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A Thought About Big Trades- Part One

Today I'm going to espouse upon why I think certain trades are a bad idea, one in particular. Tomorrow or Wednesday, we shall discuss a trade I think is a good idea. I was going to do it all at once, but this was getting really long-winded.

Now then, let me continue this by saying a fond farewell to you, my fellow faithful Viking fandom, for in all likelihood this will be my last post, despite what I just said above. See, earlier, I mentioned He Who Shall Not Be Named in a FanShot. And now I will be beginning this story with another taboo subject. In all likelihood, I shall receive a lifelong ban.

C'est la vie, my friends. C'est la vie. (The French phrase, mind you. If you speak Spanish, primarily an island dialect (Puerto Rico, Cuba), you'll understand why that phrase should be used carefully in multilingual company.)

That's right. Let's start this off by reviewing the Herschel Walker trade.

After the leap of faith, of course. Probably best to stop the front page part with that. It gets worse.

So why am I mentioning the HWT? And in detail? Is it to put this season into perspective, to remind us it could be worse? No, that's not why. I'm bringing it up because time and time again, as the Vikings descend further and further (and quite rapidly at that) from their glorious 2009 selves, many well-intentioned fans have suggested that we reverse that unfortunate decision with a HWT of our own... an APT. (Adrian Peterson Trade, if you didn't follow.)

And that's a horrible idea. Not only because AP is a fan favorite, a face of the franchise during a time when we are in an increasingly desperate fight for a new stadium. Not only because, as Mark has pointed out, his new contract makes a trade a poorly-timed idea from a cap space standpoint. And not even just because OMG AP IS THE AWESOME NOOOOO... although, I won't lie, that's usually my first reaction to such thoughts.

It's because the 2011 Minnesota Vikings are not structured ANYTHING like the 1989 Dallas Cowboys, and furthermore, Herschel Walker was NOTHING to the Cowboys like Adrian Peterson is to the Vikings. Allow me to give you a brief history lesson.

Very quickly, let's take a pause and look at the one similarity between the situation. At the time, the Cowboys' best weapon was, in fact, Walker- just like our best weapon is, in fact, Peterson. Tony Dorsett was even around to be his Chester Taylor, to continue the analogy. (Until Dorsett was traded as well.) However, the looming difference is this ‘Irvin' fella- more on that below. Now, here are some key differences, and thoughts that should be contemplated before believing we can win Super Bowls by trading Adrian Peterson.

If you didn't know, in the beginning of the whole fiasco, head coach Jimmy Johnson had not thought about trading Walker... he wanted to trade Michael Irvin, and to the Oakland Raiders. Owner Al Davis thought the move was so ludicrous he, in fact, essentially talked Johnson out of the move. Now, there's difference #1. While we do in fact have a helluva WR in Percy Harvin, we must generally accept the fact that he's not a true wideout- he's far more the slot receiver, and the threat in the open field. If you need proof that ‘deep threat' is about the one thing on offense Harvin's not a master of, look at the beginning of the 2010 season, when we tried essentially to replace Sidney Rice with him... it worked so well we ended up picking up Hank Basket. (And Randy Moss. But I probably shouldn't dwell on another verboten topic here.) The truth is, Harvin's race to the end zone and subsequent TD against the Falcons was more the exception than the rule for our swiss army knife. While I will take away nothing from him for it... because it was in fact sheer awesomeness... if you look at the play you can see essentially that it worked via the element of surprise. Deep threats are typically not single-covered by a LB. (Let me quickly point out that said LB still did a helluva job covering Harvin... it's just that Ponder did a helluva better job in throwing, and Harvin did a helluva better job in catching. Still not taking a darn thing away from it all.)

Now, all of that breathlessly said and explained, it's again noteworthy that rookie Cowboy QB Troy Aikman (who did not have a very good rookie showing... in fact, it was their other rookie QB, Steve Walsh, who got the ‘boys their only win that season) had a passing game available to him. Our own QBOTF, Christian Ponder, really does not. Again, Harvin is great for all the various duties he's got, but if all we've got is him in the WR department (and really, who else do we truly have that we can count on?), the passing game isn't going to go well. And yes, we are switching to two-TE sets, and Kyle Rudolph is certainly emerging as a legitimate threat, the other TE in that situation, Visanthe Shianco, is not terribly likely to return to the team. (I'd love to be wrong there, but I'm probably not.) Mickey Shuler's on the practice squad (and likely for a reason), and Alan Reisner has bounced from the active roster, to the practice squad, to the street, and round and round that carousel goes. And with all due love to the People's Champion, Mr. Jim Kleinsasser is not likely to be back either- and even if he does, his true skillset is blocking, not receiving. Ergo, our two-TE set is likely to essentially become an one-and-a-half-TE set next season. (The half being Reisner, Shuler, or someone else drafted... hopefully low, because in all honesty, we've got bigger needs right now IMO.)

