It’s been an interesting month and change for future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson. It was on February 28th that the Vikings announced that they were planning to decline the 2017 team option on Adrian’s contract. It wasn’t really a surprise as Peterson was set to count $18 million against the cap, a number that even for the best running back in their prime is absurd to think of. Still, the move pushed Adrian Peterson onto the open market for free agency for the first time in his 10-year career.
Preparing to be shopped around was likely a bit of an unsettling feeling for Peterson, but seeing his name supplanted at the top of all the “experts” available free agent lists had to lessen the blow just a little. But when the opening bell rang on the 2017 season and players started flying off the board, it had to of quickly become a concern when Peterson’s agent’s phone sat silent. After a slow open, slowly the calls began to trickle in. First the Seattle Seahawks came knocking. Then the New England Patriots. But both teams opted to go a different direction. The Seahawks chose to go with beleaguered running back Eddie Lacy who had previously been passed on by multiple teams before finding a fit in the Pacific Northwest. Similarly, the Patriots opted to stick with the services of something called Rex Burkhead over the aging “AP”. Shortly thereafter, mutterings of no teams being interested and possible forced retirement started to cycle through the talk circuits when Adrian’s name came up and even in the midst of a scheduled visit early next week with the New Orleans Saints, the potential of no interest is still on the table.
It all begs us to ask the question once again, what if nobody is interested in Adrian Peterson?
Responsibly assessing this situation we should probably break that overarching question into a few sub-questions that would then lead us to an answer for this headline grabber. Most of them can be summarized but another sweeping narrative that asks exactly how low is Adrian willing to go to keep playing in the NFL?
First, how much money is he willing to accept? Adrian recently said a few things when it comes to money and his pending contract with a new team. First, when he was still technically a member of the Minnesota Vikings he said that he had earned every bit of his $18 million contract that was coming due. More recently, he denied some reports that money was a hang up in negotiations with teams. Those reports pinned his price tag around $8 million per year. But as the market thins out a bit, the question pops up regarding what’s realistic for a 32 year old two-down running back, with two repaired knees and fumbling issues to expect? Would he take a $3 million or even $2 million deal if there were some performance bonuses put into place?
Secondly, how much of a role reduction is he willing to take? With his general skill set limited by his pass catching and pass blocking abilities (or lack thereof), what sort of role would be realistic for a team to seek him out to fill? Peterson’s last full season pinned him atop the league for the rushing title in 2015 with more than 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns but a new role that he could be offered might just be a goal line scenario or a gimmicky sort of ploy from time to time sprinkled in with a carry here or there. Either way, however it ends up it’s going to be a reduced role that is unlikely to come in the form of a starting position.
Now would be a good time to throw in a variable of desperation that could kick in for a team in dire need after preseason injuries make their rounds, much the way the Vikings acted desperately following Bridgewater’s injury. Peterson lays in the weeds through the offseason, through the preseason, maybe through a week or two of the regular season waiting for a previously unforeseen opportunity to open up.
The tertiary talker here then becomes Peterson’s ability to stomach the fact that this really might be it. The admission that his perceived value and the perceived value of teams might not line up. Will he be willing to swallow a piece of humble pie or will he take his ball and go home, kicking off his ticker towards the day he’s enshrined in Canton.
It’s a weird situation that ALL football players go through. There aren’t many at all that walk away from the game at the top of their game, and those that do (ie Barry Sanders) will always have the what ifs that go along with their decision. Adrian has been good to the league, the league has been good to him, maybe the potential is there for a “that’s all she wrote” ending to come our way. We can only wait and see.