If the Minnesota Vikings were to reach out to the Cincinnati Bengals about running back Jeremy Hill, is it possible they would make another Carson Palmer-like trade? It may seem preposterous simply because trades rarely happen in the NFL. But the fit is nearly perfect. To hear why and some potential Vikings players who could be included in a deal, listen to the following podcast:
The Vikings lost a lot more than a starting running back when Adrian Peterson went down with a meniscus tear. The former MVP was the centerpiece of a team that has championship aspirations. The desperation trade for quarterback Sam Bradford after the horrendous injury to Teddy Bridgewater demonstrated that. Now they may be even more desperate. Forcing Bradford, who has only been on the team for a couple of weeks, into a lot of third-and-longs is not a recipe for success.
Meanwhile, Hill is managing a measly 2.7 yards per carry so far. Sure the offensive line deserves some of the blame, but Giovani Bernard has managed a hearty 4.2 yards per carry behind that very same line. Very simply, Bernard is a better fit for the Bengals, and Hill could be a better fit for the Vikings.
Why Hill fits the Vikings’ offensive scheme better
Norv Turner, the Vikings’ coordinator, runs a one-cut system with offensive linemen on the move, and they employ their fullback a good deal in the I-formation. All of these fit Hill’s running style, as he likes getting downhill fast. Meanwhile, Bernard’s superb ability in the passing game has proved to be the perfect fit for quarterback Andy Dalton and Cincinnati’s offense, which operates a lot out of the shotgun with three wide receiver sets.
Why the Vikings need Hill
Hill (235 pounds) is actually bigger than Peterson (220 pounds) and a similarly physical runner. While it’s not fair to compare the two (Adrian Peterson is one of the most physically imposing running backs ever), Hill is a lot closer to Peterson than Jerick McKinnon, a hyper-athletic player who is more suited to being a third-down back.
At this point in the season, the Vikings run the risk of losing their offensive identity. Yes, Peterson got off to a slow start, but the attention he drew from defenses was a big reason Bradford was able to be so productive with the Vikings.
Who the Bengals may get in return
The Bengals’ biggest area of concern is the same as the Vikings’, offensive line. For that reason, it seems unlikely they will package one of their more talented offensive linemen in any sort of deal. Having said that, here are a few players the Bengals might inquire about:
- Alex Boone - a native of Lakewood, Ohio and a product of Ohio State who is strong against the blitz and was signed away from the San Francisco 49ers just this offseason. Boone can play tackle or guard and is highly disciplined, committing only four penalties all of last year.
- Joe Berger - a solid guard/center who would help in the immediate future, but not necessarily be a long term answer due to his age (34).
- Danielle Hunter - Perhaps the most realistic option, he is just starting to come into his own as a pass rusher. The second year defensive end out of LSU would provide the Bengals with what they need with on the defensive line: depth. He would also give them some youth at defensive end, and allow the team to move on from Margus Hunt next year, in case his surprising start to the 2016 season does not continue.
From the Vikings perspective, the trade is undoubtedly appealing, though they did just sign Ronnie Hillman. Minnesota has shown a good deal of interest in former Bengals, including Terence Newman and Andre Smith. And they have shown that they are prepared to do what it takes to stay afloat on offense so that their defense, arguably the best in the NFL, can continue to dominate and carry them to postseason success.
But from Cincinnati’s side, the trade doesn’t make as much sense. The Bengals would need to find someone to replace Hill’s goal line contributions, as he has 21 touchdowns since 2014. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely they would trade away a starter for draft picks when they are looking to contend.