Back in 1989, the Minnesota Vikings pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Dallas Cowboys that sent one of the best running backs of the time to the Twin Cities. Herschel Walker, who was in the middle of yet another stellar campaign for the Cowboys and was coming off a 2,000-total yards season, was traded from a rebuilding team in Dallas to a Vikings organization looking for identity.
The deal sent five players and eight draft picks to the Cowboys. Among the prospects Jerry Jones and Co. drafted with the picks were running back Emmitt Smith (traded up in first round with Pittsburgh to get him), wide receiver Alvin Harper and safety Darren Woodson. One of the ensuing deals ended up with the Cowboys also nabbing defensive lineman Russell Maryland.
At this time, it seemed the Cowboys were throwing away any chance at contention in the immediate future. Walker, who was 27 at the time of the deal, was coming off a string of two seasons that saw him rack up over 3,600 total yards and earn two trips to the Pro Bowl. He only played 42 games with the Vikings and ended up bouncing around the league for six more seasons, compiling over 1,000 yards just a single time during that span.
It is with this that I am suggesting that the Minnesota Vikings seriously consider trading Adrian Peterson, the best running back of our era, before the trade deadline next week.
No, I am not writing this in bleached jeans and a tie-dyed shirt from Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Yes, I am 100 percent serious. Well, maybe about 73.2353243 serious.
Peterson is one of the top-five running backs to ever put on a NFL uniform. He’s coming off the single best season at that position in the modern history of the league. His ability in both the run and pass game is unmatched in its entirety. As a shoe-in Hall of Famer, the 28-year-old running back is also in the prime of his career; a prime that may end up lasting only three or four more seasons.
You see, running backs don’t possess anywhere near the shelf life of other positions around the NFL. Most end up struggling once they hit the wrong side of 30 and freefall from there. We’ve seen this with the likes of Eddie George, Clinton Portis and Emmitt Smith, among many others in the past.
The devaluation of the running back position is also a necessary component of any trade that may take place. There is a feeling around the inner circles of the NFL that teams can go out there and acquire a top-tier running back in the mid-to-late rounds, and recent events hold true to this theory.
Many of the best running backs in the league were drafted in the mid-to-late rounds or didn’t even get selected during the annual event in New York City.
Jamaal Charles (third round), LeSean McCoy (second round), Frank Gore (third round), Arian Foster (undrafted), Matt Forte (second round), Alfred Morris (sixth round) were all drafted outside of the initial round. They represent six of the eight leading rushers in the NFL thus far this season.
However, Peterson transcends the devaluation of this position because he is light years better than any one running back in the league and will bring an amazing amount of fanfare with him to whatever city he might end up in a potential trade.
Then you have the Vikings. This is a team that snuck into the playoffs last season riding the legs of the galloping Peterson to an eventual wildcard loss to the division-rival Green Bay Packers. Despite the surprise season, there wasn’t any objective observer who believed the Vikings had a chance to make it to the Super Bowl unless AP ran for 250-plus yards and three scores each game.
There were too many holes on the team. Second-year quarterback Christian Ponder failed at nearly every level as it relates to progressing as a quarterback and couldn’t make the down field throw. Defenses were able to stack the box with eight or nine men (which made AP’s performance that much more ridiculous), but the end result was a meandering playoff team without any hopes of advancing deep into January. Defensively, old stalwarts such as Jared Allen and Antoine Winfield were not the same players that we saw in previous seasons, while average youngsters couldn’t step up their game. Their only dynamic offensive weapon, Percy Harvin, was sidelined with another injury and was just one month away from being sent to the Pacific Northwest in a trade.
This was the best possible outcome we could have hoped for from a Vikings team that seemed to be performing much better than their talented indicated.
The 2013 offseason started off with a bang. Harvin was sent to the Seattle Seahawks for a first and third round pick. Minnesota then traded back into the first round of April’s draft in order to fill a glaring need by selecting wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who would end up being their third pick of the opening night.
Despite signing former Packers’ wide receiver Greg Jennings, the Vikings made a clear statement during the offseason. They were going to build through the draft in and attempt to get younger at core positions. Patterson joined cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd as the three highly-touted prospects Minnesota picked up in the draft.
Antoine Winfield, Michael Jenkins, Geoff Schwartz and Jasper Brinkley joined Harvin in a mass departure of key veteran contributors. For the most part, they were replaced by in-house options and rookie draft picks.
For the Vikings, it was all about finding a happy medium between instant contention and sustainable success down the road. And it seemed to be a solid strategy.
One minor hiccup…
Ponder was still the anointed starter after a disastrous 2012 campaign and his only competition would come in the form of free-agent Matt Cassel, who was among the bottom-three quarterbacks in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs that season.
Where Minnesota has talent elsewhere on the field, its inability to get any type of consistent production from the quarterback position has handcuffed its ability to contend in the ultra-competitive NFC North.
