As we all know, Chester Taylor's contract is expiring soon. While his services on the team have been tremendous, there is always the chance that he will want to head for greener pastures and a starting job elsewhere. And who can blame him if he does? He signed with the Vikings to be a starter and watched them draft a RB in his second year on the team. At 31 years old, he has only one full season as a starter. Many believe he would generate a lot of interest on the open market for this reason however, as his body hasn't taken the beating of most backs his age.
If Taylor decides not to re-sign with the Purple and Gold, many have speculated that we should address the backup RB position in the 1st or 2nd round of this year's draft. A player like Dexter McCluster (who I see as a poor man's Percy Harvin) could step into Taylor's vacated third down back duties. While I understand the logic in such a move, it would be counterproductive. Peterson's brilliance is unparalleled but his protection and pass catching have been a weakness throughout his career (though he is improving in both areas quickly). Our backup needs to excel in those areas that Peterson is weakest (as Taylor has for several years). And those areas are the same areas that all rookie backs struggle with, especially pass protection.
Fortunately for us, two veteran running backs have recently come available for the upcoming free agency signing period. Both are experienced blockers and exceptional receivers out of the backfield. They both come from similar offenses even. That's right, Brian Westbrook and LaDainian Tomlinson are both free agents in case you missed the news.
The thought of adding Brian Westbrook to this offense must have Childress salivating a little. Though he has never said it publicly, I believe that Childress had been looking for a player to fill Westbrook's role in his offense ever since he came here. It is for this reason that Childress threw caution to the wind and drafted a player who most assumed was red flagged off the Vikings draft board. Smart money is on Childress sticking with his Philly connection and snatching up Westbrook immediately should Taylor move on. Westbrook has always been too injury prone to be a feature back but may still have some productive years ahead of him as a backup. And the chance to play for a championship caliber team, backup one of the best in the game, work with a coach he is familiar with and continue in an offensive system that he has excelled with in the past may be too much for Westbrook to pass up.
However, the thought of LT and Peterson playing on the same team has me salivating a little myself. And not just out of some John Madden football fantasy where two of the best RB's of the last decade play on the same offense. LT is not the same back he was 3 years ago. That much is clear. But I believe he can still be productive as a backup, especially in the screen game we like to run on 3rd downs. Throw in the added benefit of having one of the best backs in history mentor our own little All Pro RB, and this move makes a lot of sense to me.
The Vikings have publicly stated their desire to keep Taylor. But there has been little to no news on negotiations lately. And those comments were made before two other great options became available. Even with Favre's decision hanging over the Vikings, I think this will be the most important story over the next 2 weeks or so.
So who would you rather have? Westbrook? Tomlinson? Re-sign Taylor? A rookie? Someone else? Sound off Vikings fans!