So, once again, Troy Aikman had a passing game available to work with that Christian Ponder, as of right now, really does not. Got all that? Good, let's move on.

Something else to keep in mind here is the very basic fact that no one, and I mean no one, will trade us what we traded. No way. Not happening. The one possible team that might consider a veritable bounty for Peterson would be the Detroit Lions, who desperately need a solid run game. And even the Cowboys weren't crazy* enough to trade Walker inter-divisionally: the Giants expressed interest, but the Cowboys rejected the thought of playing against Walker twice every season. (*Crazy like a fox, admittedly.) And again, the Lions probably would not trade half of what we gave away for Walker for the rights to Peterson.

So while the Cowboys ended up getting just what they needed to bring a tattered team to the Super Bowl essentially in one trade, there's zero chance we could do the same. There's reason number two.

The third and final thing that we need to remember when it comes to the APT, is the fact that not only did the Cowboys absolutely fleece us... they also got rather lucky. Why? Because three of the draft picks they acquired and used, by and large, turned out extremely well- Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson, and Alvin Harper. (The Cowboys also traded around several of the picks they received.) As we all know, the draft is a bit of a gamble. Yes, there are your certain ‘sure things' per se... but there are quite often the flameouts and busts, and sadly the Vikings have a bit of a history when it comes to that. Granted, many of our top-level picks in recent years have turned out fairly well, but the idea of trading a sure-fire player for draft picks is a risky proposition- and seeing as how the Vikings have a fairly lukewarm record at the draft gamble, that may not be a position we want to put ourselves in.

So there's your third reason the APT would not be a good idea- our recent drafting record should not inspire the necessary confidence to trade away our best offensive player for picks. Remember how well it worked out when we traded Randy Moss for a first round pick to the Raiders? Yeah, I rest my case. (That didn't work out for anyone, actually.)

So let's recap. Firstly, when the Cowboys fleeced us in the HWT, they had a legit passing game- which we, at this point, do not. Secondly, nobody in the NFL will trade us half of what the HWT netted for AP. Thirdly, if we were to make such a gamble, our record at the poker table means it will, in all likelihood, not work out as well for us as it did for the ‘boys. In summary, trading Adrian Peterson is a very, very bad idea.

Need a bathroom break? Go take one now. I'm not done. (I told you this was long winded. Just be thankful I broke ‘er up into two. Even though you'll never see the second part due to my impending lifelong ban.)

Okeedokee. Back? Cool. Sit down, get comfy. Put the beer away. (You know who you are.)

Now then, onto the second big player trade that's in vogue these days, that I believe is an equally bad idea- one Mr. Jared Allen. No, don't trade him. No. Here's why.

This one is (and I'm sure you're thankful) much simpler to explain- Jared Allen essentially at this point in time IS our defense. Chad Greenway has been alright, Henderson and Henderson are OK, and Kevin Williams has been his normal, if not in fact even better than recent years, dominant self. But let's face it- remove Jared Allen from the equation and our losses are much, much more lopsided.

Now I can hear many of you saying "but who cares in the end how well he's been playing... it's a team sport and we're still losing". This is true. But here's where I disagree with some of you, and there's absolutely no way short of time that will tell which of us is right- I think JA's got far more in the tank than many are giving him credit for.

Outside of a knee injury suffered a few seasons back, Allen's been rather physically intact his entire career. And as of this writing, he's also pretty much having a career season. Yes, Brett Favre (whoops, mentioned him again dammit!) had a career season right before pretty much another career season in the opposite sense, Favre was banged up straight to hell in the process- which Allen, again, has not been. I think in the rebuilding process we are now officially going through, Allen is and will remain an important piece. Will he be with us when we win the Super Bowl? Admittedly, that is hard to say- but personally, I don't think it's out of the question.