Fully understanding that its quarterback situation wasn’t sustainable, the Vikings went out there and signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers first-round pick Josh Freeman earlier this month. Freeman, who possesses more talent on his pinky than Ponder has on his entire body, was given the starting job outright. After just 12 days with the team, Freeman put up one of the worst statistical games for a quarterback in the history of the league. Apologists like myself will point to a watered-down playbook and his short time with the team as a primary reason why Freeman struggled, but the Vikings had the look of one of the worst teams in the league on Monday Night Football against a previously winless New York Giants team.
Now at 1-5, Minnesota is completely out of the playoff race and attempting to find out exactly where it stands moving forward. Will Freeman be the quarterback of the future? What’s the end game as it relates to Christian Ponder? How could a seemingly talented offensive line be playing so bad? Why isn’t it getting first-round production from its three rookies? Is Leslie Frazier the long-term solution to lead the team? Is Jared Allen going to be worth the money he is due in 2014.
All of these questions come just 10 months after earning a surprise trip to the postseason. It now appears the Vikings are back at square one.
Seemingly out of contention for the foreseeable future, why not move Adrian Peterson?
First, the Vikings owe it to Peterson to put a contending team around the Hall of Fame running back. If they aren’t able to do that, especially with him in his prime, it might be time to put him in a better position in another city and for another franchise.
Second, if the Vikings cannot contend for a division title or conference championship with Peterson playing the best football of a stellar career, what makes them think they will be able to when he eventually slows down?
Third, As I indicated before, running backs tend to struggle when they hit the age of 30. While Peterson may be an exception to the rule simply due to his ridiculous athletic ability, is it reasonable to believe he’ll be playing at this level in three seasons? If not, hes going to be on the downswing when Minnesota’s young talent starts to succeed. That’s not the happy medium general manager Rick Spielman was looking for.
Finally, the bounty Minnesota could receive in a potential Peterson trade far outweighs his value to the team on the field right now and will go a long way in filling holes at other lackluster positions in the roster.
Take his name out of the equation, and it makes perfect sense for the Vikings to entertain trade offers for Peterson.
We must now look at what value he may have and some teams that could be interested. Remember, this is all pure conjecture on my part. For the purposes of checking in on potential interest, I am only going to include teams who have a viable chance of contention both in 2013 and for the long term. Remember, this is supposed to be fun more than anything else.
They are the first team that popped into everyone’s mind when the ridiculous report came out that Minnesota should trade Peterson. As a native of Texas, it would be a homecoming of sorts for Peterson. Add the Cowboys’ reported interest in acquiring a running back and you have a perfect storm of media speculation coming out of both the Twin Cities and Big D.
Jerry Jones and Co. also have the ability, at least from a player perspective, to pull off this mighty trade, the basis of which would start with another former Oklahoma running back in the form of DeMarco Murray. Lesser parts of this “dream” deal could possibly include Terrance Williams and a young defender like Morris Claiborne along with multiple picks heading to the Vikings.
The major hiccups (outside of the fact that AP isn’t going to be traded) is that the Cowboys have about $150 million in guaranteed money wrapped up in just six players. There is no way they can afford to pick up Peterson’s contract without trading one of them. Outside of Miles Austin, who Minnesota would baulk at, it’s highly unlikely the Cowboys part with one of these players.
Potential Deal: DeMarco Murray, Terrance Williams, Morris Claiborne, first-round pick in 2014 and first-round pick in 2015.
Green Bay Packers
A Dream Team of Peterson and Aaron Rodgers. This is a sick joke to fans in Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota, right? While highly unlikely, even on the off chance that Peterson is traded, this is pretty fun to look at.
We would be looking at the best quarterback and best running back in the NFL in the same backfield for the next four-plus season. Not only are AP and Rodgers the best at their positions today, they might actually be the best at their positions in the last 20 years. That would be simply stunning.
As with every team on this list, the chances of AP going to the Packers are about as likely as Richard Simmons suiting up and taking on LeBron James in the NBA Finals this year. General manager Ted Thompson values his draft picks as much as any other executive in the league. He’s also been opposed to doling out money for free-agent or trade targets in the past. Then there is this little minor hiccup waiting to turn into a full-blown laughing attack. Does anyone who actually exists in a reality outside of Skip Bayless’ confusing mind actually believe Minnesota would trade Peterson to a divisional rival?
If a trade were to be worked out, here are a few of the parameters. Eddie Lacy would be the first name Rick Spielman brings up. He’d be joined by Randall Cobb and Casey Hayward as well as multiple picks. Yeah right…
Potential Deal: Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb, Casey Hayward, first-round pick in 2014 and second-round pick in 2015.
San Francisco 49ers
When looking at Super Bowl contenders for both the short term and the long term, one simply cannot ignore the two top teams in the NFC West. San Francisco already boasts one of the most dynamic backfields in the entire National Football League with Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore. The latter actually ranks ahead of AP in rushing yards this season. In any event, this scenario is about as likely as Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll hosting a dinner party prior to the 49ers’ first game at Levi’s Stadium next year.
