The Super Bowl is over, and what a game it was to cap off another exciting NFL season.
The Minnesota Vikings have been in offseason mode for quite some time after missing the NFC Playoffs with an 8-8 record. It was a season marred by injuries and poor offensive line play after a 5-0 start.
One of those injuries might have signaled the end for one of the best running backs in NFL history. Adrian Peterson tore his meniscus in Week 2 against the Packers and didn’t see the field again until Week 15, a loss to the Indianapolis Colts. He didn’t play in the final two games. But was it because he was still injured, or because he didn’t want to risk further injury with the possibility of becoming a free agent?
The speculation had started that his career with the Vikings was over. We won’t know officially for a few weeks, but here are four reasons why we’ve seen the last of Adrian Peterson with the Vikings.
Strictly from a business standpoint, it wouldn’t be wise for the Vikings to keep Peterson at his current salary. He’s due $18 million next season, and $6 million of that would come in the form of a roster bonus if he is still a Viking when the league year starts in March. That’s not happening for several reasons, and the Vikings won’t trade him, so it’s likely that he’d be cut before the league year starts.
Peterson would then become a free agent, and can go where he pleases. The Vikings have said publicly they want him back and to spend his entire career here, but he would have to agree to a significant pay cut for that to happen. To put his contract in perspective, he earned $5 million more last season than the next highest-paid running back. Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs earned $9 million, LeSean McCoy made $8 million and Jonathan Stewart made $7.3 million. Wherever he goes, Peterson will likely have his salary cut in half, if not more.
He’s Talked About Leaving
Peterson made news in recent weeks, appearing on ESPN’s First Take after the Vikings’ season ended. He was open and candid about his football future, knowing that it may very well not include the Vikings. He mentioned if it didn’t work out in Minnesota, teams he would be most interested in included the Houston Texans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants. The Texans are the obvious choice, since he’s from that area.
Then another possibility came to light before the Super Bowl. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Dallas Cowboys could have interest in Peterson. With Ezekiel Elliott having a standout rookie season, Peterson would have to accept a back-up role. He might be willing to do that if it meant winning a Super Bowl. In any event, the fact that Peterson has even brought up the idea of leaving Minnesota has led many to believe his time with the Vikings is coming to an end. Perhaps even next month. If you really wanted to stay and were honest about it, you would let the process figure itself out and not talk about other teams, at least not publicly.
Is AP Past His Prime?
Vikings fans may not want to accept it, but the reality is the best of Adrian Peterson’s career is probably behind him. Peterson missed 13 games this year due to the knee injury, and when he was healthy he managed just 1.9 yards per carry. He finished with 37 carries for 72 yards for the season. He did run for nearly 1,500 yards and had 11 touchdowns two seasons ago, but only played in one game in 2014 due to an NFL suspension for his child abuse case. He’s entering his 11th NFL season and he’s 31 years old, which signals that the end of his NFL career is nearing.
And he’s only as good as his offensive line, which this year when he was healthy was average at best. It seemed like more often than not this season, he was tackled for a loss. The fear is that if you let him go elsewhere, he still has the home run play in him. But for the sake of consistency, it’s a risk you might have to be willing to take.
Vikings Have To Move On
The Vikings front office has largely been loyal to Peterson, and General Manager Rick Spielman said recently he wants Peterson to retire a Viking. But the reality is Peterson has been bit by injuries in the past, he’s fumbled in key situations and he missed virtually a full season with issues far bigger than football.
It might be time to end the relationship, whether it’s by getting a running back in the NFL Draft or through free agency. Adrian Peterson knows he’s not getting $18 million from the Vikings this season, and we’ll know a lot more about the situation when he’s due the $6 million roster bonus in March. He’ll likely get released before then, and it doesn’t necessarily mean his time with Vikings is over. But the odds of his return are getting slimmer by the day.