The 2015 Cincinnati Bengals roster will be set by 4 p.m. EST on Saturday.
How they get their roster trimmed down from 75 to 53 between now and then remains to be seen. Players being waived or cut outright will make up the majority of the roster trimmings along with some players being placed on PUP or I.R. However, we could see the Bengals make a trade or two to either trim their roster, or help them fill out their final roster.
If the Bengals decide they have too many good players but not enough roster spots, they may try and trade someone for a late-round draft pick. Or, they could look to trade a player at a position with a lot of depth to another team for someone at a position of weakness.
In order for player-for-player trades to get done, there often are several extenuating circumstances that lead to a deal getting done:
1. A connection between two franchises (coaching staff, front office, etc.)
2. Both players have similar salaries with small cap hits going forward.
3. Both players have become expendable on their current rosters
For the Bengals, there is one team that all three factors could apply to most, and that's the Minnesota Vikings.
Former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is now the head coach in Minnesota. He was key in the development of defensive end Margus Hunt after drafting him out of SMU in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Zimmer once went as far as to compare Hunt to All-Pro defensive lineman J.J. Watt.
However, Hunt has rarely seen the field with the Bengals and has been a major disappointment to this point. He's also become expendable with the likes of Will Clarke and Chris Carter stepping up, not to mention Marcus Hardison doubling as a defensive end and tackle. Michael Johnson is also back in Cincinnati, and if he can stay healthy, will occupy a lot of the defensive end snaps alongside Carlos Dunlap with Wallace Gilberry and Carter (hopefully) getting most of the backup snaps.
The same disappointment with Hunt is also the case with Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, an electric returner who offers very little as a wide receiver. He's now on the roster bubble in Minnesota since they have a player very similar to him in Stefon Diggs, which has made Patterson expendable. He's also coming off a 2014 season in which he caught just 33 passes for 384 yards and one score after catching 45 passes for 469 yards and four scores as a rookie.
However, Patterson, has averaged 29.8 yards per kickoff return to go with two scores through his first two years in the NFL. Compare that to Brandon Tate's 24.8 per return and his 31 catches for 410 yards the past three years and you can see how Patterson would be an upgrade as the No. 4 receiver for the Bengals.
With the Bengals and Zimmer still having a strong relationship, they could look to help each out with a deal like this. Patterson gives the Bengals an upgrade on offense and special teams, while Hunt gives Zimmer another versatile lineman for his defense. I don't think Minnesota would take Hunt for Patterson straight up, but maybe a fifth or sixth-round pick would get the deal done.
Not only would this get rid of Hunt, but it would also allow the Bengals to cut Brandon Tate since he'd no longer be needed. It'd be killing two birds with one stone. There's also the case of Mario Alford. If Cincinnati opts to waive him to try to sign him to the practice squad, it would make the trade for Patterson look even more appealing.