LaDainian Tomlinson: Without Him, What's Next for the Vikings?

Zeke Fuhrman@@mellamoelzekeAnalyst IIIMarch 15, 2010

ST. LOUIS, MO - NOVEMBER 23:  Adrian Peterson #29 of the Chicago Bears rushes against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on November 23, 2008 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Bears beat the Rams 27-3.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

After wining and dining with Vikings GM, Rick Speilman, and touring Winter Park in Eden Prairie, free agent RB LaDainian Tomlinson chose to sign with the loser of the AFC Championship Game rather than the loser of the NFC Championship Game.

The day after visiting Minnesota, LT flew to New York and talked with the Jets.

He left New York the next day and was rumored to be planning trips to Philadelphia and New Orleans before it was announced that he had agreed to a two-year deal to play with the Jets.

In New York, LT will be coached by Brian Schottenheimer, who was a quarterback coach in San Diego from 2002-2005 and is the son of LT's former head coach, Marty Schottenheimer.

LT was looking for two things in free agency this season: playing time and a Super Bowl ring.

He has a legit chance for both in New York. The Jets released workhorse RB Thomas Jones (1402 yds, 14 TD, 4.2 ypc) to avoid paying his $2.8 million roster bonus. Jones signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Jets were left looking for a veteran running back to complement second-year player Shonn Green (540 yds, 2 TD, 5.0 ypc).

New York's signing of LT signaled the continuance of the Vikings' quest to find a replacement for Chester Taylor (727 total yds, 2 TD, 5.3 yd avg), who signed a four-year deal with the Chicago Bears earlier this month.

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With LT off the market, the Vikings must start exercising their other options. There are plenty of options for someone who would be willing to play second fiddle to Adrian Peterson.

There are three unrestricted free agents the Vikings should turn their attention to: Willie Parker, Brian Westbrook, and Adrian N. Peterson.

Westbrook seems the logical choice right now.

Despite his knack for being injury-prone, Westbrook can still make a play. The Vikings like to run screen plays, which is where Westbrook is known to excel. He will turn 31 in September, but he may excel in a back-up role. The less you are on the field, the less chance you have to get hurt.

Parker is also a legit option.

A veteran running back with playoff experience (two Super Bowl titles), "Fast" Willie Parker would be a good compliment to Adrian Peterson's aggressive style of running.

The power-speed duo back had a lot of success last season. Carolina's Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams combined for 2,250 yards and 17 touchdowns, Tennessee's Chris Johnson and LenDale White combined for 2,228 yards and 16 touchdowns, and Miami's Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown combined for 1,769 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Another option the Vikings could pursue would be Adrian N. Peterson, not to be confused with Adrian L. Peterson.

ANP spent the last eight seasons in Chicago, primarily as a back-up, and could fit well into the Vikings' system. It would also be awesome to have Adrian Peterson on the field every play. ANP has proven he can play; he was in the Heisman conversation during his time at Georgia Southern. His has been in the NFC North his entire eight-year career and knows the division's defenses well.

Although the Vikings have promising rookies Albert Young and Ian Johnson on the roster, they could address the need for a third-down back through the draft.

A championship-caliber team needs veteran players to carry the workload. And a big name player, like Parker or Westbrook, might sway QB Brett Favre into coming back.

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