Given the Minnesota Vikings' improbable run to the playoffs, and the excitement that fans are feeling over the regular season that was just completed, it's tempting to say that the team will be even better next year.
After all, they are a young squad, and it's likely that a lot of these relatively inexperienced players will get better as they gain experience. The team has drafted well in the past couple of years, and with a free agent here and there...you never know.
However, while watching the Vikings upset Green Bay to get into the playoffs, it occurred to me that the team still has glaring weaknesses in several areas. Instead of resting on their laurels, the Vikings brass should be thinking about how to improve the squad for next year.
Here are five guys that the Vikings should consider trading, either for veteran talent or for draft picks to shore up the roster.
In compiling the list, I considered salary against production, the viability of replacing them on the roster as well as the value a player might bring in a trade. While I truly love some of these players, I think they could bring more value as trade chip than they do as a team member.
Gerhart would be an upgrade at RB for a lot of teams
When it comes to running back, the Vikings essentially have a one-man depth chart. It's Adrian Peterson and then everybody else.
Gehart has done well as Peterson's backup, and contributes to the Vikings as a third-down back.
However, there are quite a few NFL teams who need a solid runner, and Gerhart is definitely that. He'll never get significant playing time behind Peterson, and backup running backs are easy to find in the late rounds of the draft or on the waiver wire.
If the Vikings could get a second to fourth round pick for Gerhart, I'd trade him. They can easily fill his roster spot, and they could use the pick to shore up another position that lacks talent or depth.
While I'd hate to see him go, I'd also be happy to see Toby go to a place where he could be the featured back.
Webb deserves a chance to play somewhere
For about eight games in the middle of the season, Joe Webb was probably the second most popular player on the Minnesota roster.
Christian Ponder wasn't playing very well, and Vikings fans were crying out for Webb to see the field. It never happened, and barring injury, it probably never will.
The Vikings invested a lot in Ponder, and his improvement at the end of the season justifies the team continuing to look at him as the quarterback of the future. Ponder, for all of his inconsistency, was the quarterback of a 10-6 team, and his performance without any real receiving weapons outside of Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph was pretty solid.
While I'm a fan of Webb's athletic skills, I can't see him doing any better with the Vikings than Ponder has. Plus, Ponder seems to have some more upside. I'm not sure Webb does.
There are teams in need of a quarterback—I'm talking to you, Buffalo, Arizona and Philadelphia. Webb is at least as good as any of the options available to these teams, and could bring a fourth to sixth round pick in a trade.
I think the Vikings should try to trade Webb, develop McLeod Bethel-Thompson as a backup and maybe sign a cheap veteran signal-caller to hold the clipboard as the No. 3.
Let Webb see if he can win a starting spot somewhere else, and use the picks to shore up a thin secondary or receiving corps.
Williams might add value to a veteran squad
I love good defense. One of my favorite things about the Vikings in the early part of the 2000s was that the "Williams Wall" was the leader of a run defense that perennially sat atop the league. When you make a team one-dimensional, it's usually a recipe for success.
That said, I think the Vikings should consider moving Kevin Williams while they still can. Williams is still effective in spurts and could be a great help to a team that needs a two-down tackle.
The Vikings have solid tackles in Christian Ballard, Fred Evans and Letroy Guion. All of them are nearly as effective as Williams, and none of them make even half of William's salary. Minnesota could use the draft pick(s) from the trade to find another DT in the draft, and the salary cap savings would give the team options at other positions.
While I'd hate to see Williams—one of the all-time great Vikings defenders—go, I think opening up the cap space would be worth it.
Harvin could bring a lot on the open market
If I were GM Rick Spielman, I would strongly consider trading Percy Harvin.
Harvin, who still has one year left on his rookie contract, might have more trade value than anyone else on the Minnesota roster.
He's also got a bit of an injury history and an attitude problem.
Harvin is unlikely to come to training camp without a new contract, and he's probably going to want the same type of money that top-flight, No. 1 receivers get.
Harvin, while unique in the NFL for his triple-threat ability, may not be worth the $10-12 million a year that he's going to demand. If the Vikings give him the franchise tag, he may just mentally shut down and perform poorly. I think the team might be able to garner a big ransom for Harvin if it strikes while the iron is hot.
It's hard to say that a team should trade it's top receiver when there aren't really any other good wideouts on the roster. However, Jarius Wright has shown flashes of ability. Jerome Simpson played for very little money this season, and he might work for the Vikings on another one-year contract in order to prove himself. The Vikings will certainly check out receivers in the draft, as well.
All of these options are possible, along with using some of the significant salary cap savings the team would have without signing Harvin. They could then lure another top flight free agent receiver—Greg Jennings, anyone?
Getting rid of one of the top talents in the NFL is a huge risk, but it is one that I might be willing to take if the Vikings could get a first and third round pick for Harvin. Given Harvin's history of injuries and histrionics, it might be a smart move.
Is Allen expendable?
Before I say anything else, let me say this: I love Jared Allen.
I love his toughness, his enthusiasm and his energy on the field. I love his production, his leadership and his attitude.
What I don't love is his $15.2 million salary. Allen finished the regular season with 12 sacks, 45 tackles and one forced fumble. While those are great numbers, are they really worth $15 million?
If the Vikings were to trade Allen for a couple of high draft picks, they could bring in a receiver, a defensive back, or an interior offensive lineman, and they would still have money left to sign free agents at any number of positions.
The defensive end position would still be in good shape, with Brian Robison and Everson Griffen manning the outside spots. The team can also work on developing some of its younger players as backups, and with Allen's salary off of the books, Minnesota could probably find some quality depth.
Allen is still productive, but he's not getting any younger. As injuries and age begin to limit his effectiveness, his trade value will go down—but his salary will not.
The Vikings should consider moving Allen while he's still considered an elite talent. They may suffer in the short run, but they could benefit in a big way down the line.
What do you think? Are some of these guys untouchable? Did I leave anyone off the list? Speak your mind in the comments section.