards, 0 TDs and 3 INTs. Without sugarcoating it: those are ugly statistics.
Of course, he’s still young, so we should by no means think that the final chapter in his NFL career story has been written. The scouting profile on the NFL website draws attention to his silver lining and points out some of the issues he’ll need to address: “At the pro level, the extra film work and a layered pro-style passing attack could allow for more focused reads and help you see the field faster and more clearly from the pocket. Play callers should rely on his special talents as a running back and include called runs into the game plan.”
The same piece screened an opening round pick and insisted that Willis mix Jay Cutler and Jalen Hurts in his style of play.
Kevin O’Connell, who, like Willis, was a third-round pick, can welcome the opportunity to work alongside the young quarterback. Many coaches like to think they have what it takes for a player to shine, but maybe O’Connell (QB-turned-coach) is the one to do it with Willis. Additionally, Kwesi has shown with several of his trades that he likes to bring in young, up-and-coming players who are still on their rookie deals. Willis fits the bill.
The combination of business history, Cousins uncertainty and the GM-to-GM relationship makes Malik Willis someone worth keeping an eye on. It’s true that Minnesota may not have the room to bring in Willis unless they’ve moved on from Nick Mullens, but the Tennessee quarterback is certainly someone to watch if an injury arises or the backup struggles during the preseason.
The Vikings have a couple open roster spots and $18 million in cap space. Training camp begins on Sunday.
Editor’s Note: Information from Professional soccer reference and on the cap helped with this piece.