I suppose I’ll post about this.

Outside the Lines reported that Adrian Peterson told Jerry Jones he would love to play for the Cowboys. Buried from the lede of the story is the fact that Adrian Peterson was talking to a money manager at the time, who handed the phone to Jerry Jones without telling Adrian who he was going to talk to. In response, Adrian Peterson was fairly polite and said he wouldn’t mind playing for the Cowboys at the end of his tenure.

Adrian Peterson is from Palestine, Texas, two hours away from Dallas and grew up a Dallas Cowboys fan. This isn’t the first time he’s expressed finishing out his career in Texas, where he lives. This is why he was subject to a contrived altercation in the Houston nightclub—he spends the offseason in Texas (Houston is two and a half hours away from Palestine, which is between the two cities).

The Vikings released two statements in response to this report. First, from the Vikings:

“We are focused on the 2014 season, and as we have consistently communicated, Adrian is an integral part of the Vikings organization.”

And then from Adrian:

“This was a casual conversation between NFL colleagues in which I never indicated I wanted to leave the Vikings. I have always said I understand the NFL is a business but that I would love to retire as a Viking.”

Nothing big to see here. If the Vikings expect Adrian to perform in 2016 as he did in 2010, don’t expect much to change. He signed an extension in 2011 that saw his cap charge take 10.8% of the salary cap that year, and he rushed for 1298 yards at 4.6 yards a carry (86.5 yards a game) the season prior to signing it. Since then, he’s averaged 5.2 yards a carry and 103.2 yards a game, with a lot of that coming from a seemingly magical 2012 season.

Adrian Peterson carries the ball against the Carolina Panthers.

Photo provided courtesy of Vikings.com

 

If, two years from now, a reasonable expectation can be made for 4.6 yards a carry with similar blocking quality (or 4.8 with the blocking quality of 2012), then there’s no reason to demand a restructure or force a trade—should the cap be $150 million in 2016 as many project, then his hit will be at 10% of the cap, less than the first year after signing.

It would be equally irresponsible of me not to acknowledge a few things, the first of which that there were rumors that I still believe to be true that the Vikings attempted to trade Adrian in the offseason before the draft. At the time, I was for the trade, but I think with the way the offseason building strategy has gone, it would be a little difficult.

The second thing is that the league is probably not what it was in 2010 in terms of running success, so even if Adrian can be expected to replicate high-level play at age 31 or 32, it may not mean as much to the Vikings brass as it once did.

Running back aging is definitely something to watch out for, and there’s a significant drop-off, historically, for running backs between ages 31 and 32. So significant, that it shouldn’t be ignored even for phenoms like Adrian.

In all of NFL history—1920 to 2013—there have been 15 running back seasons of a player aged 32 with 100 attempts and over 4 yards an attempt, and only 43 running backs have taken 100 attempts at that age. Three of those seasons came in the last decade. At age 33, there are only 19 running backs in all 93 years of NFL history to have 100 rush attempts. 5 of them were above four yards a carry. At 34, nine such running backs with three over the threshold.

Of those running backs with over four yards a carry in those years, (totaling 19 when you get rid of the instances where the same running back put together a 4.0+ carry season more than once after that age), only four had more than 15 attempts a game in the seasons prior and only three had 2000 total carries, where Adrian is now. It’s definitely a concern. That said, only 25 running backs have had 2000 carries before the age of the 30. Of the 22 who aren’t Adrian, Frank Gore or Steven Jackson, nine had 200+ carries at age 31 or later.

Adrian Peterson aging is something to keep track of. It’s not a certainty, and there are some signs he can overcome it (that his cartilage looked undamaged during his ACL surgery is remarkable). Equally true are the signs that he might not be able to overcome it (like the fact he had an ACL surgery, and has had three consecutive offseasons with surgery).

The Vikings may be well served to sell high, even if the contract is not the reason.

One final note, the Cowboys will be investigated for tampering charges, as Jerry Jones likely had an obligation to report contact to the Wilf family or the Vikings organization. This probably doesn’t violate the spirit of the law, but I can see why it would be an issue. The Vikings themselves have not indicated whether they will file tampering charges instead deferring to the NFL, per Ben Goessling of ESPN.