While the 49ers definitely do have the draft picks and talent on the roster to swing a deal like this, general manager Trent Baalke would have to have his body snatched from him by his namesake on Perfect Strangers for a deal like this to go down.
The parameters of such a mindless rumor would likely start out with injured running back Marcus Lattimore, wide receiver Michael Crabtree and one of a myriad of young defenders on the 49ers’ current roster. Baalke would then have to sweeten the pot by adding multiple picks in both 2014 and 2015.
Potential Deal: Marcus Lattimore, Michael Crabtree, Corey Lemonier, first, second and third round picks in 2014 and first-round pick in 2015.
I am not sure how this deal would work out, but it would be rather entertaining when all is said and done. The starting off points for Minnesota has to be Richard Sherman, right? There is somewhat of a precedent for a move like this. Back in 2004 the Denver Broncos sent Clinton Portis to the Washington Redskins for Champ Bailey. With that said, both AP and Sherman are better players than those two. Needless to say, Seattle would likely have to either send a lot more Minnesota’s way or attempt to avoid dealing Sherman its way.
Honestly, I am just looking at an offense that consists of Russell Wilson, Percy Harvin and AP. That would likely make The Greatest Show on Turf look like a watered-down version of the 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars. As it is, this isn’t going to happen. But if it did…
Potential Deal: Marshawn Lynch, Kam Chancellor, Bruce Irvin, first-round pick in 2014 and first-round pick in 2015.
New England Patriots
Again, this would tilt the football world on its axis and likely lead to some sort of retrograde motion. It would pretty much indicate that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick plan on going out with a bang over the course of the next three seasons. Add in an “older” running back in the prime of his career to an offense that has struggled this season and you have what amounts to one of the most dynamic offenses in the modern history of the league. Two first-ballot Hall of Famers riding off into the sunset on horseback in an attempt to take Peyton and the Broncos out. Oh, the storylines.
Of course, Greg Schiano has about as much of a chance of being Josh Freeman’s best man as this deal has of going down. Just for chutes and ladders…
Potential Deal: Stevan Ridley, Ryan Mallett, Chandler Jones, first and second-round picks in 2014 and first-round pick in 2015.
Trent Richardson…Moving on….
Oh Gio, please say it ain’t so. This unfathomable deal would likely start with Bengals’ rookie Giovani Bernard, who possesses one of the highest upsides of any young running back in the NFL. It would also team AP up with A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert to give Andy Dalton a plethora of weapons. Cincinnati doling out large sums of money for a player outside the organization will happen at about the same time as Mike Silver buying tickets to CAL’s homecoming game for all of his Twitter trolls. In any event, the trade might look a little something like this.
Potential Deal: Giovani Bernard, Geno Atkins, Dre Kirkpatrick, first and second-round picks in 2014, first-round pick in 2015 and third-round pick in 2016.
No, I didn’t buy some weed from Tyrann Mathieu and share a joint with John Elway outside Mile High. If any trade made some sort of sense outside of the Cowboys, this might be it. As you already know, the Broncos are in win-now mode. They’re banking on bringing home the Lombardi before Manning hangs up his cleats and is put out to pasture. Why not couple the best quarterback in this NFL this season with the best running back in the modern history of the league? Well, probably because they’d be making over $110 million over the course of the next three seasons combined. Yeah, that’s not going to work.
Either way, here is what this deal could look like…
Potential Deal: Demaryius Thomas, Ronnie Hillman, Wesley Woodyard, first and second-round picks in 2014 and first-round pick in 2015.
While the trade scenarios I presented above were meant to be nothing more than tongue and cheek, it does make some sense that the Vikings would entertain trade offers for Peterson. Even at his best over the past season plus, they are nowhere near conference title contenders. Heck, the Vikings are closer to acquiring the No. 1 overall pick than they are of making the playoffs this season. Why let Peterson waste away on a non-contending team when said team has all the leverage in trade negotiations?
Even if a trade doesn’t go down prior to next Tuesday, which is a likely scenario, the rumor mill will continued to bring up AP trade scenarios. It will continue into the 2014 offseason and beyond. The only way that Minnesota quiets them is by adding a ton of pieces (mainly a quarterback) to the roster in order to make Peterson’s golden years a tad more competitive. Until then, gossip away.
Vincent is the head sports editor at eDraft, co-host of eDraft Sports Radio (which airs every Tuesday and Thursday from 3-6 p.m. ET) and a fantasy writer for Pro Football Focus. He’s also the news director at PFC and co-host of Football Debate Central with Ryan Riddle every Tuesday on both PFC and 91.2 FM WVUD in Delaware and New Jersey. He’s also a former league-wide featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a contributor at Yahoo!
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