It's going to be a big enough chore to remake the Vikings' aging defense. Jared Allen remains in his prime, but what else is there to build around for the future?
But if the Vikings have any hope of winning while Adrian Peterson is an elite back, they will have to do it in the next two seasons. Peterson has had five terrific seasons and remains the NFL's best power back. But the expiration on players with his makeup is rather short.
Terrell Davis. Priest Holmes. Stephen Davis. Jamal Anderson. Shaun Alexander. Clinton Portis.
Those are just a few names of good-to-great backs over the past 15-20 years in the NFL whose relatively short (and occasionally brilliant) careers indicate how tough it is to be a bell-cow back in the league. Only Alexander and Portis had more than 2,000 carries in their careers. Peterson is coming up on 1,500 and could surpass the 2,000 mark sometime in 2013.
Peterson likely has two or three great seasons left. To be conservative, let's say two. It's not as if his career definitely will be over at that point, but he will turn 29 after the 2013 season, and we know the history of great backs thriving after 30. It's not a long list, especially in recent years.
The Vikings have to do whatever they can to get this offense charged up and ready to go in that time period. Christian Ponder has regressed in recent games, but it hasn't been all his fault either. The offensive line is beat up and shorthanded. Percy Harvin is the only WR threat. Peterson was out of the lineup.
That's why I think it will take two offseasons — two drafts and two free-agent and trade periods — to get the roster in the right place. A left tackle, perhaps two guards, two wideouts and a blocking tight end — that's the minimum they need to build a team around Ponder and not put him in bad positions. When teams blitz Ponder now, there is poor protection and few receivers who can separate. That's a bad combo.
If the Vikings want to give Peterson a chance, and take advantage of him in his prime, they must beef up the offense wholeheartedly these next two calendar years to give him and themselves a puncher's chance.