The Chargers should trade Justin Herbert to the Vikings

It’s beginning to feel like a foregone conclusion that the Vikings will trade up with the Chargers in the 2024 NFL Draft. The No. 5 pick feels like a pivot point in the class, if we assume three quarterbacks at the top, followed by Marvin Harrison Jr.

Up to this point the assumption has been that Minnesota would pick Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy to be their guy, if it holds that Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye are off the board. However, let’s assume for a second that there’s chaos in the NFL Draft. More aptly, let’s assume Jim Harbaugh chooses chaos.

If there’s one thing we know about Harbaugh it’s that he has very definite opinions of football, and what it takes to win. He built a National Champion based on defense and running the football, and at this point Los Angeles is a hole-filled organization with a franchise quarterback and not much else.

Okay, let’s stop burying the lede and just put this out into the universe.

Los Angeles Chargers receive:

  • 2024 1st round pick (11th overall)
  • 2024 1st round pick (23rd overall)
  • 2025 1st round pick
  • WR Jordan Addison

Minnesota Vikings receive

  • QB Justin Herbert

This is one of those ideas that seems utterly preposterous, and then you keep thinking about it, only to find it making more and more sense. In this scenario the Chargers completely restock with the ability to fill holes on both sides of the ball, while the Vikings get the only thing they truly lack with Kirk Cousins leaving: A top-tier quarterback.

To add to the romanticism of all this we’ll stick with the idea that with the No. 5 pick the Chargers themselves select J.J. McCarthy, locking the Michigan QB with his former head coach in Los Angeles.

Why the heck would the Chargers consider this?

Simply put: They’re not winning. The NFL has drastically changed in the last 24 months where it’s no longer a necessity to have an elite quarterback to win.

Miami has done this with Tua Tagovailoa, the 49ers achieved it with Brock Purdy, and the Lions have emerged with Jared Goff under center. You can be a winner if you can construct a system that doesn’t emphasize elite quarterback play — which is exactly what Harbaugh did at Michigan.

The immediate ceiling for Justin Herbert without Mike Williams or Keenan Allen is pretty low. Restocking the offensive weapons will take time, and it’s unclear if that’s the kind of resource allocation the Chargers want.

Los Angeles gets a quarterback Harbaugh knows he can win with, if they make this trade and two additional first round picks this year to fill gaps. The team gets another in 2025, and an emerging receiver in Jordan Addison who could legitimately be a No. 1 guy on any team that doesn’t have Justin Jefferson.

The biggest problem the Chargers had entering free agency 2024 was too much money sunk into a few guys, and the result wasn’t wins anyway. You hire Jim Harbaugh if you want a fresh approach, and while it would be bold (and painful), this could be the move that prevents Herbert from becoming Philip Rivers 2.0 — a great player with no ring to show for it.

Why this would make sense for the Vikings

Look, it’s Justin Herbert. You don’t get many chances to land a quarterback like that in a trade.

Minnesota is locked in draft purgatory where they’re unable to find a bonafide franchise quarterback, and too good to salt the earth and demolish everything. The Vikings offense is built around elite quarterback play — which necessitates getting a serious talent at the position and not taking a risk.

The Vikings are also on a clock. As it stands they have the best receiver in the NFL in Justin Jefferson, and nobody to throw him the ball. Even if they settled for someone like a J.J. McCarthy in the draft, there’s no guarantee he’d be able to maximize Jefferson’s potential.

Keeping Jefferson happy is of paramount concern. The worst-case scenario for this organization is whiffing on a QB, realizing he doesn’t fit their vision, and having Jefferson demand a trade as a result. This would convey to the star WR that the team is serious about him performing to his full potential, in turn making him happy long-term.

Losing Addison hurts, especially as he’s emerging as a top-tier talent — but Minnesota knows how to draft receivers. Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson are good enough weapons immediately, and the other receiver spots can be filled over time.

Could this actually happen?

No. Well, probably not.

This would take so many steps and interlocking pieces to make happen that it seems preposterous. Arriving and trading one of the best quarterbacks in the league is a sure-fire way to get fired if it doesn’t pan out, and I don’t think Harbaugh or GM Joe Hortiz want that smoke just now.

Still, it’s one of those chaotic moves that could utterly change the NFL Draft — and it actually makes sense for those involved. We can’t often say that about draft-day trades, and this would be a doozy.