The news of Adrian Peterson becoming a free agent hit last night like a ton of bricks that you’ve expected to fall for about a week thanks to poor placement by the contractors … Okay, I regret that analogy. Let’s start over…
My point was going to be that while I saw the divorce between Peterson and the Vikings coming, for months, it still hit me emotionally in a way that I didn’t really expect. The Notorious BIG said that you’re “Nobody until somebody kills you”, which I guess could double for a metaphor about football players, especially in Minnesota (With killing meaning free agency… Considering how healthy the free agent offensive lineman we acquired last season ended up). The minute I learned about Peterson hitting the free agent market, I started thinking about all the amazing memories that he’s provided for me as a fan of the Vikings. Outside of Randy Moss, a player that I still find a way to talk about once or twice a month (or week), Peterson may be my favorite player of all time.
But, this needed to happen. The Vikings couldn’t justify putting up $18 million for a 32 year old running back and Peterson apparently wants to make more than whatever the Vikings were offering. Or maybe he just wants to play for another team, two years after Peterson felt slighted by the Vikings (and still Vikings executive, Kevin Warren) and almost ended up leaving the team over perceived slights during his child abuse fiasco. So, any perpetual acrimony (In Peterson’s world/head) wouldn’t surprise me, either. Most explanations of this break-up show that Peterson either is delusional or still angry with the team, which means it’s probably some combination of both. Delusional how? Well, he did go on ESPN about a month ago to state that he’s “Earned” his $18 million, by playing a total of 16 games out of a possible 48 under head coach Mike Zimmer’s regime… Sure, it was probably a leverage move, but it still read terribly for Peterson, if you ask me.
I do believe that Peterson (;s delusion) is going to get a wake-up call when the market for his services isn’t as robust as he thinks it is going to be. Sure, he has his wish list, but that doesn’t mean that those teams necessarily want a 32 year old running back who is really only good at one thing (albeit really good at that one thing), and that requires 20-25 touches a game to really get that thing going. There’s a reason that running backs aren’t the hot commodity they were even a decade ago, the league is a passer’s league now and you can typically get by with a running back by committee situation. Teams that have a primary back typically have a back that can play on all three downs, can catch out of the backfield and can pick up blitzes or block. Peterson can’t really do any of those things and at 32, isn’t going to learn.
So, outside of a revenge move by the Packers (Which would be awful) who are in the market for a running back, I actually do think that Peterson could end up back on the Vikings when things are said and done at the end of this free agency period. Today, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman left the door open for Peterson’s return, saying that the “door is still open to find some common ground” and that he/the Vikings still want Peterson back in 2017. I really can see that happening, but at the same time the history of players on the wrong side of 30 testing free agency and then returning to the team of their youth isn’t that great. Typically, though, those greats end up going to a contender in a Gary Payton/Karl Malone-esque last attempt at a championship. That doesn’t seem to be on Peterson’s radar, however, if you look at his wish-list of teams (Tampa? Really?).
So, I guess we have to operate under the assumption that Peterson won’t be back this season from this point forward. So, outside of the uncertainty of where Peterson will end up the real focus as fans needs to be … What now? It’s a lot like the GOP and it’s current Obamacare predicament… You talk about getting rid of it for years, and when you finally have the chance to, you get scared by the reality of the responsibility and what the future may hold. The same goes for the Vikings fans and really even general manager Rick Spielman. I’d venture an estimation that more people than not wanted Peterson gone after the child abuse charge, and now with him gone the reality is that this is a Vikings team with one of the worst rush games in the league. So, what are their options?
The good news is that general manager Rick Spielman did say that this is one of, if not the, deepest running back classes he’s ever seen. While I wrote that statement off as a leverage statement when it was made, apparently it’s true. The problem there is that the Vikings are down a first round pick because of the Sam Bradford trade and have a lot of other needs to address, namely at the offensive line position. The difference is, that there are some offensive line pieces that can be picked up via free agency, and outside of Adrian Peterson, there’s not a lot of running back talent available in free agency. Having that $18 million to spend on free agent lineman helps, too (I’m looking at you, Russell Okung).
So… Who should we draft and when? That’s a matter for another day/article, but we will at least know by the start of the draft whether or not Peterson is back on the team or playing with another team and even if he does come back, it’s looking like the Vikings are focused on finding his replacement one way or another. So. It’s safe to say that the Peterson era, is mostly over. I for one, want to thank the guy for what he accomplished on the field. Sure, he wasn’t a perfect player, but he was a force to be reckoned with and when all is said and done, most likely the most talented PURE running back the league has ever seen.