The NFL trade deadline does not get the attention of it’s MLB counterpart, mostly because trades are so rare. But there are occasionally trades that grab attention involving recognizable names, with the most recent in-season example being last year when the Cincinnati Bengals traded quarterback Carson Palmer to the Oakland Raiders.
The Minnesota Vikings dropped to 5-3 on the season with a 36-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night, but they can still be considered a playoff contender in the NFC at this point. The team’s most glaring weakness, at least offensively, is clearly at wide receiver and an overhaul of that group should be coming during the offseason.
But there are some veteran options that could be made available via trade ahead of next Tuesday’s trade deadline, so the Vikings may look closely at making a move over the next few days.
The Carolina Panthers are in a state of upheaval right now with the firing of general manager Marty Hurney, so they may be looking to part with veteran players in an effort to clear salary, get younger in spots and put more pieces around quarterback Cam Newton.
One such veteran that may draw some interest from other teams is wide receiver Steve Smith, who has 28 catches for 471 yards (16.8 yards per catch) but zero touchdowns so far this season in six games. He is still the clear-cut top option in the Panthers’ passing game even at age 33, and is one of the more accomplished wide receivers in the entire league with 727 catches, 10,749 yards and 59 touchdowns to this point in his 12th season.
Smith’s age makes him a poor fit for the Vikings’ recent plan to make the roster a lot younger, and his contract is also likely to be a concern for any team that shows interest. He is due to make a minimum of $14.75 million from 2013-2015 as part of the four-year deal he signed with Carolina last spring, and that contract also includes a $9 million option for 2016.
What exactly the Panthers would want in return in a trade is a question, if they are even willing to entertain trade offers for Smith right now. Who exactly is making those type of decisions for that franchise right now is unknown, so there could be an opportunity for the Vikings or another team to acquire Smith for less than equal value. His age and contract also could, and perhaps should, reduce what the Panthers can realistically get in a trade.
I think Vikings general manager Rick Spielman should offer a middle-round pick for Smith, just to get a feel for where the Panthers are all the way around in terms of his trade value, if they are willing to listen, etc. Anything more than that would be too much with the other factors in play, since the Vikings would be dealing with Smith’s likely decline as he made a fairly significant salary over the next few seasons.