Champion Vikings’ running back and future Hall of Fame candidate, Adrian Peterson, will not have the option on the final year of his contract picked up, thus effectively making him a free agent after an announcement from the Vikings.
It still remains possible that Peterson could return to the Vikings for the 2017 season, but at a greatly reduced price. Peterson was set to count for an enormous $18 million against the cap for 2017, an unfathomable price for the Vikings with needs elsewhere.
Peterson missed the greater part of the 2014 and 2016 seasons, due to injury and disciplinary issues and this has no doubt contributed to this decision in Minnesota. In Peterson’s last full season, in 2015, he rushed for 1,485 yards at 4.5 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns. A solid season by most standards, but it’s a far cry from his superhuman, 2000 yard, in 2012.
According to the cap tracker site, Spotrac, the Vikings have just under $40 million in cap space available, but with several key free agents and a desperate need on the offensive line, paying $18 million to an ageing running back just can’t be justified.
In response Peterson released a statement to ESPN’s, Josina Anderson saying, “It’s been a great 10 years with the Minnesota Vikings,” he wrote. “They know what I bring to the organisation as a player, with my work ethic and dedication. I spoke with [General Manager] Rick Spielman this past weekend. The door is still open to find some common ground. I understand addressing the offensive line is one of their main priorities this offseason.
“In the meantime, I will explore my other options and see what path God leads me on. My main goal remains the same: to win a Super Bowl championship with a great team, which I also believe we have in Minnesota,” the statement read.
The Vikings have multiple options if they elect not to return Peterson to Minnesota on a reduced figure. However, their solution at the running back position is not likely to be in-house right now. Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata picked up the slack when, AP went down in September, but neither has the ability to be a long-term solution and additionally Asiata is a free agent.
Free agency doesn’t offer much in the way of long-term solutions at running back, but there are options out there that the Vikings could utilise as a short-term band aid solution. Taking a punt on a potential big name like, Latavius Murray or Eddie Lacy could have some serious benefits for a Viking’s offence that seriously struggled in 2016. Perhaps a more likely course could be snaring an ageing free agent, such as a, Danny Woodhead or Jamaal Charles who could contribute until a they draft a long-term option.
This year’s draft class at the running back position is a fairly reasonable group of players. Headlined by the elite, Dalvin Cook (pictured), there’s the skill and the depth in this class that could definitely provide the Vikings with their future bell cow. But first, the Vikings have to fix an offensive line, who’s play in 2016, was simply…. offensive.
For Adrian Peterson however, it’s reasonable to expect that he will be obliged to undertake a fairly significant pay cut, wherever he ends up, especially considering, he’s a running back with plenty of miles on his tyres, on the wrong side of 30, with limited ability in the passing game and as a player who fumbles a little too often.
Still, Peterson has been such a dynamic runner for so many years, he’ll still be in reasonable demand when free agency opens on 9 March. There’re multiple franchises that have a need at the running back position, notably the, Giants, Bucs, Eagles, Colts, Broncos and Raiders. Peterson has already hinted at a possible connection with the Giants, Buccaneers and Texans back on ESPN’s First Take program in January.
The Texans appear unlikely to make an offer, especially with Lamar Miller the clear starter in Houston. The Giants have a particular need for a pure power runner, and with Shane Vereen handling passing downs, Peterson could be a snug fit. The Bucs’ movements depend entirely on Doug Martin, and whether they elect to uphold the guarantees in his contract, which can be voided after Martin’s PED suspension at the end of the season. If Martin is released, Peterson would be a hunted man in Tampa.
The Colts and Eagles have a need to develop a running game, to support their quarterbacks, but are arguably better off looking to the draft than making yet another move for an ageing veteran in free agency, particularly in the case of Indianapolis.
Ultimately, Peterson might well face a choice between, cash and a chance to compete for playoff wins and Super Bowl rings. Not a bad spot to be in.