And to harp on the subject again, the guy is pretty much the only consistent bright spot in our defense. Remove him from the D-line, and who, essentially, are you going to replace him with? You're creating another void to draft- and lord knows with pretty much an entire O-line and secondary that needs replacing (not to mention WR and the looming second TE), that's not something we can afford to have right now. Remove Allen from the D-line and as of this immediate writing, you've got Brian Robison (meh- after his initial burst, thanks largely IMO to the ‘surprise' factor many players enjoy when they get their initial starts), Kevin Williams (OK, that's good), Remi Ayodele (Who? Oh yeah, he got that one sack), and... someone. Someone who's not Jared Allen, someone who's not tackling everything within reach, who's not sacking nearly every QB lined up against him, and someone who's likely not drawing consistent double-teams. Just imagine what Aaron Rodgers would have done to us had Jared Allen not nailed him a few times this season. (Good G-d I can't stop myself from the taboo subjects tonight.) With an even more deficient D-line than what we essentially have right now, the LB corps is pushed into even more duty than already (and for the most part, they often seem overwhelmed as it is, considering they essentially have to also play secondary), and our secondary is shredded even more... if that's possible. (And it is kids- never say it can't get worse. Oh, it can get worse.)

So who cares right now? The defense isn't winning us any games right now anyways, with or without Jared Allen. Well, as I said above, that's just another gaping hole we'd have to fill. And let's say we get lucky and make a few smart moves with the defense. Say, move Cedric Griffin to safety and it works out. Maybe, just maybe, one of the ‘fillers' works out. (Fingers crossed for my man Mistral Raymond being that someone.) We draft a good corner, and suddenly, we've got a halfway decent secondary. (We'll need at least one other corner too, I know... but one thing at a time here.) The LB corps can start playing like LBs and not DBs, we boot Ayodele and plug in Christian Ballard/ Everson Griffin, work on Robison's technique, condition, whatever it is he needs to pick it up some, and badabing, badaboom, our defense no longer sucks. Will we be the #1 defense in the league... no, but we won't be the atrocity that we have been.

Again, assuming #69 is still lined up across a fearful QB. (Why does Rodgers wear yellow pants? So nobody sees him piss himself. I know, I used it before, but I wanted to do it again. Oh, and those throwbacks with the brown pants? Don't ask.) And there's one more very valid point to bring up in all of this. When it comes to FA, most players (Sidney Rice aside) look for two things- one, a big payday, and two, a chance for a Super Bowl ring. Let's look in the mirror and be honest here. Had we the salary cap room, and the inclination to do so, does anyone here think we could have been legitimate candidates in the Namdi Asomugha race? Probably not- because the Philadelphia Eagles represented the best opportunity for him to win a Super Bowl, or, at least at the time, a heckuva lot better chance than we did. (At the time. And I totally, totally called this collapse pre-season. Totally called it. Yes... I... did.) So while Asomugha probably won't show up in the FA market again for a while, someone else defensively may that we want to take a crack at... hey, as much as I don't believe in wild FA spending sprees, I have always admitted that there's that one or two superstars out there you want to make a swing for. (Like Jared Allen!) And the stronger our defense is, the more likely we are to land said potential future superstar. Without Jared Allen, our defense becomes weaker, and so do our chances at just such a move.

The final point I want to make here is Jared Allen's relentless motor. If nothing else, it's something for the coaching staff to point to when they talk to defensive players, and say "that's how you work". I'm not saying we don't have other extremely hard working, high motor guys on defense (Greenway and KWilliams are no slouches), but there's no denying Jared Allen takes the cake in that department. And that's not a leadership/ role model we want our team to lose in a rebuilding period. Make no bones about it- a good rebuilding period should have a few key vets who can mentor and guide, and Allen would be at the top of that list on the defense.

So, let's now sum up why trading Jared Allen is a bad idea. Numero uno (that's Spanish for ‘number one'), I believe (and granted, this one can't truly be backed with any sort of proof) that he has plenty left in the tank to be a major piece of this team for a few years to come. Second, he is such a huge piece of our defense, its anemic nature will become significantly worse in his absence; likewise, the drop off in defensive play could hurt future chances at big FA moves. Third, he's someone our entire defense needs to be looking up to- and we don't want them looking up to him while he's with another team. It's worth mentioning that with all this in mind, like the APT, I wouldn't consider it likely that any team would give us any trade worth his current value to us as a player on our team.

If you've made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back and take a breather. I'm proud of you. Now, as much as I've harped on why we shouldn't trade either of these players, there is a big trade I've been contemplating as a good idea. (Mark, bite your tongue.) But seeing as how you've made it this far, it only seems like punishment to continue on with that right now- we'll get to that in a day or two.

Feedback, ladies and gents. Feedback.