No matter how bad the Vikings are, trading Adrian Peterson can never be an option.
There's no sense denying it any more.
It pains me to say it, too, mostly because I've said it so many times before, the four words that Vikings fans know far too well: There's always next year.
But this isn't exactly an easy thing for the Minnesota fans to accept though, is it? Not when over half of the team's games still remain on the schedule, not when it seems a long shot that the Vikings could win as many as three or four games.
It's time to stop looking forward to what this season was supposed to be.
It's time to start building for the future.
It's time to start accepting the fact that what the Vikings once had for a brief moment, an exceptional run of success born from a shock playoff push last season, is now gone. Now, unfortunately, we're back to square one.
So where does the team go from here?
As with any losing team, rebuilding has become a popular talking point for the Vikings, especially after moments like we experienced last night, moments that remove any chance of a miracle postseason recovery.
The Vikings have a lot to offer NFL teams in terms of the players they're willing to deal. Jared Allen's name has been mentioned more than once as a player likely to be dealt before Tuesday's deadling. Minnesota has indicated that the team would be willing to let Allen go for the "right price."
Allen is concerned about the rumors surrounding him, but he's certainly aware of what others have been saying about him.
"It's not even something I've got to worry about right now," Allen told FOX Sports' Jay Glazer. "I got no control over that stuff. It is what it is. I understand the league. I understand how it works. I'm not an idiot. But my goal is to play football."
It's been reported that the Vikings will seek as high as a second round pick for the 10-year NFL veteran, a player that has registered more sacks than any other defender in the NFL since entering the league in 2004.
This would be a very productive move for the Vikings. With free agency looming, the team might as well cash in on Allen while it still can, while he's still worth anything significant.
The Vikings have a lot of things to mull over in the coming hours with the 3 p.m. trade deadline fast approaching, and for a 1-6 team languishing at the bottom of the NFC, it seems that all options are being considered. Even Adrian Peterson has been chalked up as a potential trade subject.
While I can see the logic behind such a move, I hope that the Vikings are smart enough to hang onto Peterson, who is easily the best running back in the league and already among the NFL's all-time best.
Teams don't get better by ridding themselves of their best players. Teams get better by building teams around their superstars, showing them that they're committed to winning consistently and ready to challenge for trophies.
So for all of you who think trading Adrian Peterson would be a good decision for the Vikings in the long run, I urge you to reconsider.
AP is everything to this team, and if you take him away now, with nine games still left on our schedule, we won't win another game.
You simply cannot trade Adrian Peterson, not when he is playing at the level that he is, not when he is so committed to winning championships in Minnesota.
This is a guy who aspired to rush for 2,500 rushing yards this season, more than 375 yards more than the single-season record that currently stands, a guy who came into this season believing that the Vikings could take the next step in 2013.
And now that we're struggling, we're thinking of cashing in on him? It's too ridiculous for me to even comprehend.
What would the Vikings get for Adrian Peterson? A couple of first round picks, most likely, which is never a proposition to sneeze at... Except in this case.
For me, Peterson is invaluable for this Vikings team. It should take a Tony Dorsett-calibur deal for Minnesota to even begin thinking about moving the best running back in franchise history to another team. He accounts for nearly a third of our offensive production this season (695 total yards), an offense that is ranked 29th in the league in total yardage. That proportion would likely be much higher for Peterson if his team possessed any competence at the offensive line and quarterback positions.
We saw how good he could be last season, and the thought of giving that sort of talent to another team would tantamount to this franchise conceding mediocrity and defeat for the next five years at least.
We don't need to cash in on him. We need to put a team around him, and soon.
Let's draft an offensive line that creates holes for our Hall-of-Fame back and keeps opposing defenses off our quarterbacks.
Let's draft cornerbacks who can actually cover the Packers' No. 5 wide receiver. Yes, Chris Cook. I'm talking to you.
And please, can we get a middle linebacker in the building? I can't tell you how many times Erin Henderson ends up getting swallowed up in a block, falling flat on his rear end or finishing a play with his back to the ball. Seriously, this Sunday, watch No. 50 in purple. No wonder we're dead last in the league in defending third downs.
As for our perpetual quarterback conundrum, I say, if we're paying Freeman that sort of money, we might as well give him the season to prove himself. If he can rake in a few strong performances and show improved accuracy and decision making, the team can make a long-term decision from there.
For now, Josh Freeman has earned himself nothing more than an expensive nine-game trial run. If he disappoints, the Vikings have to be smart enough to realize it and reconsider their quarterback options in April's NFL draft.
Oh, and a few fresh faces in the coaching staff wouldn't hurt, either.
These are just a few of the items on the Vikings' bountiful to-do list, but all of them should be structured around one focus: putting a team around Adrian Peterson.
We can't simply give up on having AP as a member of this team. No matter how many draft picks you get for him, they aren't going to amount to what Peterson is right now. He's a once in a generation player.
And we need him, now more than ever.
This is the opinion of Joe Mellenbruch, a Devils Lake Journal reporter. Follow him on Twitter @Journal_Joe.