It's a trend that's almost too easy to predict, especially in the NFL.
Team A starts a season poorly, and, almost instantaneously, local columnist B wants Team A to trade Star Player C.
Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press recently wrote a column in which he laid out why the Vikings should deal away the 28-year-old Peterson now. His opinion was backed by what would seem like sound reason: Minnesota is dead in the water in 2013, the team has numerous holes that need filling and Peterson is an aging running back with a big deal. Trade him away now while the price is high, acquire the picks needed to fix up the roster and then hope for better days.
Before we get into the meat of the debate, let's make it abundantly clear that the Vikings are not trading Peterson, nor should they.
For starters, Minnesota couldn't come near finding the compensation for Peterson that would match up to his talent or impact on the franchise.
The days when teams freely sign off on mega-deals to get star running backs are gone. Powers mentions the famous Hershel Walker trade to support his theory, but take a look back at that deal. The Vikings gave up eight draft picks, including seven in the first three rounds and three each in the first and second, to get Walker to Minnesota.
Did that deal eventually help the Dallas Cowboys create a dynasty in the early to mid-1990s? Certainly. But the Vikings won't be finding the reverse Walker trade in 2013 or anything remotely close.
Even the Ricky Williams trade, which saw the New Orleans Saints send an entire year of draft picks to the Washington Redskins, is a far, far cry from what the Vikings could realistically get for Peterson 14 years later.
At best, Minnesota could hope for one first-round pick or some combination of early-round picks, but even that package wouldn't be enough for the Vikings to give up on their best player since Fran Tarkenton.
Peterson is a once-in-a-generation talent, but he's also 28 years old and in possession of a restrictive contract. The Indianapolis Colts did give up a first-round pick for Trent Richardson just last month, but he's also 22 and costing the Colts a fraction of what Peterson currently does. There simply won't be many deals that are considerably better than what the Browns got in return, which will only end up being a late first-round pick.
This isn't fantasy football. Any team dealing for Peterson would need to have cap room and a glaring need at running back, a devalued position. Plus, such a team couldn't have a need at quarterback, or the picks being sent away would become too valuable. Good luck finding a team that fits these starting criteria.
There's also the factor that few will want to admit: Trading certifiable talent for the gamble of draft picks is a risk. In theory, Peterson would net a few top picks, and general manager Rick Spielman would use that resulting draft capital to nail down two or three franchise building blocks. That's great in theory, but it's ridiculously optimistic in reality.
The Vikings do need draft picks to rebuild a team that is hurting at several key spots. But the best teams in football don't mortgage off assets to secure piles of picks; they make sound, smart decisions with the picks they do have and then develop that talent to fit around the assets.
Minnesota already hit the draft jackpot when it found Peterson, an incomparable talent and one of the best players ever at his position. Now, it's time to use the draft to better build the product around him.
And maybe most importantly, the NFL is no longer a league in which a rebuilding process—if done correctly—has to take half a decade to accomplish. The Vikings know that better than most.
After a 3-13 season in 2011, the Vikings made several smart picks (Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith headlining the group) the next April, and with a snap of the finger, Minnesota won 10 games in 2012 and qualified for the postseason. No one saw that turnaround coming, but worst-to-first finishes are not rare anymore; in fact, there seems to be one every season.
Everything about the Vikings' situation in 2013 looks bleak, from the quarterback position to head coach to every level of the defense. A rebound at any point in the next 24 months feels unlikely, but the NFL has provided a model that allows teams to pick themselves off the canvas and compete relatively quickly.
Just look at teams such as the San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. At various times in past four years or so, each of these teams have faced dark times. Yet each franchise made a sound decision at quarterback and head coach, and now all three can consider themselves serious contenders in their respective conferences. There was no big trades of superstars involved.
Picking the right man to lead the team and take the snaps can change a franchise's fortunes overnight. The Vikings are in a similar boat, where just two correct decisions in the coming months could instantly turn this team back into a contender.
While most want nothing more than for Peterson—a transcendent talent—to play for a contender instead of wasting away on another bottom-feeder, it would be a shameful story if the Vikings shipped him off and then finally morphed into a contender without him taking part. Turnarounds in the NFL happen too fast for any team to ship away its best player for draft picks.
The Vikings also have to navigate around the fact that this franchise just used a boatload of public money to get a new stadium built. Nothing cries out for support like asking for millions of dollars and then dealing away the most talented football player the state has seen in decades.
Luckily for fans, the idea of trading Peterson is nothing more than media speculation. There has been zero reports of Minnesota even entertaining this idea, likely for the same reasons provided above.
It's too easy to cry for such a deal now, when the team is in the dumps and things look bleak.
The Vikings won't be trading Adrian Peterson, nor should they even consider the idea. This new era of the NFL demands that he stay in Minnesota.
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