The Minnesota Vikings tied their worst record in franchise history in 2011 with an abysmal 3-13 record. The Donovan McNabb project failed miserably, and rookie QB Christian Ponder had been thrown in the fire against the Packers in an unforgettable Week seven matchup. The Vikings were close, but they fell short in the end.
Throughout the season, the Vikings lost Adrian Peterson to a torn ACL-MCL injury, and they noticed that Christian Ponder was not doing as well as they hoped. Ponder put up great numbers in some games, but in others he put up numbers even Tim Tebow would laugh at. Most of it is not Ponder's fault, and the Vikings are not as bad as their record would indicate.
Here is how the Vikings can get back to playoff contention with a couple key offseason moves.
The Minnesota Vikings have the third pick in the NFL draft, and I can not imagine a more important decision for the team this offseason. Assuming the Colts take Andrew Luck and the Rams take Justin Blackmon, and then I believe the Minnesota Vikings should select LT Matt Kalil from USC.
If Kalil is off the board, then I believe the Vikings should try to trade the pick for someone who wants Robert Griffin III if the Rams have not done so yet.
Drafting cornerback Morris Claiborne from LSU would be a good pick as well. As much as I think Blackmon will be a great WR in the NFL, I do not think the Vikings should draft him because of the great WR free-agent class.
The move the Vikings need to make here is to draft Kalil. Kalil and Ponder will grow together for the next year 10 years. Kalil will open up holes for Adrian Peterson (assuming he comes back healthy), and the move might make Steve Hutchinson consider coming back for another season or two because of how much help he will finally have. It is adamant that the Vikings somehow land Kalil or get the best value for their pick via trade.
The Vikings also have the 35th pick in the draft, which can be considered a first-round pick because of all the potential that is out there this year. The Vikings would need to address the secondary here, assuming they draft Kalil.
If the Vikings can land Matt Kalil, it will automatically make that offensive line great again. That means it would make Christian Ponder and the offense lives so much easier.
Vikings fans, remember Vincent Jackson?
The Vikings almost traded for Vincent Jackson last year, but went for Randy Moss instead. We all know how that turned out. Luckily for the Vikings, they do not have to give up a second-round pick for V-Jax this year. They should contact his agent once free agency begins.
Jackson would be the perfect compliment to Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins. Harvin would be able to play the slot and stretch the field for Ponder. Jackson would be a great red-zone option alongside Kyle Rudolph. This move would help Ponder grow into an elite QB assuming Kalil is protecting his blind side.
Other options at WR in the offseason: Dwayne Bowe, Marques Colston, Reggie Wayne.
Assuming the Vikings do not draft Morris Claiborne they would still have a gaping hole in their secondary, literally. The Vikings secondary is so bad.
Their best cornerback (Antoine Winfield) is on the wrong side of 30. Their second best cornerback (Chris Cook) is facing legal issues and could wind up in jail. The jury is still out on whether or not Cedric Griffin still has knees. And the rest of the cornerbacks are sub-par at best.
The second round is where the Vikings should draft a cornerback like a Chase Minnifield out of Virginia or Marcus Trufant's younger brother Desmond Trufant out of Washington. Another option for the Vikings would be to sign a proven cornerback in the offseason like Brent Grimes, Cortland Finnegan or Carlos Rogers.
Laron Landry is also a free agent, and the Vikings should pursue him to play safety because Tyrell Johnson should not be in the NFL. Even if the Vikings do not sign a safety, I think they would be fine starting Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond at the safety positions.
No matter how they do it, the Vikings need to have four or five new members in the secondary by opening day starting alongside Antoine Winfield.
Joe Webb is a dynamic player and someone who should not be sitting on a bench while an offense is on the field. With that being said, he is not a great quarterback and not someone the Minnesota Vikings should live on with for the future.
Joe Webb has value and the Vikings could send him to a couple of teams who need quarterbacks like Arizona, Miami, Cleveland, Jacksonville (assuming they are looking for competition for Gabbert) Chicago (who could use a backup QB because of what happened this season), etc.
