To Trade or Not to Trade?

Vikings fans everywhere are succumbing to draft fever as draft weekend approaches. The hot speculation is about the possibility of trading up in the first round to potentially go after a quarterback of the future. But sometimes the best trades that teams make are the ones that go largely unnoticed by the talking heads on draft weekend, but there are times they prove to be just as important.

With the 2006 draft approaching and the Vikings sitting with five first-day picks, there has been a lot of talk about trades and what it would take for the Vikings to get up to a spot to take one of the hot quarterbacks. It's the annual debate as to who are the franchise guys of the future in the NFL.

But not all trades need to be blockbusters to be successful. Look back at a couple of "minor" deals made by the Vikings in the 2004 draft. Sitting with the 19th overall pick, the Vikings were obviously working the phones. The team was planning to select Kenechi Udeze, but Dolphins officials had a feeling the Vikings were listening to trade offers. Whether they were seriously considering any is the makings of draft day mythology – Mike Tice looked like a very large cat that had swallowed a good-sized canary. They didn't come right out and say whether the war room posse was seriously considering trading down a few spots – a rare moment of Texas Hold ‘Em silence for Tice – but the Dolphins had their eyes on offensive lineman Vernon Carey and didn't want to take any chances. Not take any chances, as in offering a fourth-round pick to move up just one spot.

With an assurance from Dolphins officials that they wouldn't take Udeze – something of a leap of faith even though Rob Brzezinski knew and trusted a lot of his former co-workers with the Dolphins – the teams swung a trade. Miami moved up to No. 19 and took Carey and the Vikings took Udeze with the next pick. When the "extra" pick came along, the Vikings used the 119th overall selection to take Mewelde Moore. While he hasn't been a savior to the backfield, he has been a strong contributor to the Vikings for the two seasons he's been with the team.

Perhaps being given a little insight as to what the teams in their general vicinity were interested in, the Vikings packaged a fifth-round selection to move up in the second round from No. 50 to No. 48. Convinced that either the Saints or Bengals were going to take a linebacker, the Vikings moved up two spots and grabbed Dontarrious Thomas. The Bengals took defensive back Keiwan Ratliff at No. 49 – but it should be noted they took a pair of linebackers in the third round. With the 50th pick, the Saints took wide receiver Deverey Henderson – as well as a linebacker with the 60th overall selection – packaging the fifth-rounder the Vikings sent them in another trade.

What ends up making that trade a winner? The Saints traded away the Vikings' fifth-round pick in the Thomas deal (No. 151 overall). They swapped that pick in a deal with the Redskins that gave the 151st pick to Washington. They took tackle Mark Wilson out of Cal. Does that name sound familiar? Maybe it should. He's on the Vikings roster fighting for the fourth tackle spot with Sean Bubin – completing the circle of life on the Thomas draft-day trade and effectively giving back the Vikings' pick with two years experience.

But the Vikings weren't done yet. The Ravens came calling looking for the answer to their long-awaited prayers at wide receiver. Having had a trade with the 49ers to get Terrell Owens negated by the league, the Ravens had no T.O., no first-round pick (they gave up after the Vikings' draft snafu of '03 that didn't get them Byron Leftwich, but eventually got them future Hall of Not-So-Good inductee Kyle Boller) and a pressing need at wide receiver. The Ravens let the position go in the second round, taking DT Dwan Edwards, who currently has 24 tackles and no sacks in 16 career games over two seasons. But they had a feeling and showed no hard feelings about the Ravens making them look like morons a year earlier when the clock ran out on their trade and other teams started taking players like a land grab while the Vikings got their bearings. The Vikings agreed to trade down from their third-round pick (No. 82 overall) to the Ravens' pick at No. 88 with a fifth-rounder (No. 155) thrown in.

That budding star the Ravens had to have? Wide receiver Devard Darling. In the two years since he was taken, he has twice as many special teams tackles (four) as he does receptions (two catches for five yards). My math isn't that good, but that represents as many picks jumped over as it does career yards for Darling.

The Vikings had to wait for another half hour as picks went off the board. Tice said after the pick that they had Darrion Scott rated as their top guy and were willing to take the chance on another DE falling to 88. If Scott didn't last, they already had Udeze. And the wait began, as a list of players that resemble a "who's that?" much more than "who's who" to casual fans, went off the board. Guards Stephen Peterman and Sean Locklear. Defensive back Jeremy LeSueur. Linebacker Jorge Cordova. And, finally (drum roll, please), punter B.J. Sander.

The Vikings still got Scott and had another pick thrown in. That pick became Rod Davis, who in two seasons has 28 tackles and has been a solid special teams contributor – edging out Dwan for the career tackles advantage.

What does this go to show us? You can do all the hot stove talk about how to package this deal or that deal to move up and grab a quarterback, but sometimes the best trades aren't the ones that get all the national attention.

* The Vikings met with Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst on Wednesday at Winter Park.
* The team said it will no longer be announcing what players are coming to the team's facility. But conventional wisdom has it that, as long as these players are represented by agents who want to create a buzz about interest in their clients, word just might have a remote chance of leaking out anyway. Just a hunch.
* Defensive end Lance Johnstone became former Vikings DE Lance Johnstone Wednesday when he signed a two-year deal with the Raiders. Johnstone, who spent the last five years with the Vikings, spent the first five years of his career as a Raider. The Vikings made no outward attempts at re-signing Johnstone after he became a free agent last month.
* From the "Hey, Things Could Be Worse" Department" comes this: Think the Vikings' new management is tight-lipped with the media? The Raiders have barred the media from their latest minicamp. No field access. No interviews. No nothing. Maybe Art Shell learned something about media relations working in the league office. Obviously, he knows the people that would give him permission to take such a step. Let's hope for all fans' sake that this doesn't become a trend.

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