Besides the obvious candidates to take a quarterback early in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Vikings have been a popular projected landing spot for incoming signal-callers. Incumbent starter Kirk Cousins is entering a contract year. And general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who's purged several pricey veterans this offseason, has left the door open to pursue a longer-term answer.

It's why the Vikings have long made sense as a dark-horse suitor for the 49ers' Trey Lance. If splashier upgrades, like the Ravens' Lamar Jackson or an early-first-round QB prospect, are out of reach, Lance stands out as a potential consolation prize. Though he's just 22, and just two years removed from going No. 3 overall to San Francisco, the 49ers have been noncommittal about his future, got an unexpectedly showing from backup Brock Purdy in 2022, and are reportedly fielding calls about Lance's availability.

Not only that, but the 49ers spoke directly with the Vikings at the scouting combine about a potential trade involving the QB, per ProFootballTalk. Minnesota has since restructured Cousins' contract, making it harder to deal the veteran before June 1. But it's clear both sides are entertaining the possibility of Lance relocating from the Bay Area back to his home state.

In that case, here are three potential trade offers the Vikings could make:

Trade No. 1

  • Vikings get: QB Trey Lance, 2023 third-round pick (No. 99)
  • 49ers get: QB Kirk Cousins, 2024 second-round pick

This is the most logical scenario: the 49ers and Vikings swap QBs, enabling Cousins to reunite with old friend Kyle Shanahan in a system built to his strengths as a play-action rhythm passer. San Francisco wouldn't have to rush Purdy back from his elbow injury, which may or may not sideline him for much of 2023, and could essentially rent Cousins ahead of his 2024 free agency, then decide at that point which QB belongs under center moving forward. It's a win-win for all parties with the 49ers.

In Minnesota, meanwhile, Lance would be a much riskier bet than Cousins, having barely played in each of his first two NFL seasons. But if Adofo-Mensah is serious about going big or going home at the most important position, Lance offers physical traits that Cousins simply does not; while he's not a known commodity, he's a higher-upside one. Lance having built-in hometown support as a Minnesota native certainly doesn't hurt.

As for the compensation, we've got the Vikings essentially getting a late third for Cousins. That may seem low considering he's a proven, serviceable starter in the mold of Jared Goff and Derek Carr, but he's also only under contract through 2023, with his heart surely set on cashing in once again via free agency. We've got the 49ers essentially getting a 2024 second for Lance, which is a far cry from what they paid to draft him in 2021 but may actually be a steal if they're truly out on him as a prospect.

Trade No. 2

  • Vikings get: QB Trey Lance
  • 49ers get: 2023 third-round pick (No. 87), 2024 third-round pick

In this scenario, Cousins stays put, albeit with more looming competition than he's ever had in Minnesota: he'd likely retain his starting gig, allowing Lance not to rush his own return from 2022's injury and/or adjust to the new system, and have the chance to earn a new deal from either the Vikings or another team in 2024 free agency. The 49ers get a mid-third-rounder this year and a future third (which roughly equates to the value of a fourth this year) to part with their maligned young QB. Moving forward, they'd likely turn to new backup Sam Darnold until Purdy is healthy. Or -- gasp -- try their hardest to lure Tom Brady back out of retirement.

Trade No. 3

  • Vikings get: QB Trey Lance
  • 49ers get: DE Danielle Hunter, 2023 third-round pick (No. 87)

Once again, Cousins stays (or goes elsewhere via trade). This time, though, San Francisco doubles down on its defensive approach to secure Nick Bosa an imposing running mate after losing Samson Ebukam and Charles Omenihu in free agency. Hunter is skipping the start of the Vikings' offseason program while reportedly seeking a pay raise, but he'd make for a plug-and-play star on a front now also featuring Javon Hargrave. Assuming Cousins does stay, the Vikings would again play the long game, allowing Lance to learn the system while keeping all options on the table for 2024.