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Lunchbreak: Exploring Trade Deadline Options; Vikings Defense Stepping Up

EAGAN, Minn. – With the NFL trade deadline approaching, The Athletic's Alec Lewis shared five big-picture thoughts on the Minnesota Vikings.

Lewis began by analyzing the team's quarterback options after losing Kirk Cousins for the season on Sunday:

This is not a conversation I expected to be having. For all the uncertainty surrounding the Vikings future — and, boy, a lot of uncertainty existed — penciling in Kirk Cousins for the rest of the season seemed like the safest bet.

In the aftermath of his torn right Achilles tendon, the Vikings essentially have three options:

  1. Sign a veteran free agent.
  1. Acquire a rental for the remainder of the season.
  1. Swing for the fences on a long-term option.

The first path is the least complex. The Vikings would have to first identify a quarterback who could run O'Connell's offense in a pinch and add to the team's QB room. Rookie Jaren Hall might be likeliest to start this Sunday, and longtime backup Nick Mullens could factor in after that. The incoming veteran could serve as a sounding board and additional depth. He could also play if called upon.

The Vikings would keep their draft capital and avoid any extended commitment. They would be making a minor short-term deal for maximum future flexibility.

The second route is not as simple. The Vikings would have to first assess who, if anyone, is a worthwhile upgrade over veteran Mullens and Hall. If they identify a solid target, trade conversations would commence. If they agreed on a deal, the Vikings would be making a moderate short-term commitment for moderate future flexibility.

The third option is swinging for the fences. Acquiring a high-end quarterback would be a solid answer both now and into the future and would align with that approach. There's just one problem: High-end quarterbacks are both hard to find and expensive. There aren't many available guys who make sense.

Lewis also explored other non-quarterback scenarios he's watching ahead of the 3 p.m. (CT) Tuesday deadline.

[Danielle Hunter] will become a free agent at the end of the season. And because he leads the NFL in sacks (10), he should be in line for a nice payday. This places the Vikings in a precarious position. Their defense is peaking. Brian Flores' unit ranks 10th in the NFL in DVOA, which accounts for strength of schedule. Minnesota has held each of its last three opponents under 20 points, all wins.

Understandably, Hunter is a focal point of the defense. His pass-rushing presence gives Flores the confidence to drop eight defenders in coverage. Hunter's ability also affects the way opposing offensive lines have to protect. The Vikings believe they can push the Detroit Lions in the NFC North, and if that's the case, they're going to need Hunter, right?

After unpacking the situations around quarterback and edge rusher, Lewis mentioned a few other positions he is keeping an eye on, noting depth on the offensive line and at safety, should the Vikings try to tap those areas in exchange for players at other positions or future picks.

It's tempting to categorize NFL teams as "buyers" or "sellers," but who's to say the Vikings won't pursue both options? They have excess in some areas that could be advantageous for other teams and a dearth at other spots.

Click here to read The Athletic's full trade deadline breakdown.

Star Tribune on the Vikings Defense Stepping Up, K.J. Osborn Season-Best

The Vikings defense is on a hot streak.

Star Tribune writer Andrew Krammer detailed why Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores has his unit playing with confidence.

Safety Josh Metellus used "devastated" a few times Monday to describe the mood on the Vikings chartered flight back to Minneapolis after Sunday's 24-10 win in Green Bay, where quarterback Kirk Cousins suffered what was confirmed to be a season-ending torn right Achilles tendon.

But then Metellus, a first-year team captain, was quick to note the team's 3-0 record without receiver Justin Jefferson and a defense that's rolling. SafetyCamryn Bynum echoed that thought, saying the Vikings defense has to continue their game-changing ways.

The Vikings have allowed only 16 points per game during a 4-1 stretch, including a season-low 10 points to the Packers. They're flirting with being a top-10 defense for the first time since 2019, currently ranking 12th in yardage allowed per game (322.8). They've also forced seven takeaways in a three-game win streak.