The Minnesota Vikings should trade him so Christian Ponder will not have to look over his back anymore, and so the Vikings could get some value out of him. The Vikings need a second or third-round pick or even a position like a WR or CB.
An ideal trade would be the Vikings trading Joe Webb for Davone Bess or Steve Breaston, or even ship Webb with a third-round pick for Vontae Davis.
Although the last scenario seems highly unlikely, I think the Vikings should try to trade Webb for someone because he has too much value to be sitting on a bench. But not enough value to be starting for the Minnesota Vikings.
Chad Greenway is the most underrated defensive player in the NFL. The reason for this is because he has no help at his position. E.J. Henderson has played well but he is not getting any younger. Erin Henderson showed some promise and could be a threat against opposing offenses, but not a great one.
The Vikings should not re-sign the injury prone E.J. Henderson, but should look to other LB's in free agency or the draft.
The Vikings should even consider switching Everson Griffen to the LB position. If the Vikings do promote Mike Singletary to the defensive coordinator, then they should call Mario William's agent as soon as possible.
Williams will most likely not re-sign with the Texans, and he would be a perfect fit in the 3-4 defense. Jared Allen, Mario Williams, Chad Greenway and Everson Griffen all sound like a threat to any team.
Other free agent LB options: Curtis Lofton, D'Qwell Jackson, Stephen Tulloch.
Uh-oh. Are you kidding me? The Minnesota Vikings had just spent their 12th pick in the 2011 draft on this guy and they should consider trading him? Come on now.
Christian Ponder seems like he has all the makings of a great quarterback in this league, but, and this is a big but, it seemed like he might have some confidence and health issues. Vikings fans know how a lot about health issues at the quarterback position because it seems like since Daunte Culpepper went down with a nasty ACL,MCL, PCL injury the Vikings have never recovered at the quarterback position. With the exception of the 2009 season with Brett Favre the Vikings have not had a consistent starter at the quarterback position since Culpepper.
Now you are probably asking yourself, why trade Ponder? Here is why. The Vikings have a lot needs and some teams, like the Dolphins, need a quarterback. An interesting scenario would be where the Vikings trade Ponder to the Dolphins for their 9th pick along with a 3rd and or 4th rounder for Vontae Davis. The Vikings could also try to trade Ponder to the Redskins for their sixth pick and next years first or a 2nd round pick in the 2012 draft. The Vikings would then use the pick on T Jonathan Martin from Stanford, who also like Matt Kalil did not give up a sack last year. Jonathan Martin kept Andrew Luck from getting hurt. Matt Kalil could also be available at this point.
If this scenario does occur than the Vikings will ride with Robert Griffin III from Baylor as their quarterback of the future.
With all that being said I don't think that this would be the right move for the Vikings. Christian Ponder is smart, talented and has never played with great talent around him. In college Ponder was not surrounded by much and now in the pro's he had a patchwork of an offensive line and an injured Adrian Peterson. Ponder will likely have more talent next year with the emergence of Kyle Rudolph and the continuance of growth from Percy Harvin. The Vikings will likely sign a free agent WR that would help Ponder a lot as well. If Matt Kalil is available and the Vikings do draft him then expect Ponder to have more time to make better decisions.
If the Minnesota Vikings know what is good for them they should not trade Christian Ponder unless they get an offer that they can't refuse.
Now it seems like there are a lot of moves to make, but now the Vikings have finally come to their senses and hired a GM. Rick Spielman was a part of the personnel that had drafted Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Chad Greenway, and traded for Jared Allen. Vikings' fans should expect Spielman to make a huge impact this offseason.
The draft is where the Vikings need to make the most noise. If they do sign two or three key players in free agency like Vincent Jackson and Mario Williams, then do not be surprised if Christian Ponder wins the Comeback Player of the Year and the Vikings are competing for wild-card spot.
With all that being said, the Vikings are hoping Adrian Peterson returns from an ACL-MCL injury and he plays the way Vikings' fans have known him to play his whole career.
If you want to hear more about my thoughts in sports and the Minnesota Vikings please follow me on Twitter @Thafreakness_BR