Adrian Peterson is not going to take the Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl.
Before anyone says anything—before you call me a traitor and an AP-hater or, even worse, a Packer fan—let me say something. I am none of those things. In fact, I am the world’s biggest Adrian Peterson fan.
I bleed purple. I think All Day is one of the best players to ever be on a Vikings roster, and I think he’s the best running back in the league (sorry, LeSean).
I hate this topic just as much as any other Vikings fan. In the ideal Minnesota sports world, I get to wear my rose (purple?)-colored glasses, and Adrian Peterson never ages. He never gets tired, his knees always regenerate, and he never reaches the other side of the hill.
But, that’s not reality. Peterson is getting older, and eventually he will be at a place—will it be this season?—where he is considered “past his prime.” Over the past couple of years, rumors have come and gone regarding Peterson’s future in Minnesota and if it would be profitable for the Vikings to trade their star RB. The buzz especially increased this season around the time of the NFL Draft.
Although this article is difficult for me to write as I want nothing more than to see Peterson finish out his football days as a Minnesota Viking, let’s take a step back and look at several different factors.
Here are a couple of things to consider:
Peterson is the Face of the Franchise
No matter how you look at it, Adrian Peterson is the face of the Minnesota franchise. Not only is the best player on the roster, but he’s been a fan favorite since Day 1. Peterson is the type of player to always acknowledge the fans, displays a positive attitude, and appears to be a leader both on and off the field.
According to NBC Sports’ Mike Florio, the decision to move Peterson would not be an easy one: “Peterson means too much to the team, especially as it embarks on a two-year detour to an open-air college venue. Peterson’s star power will help sell tickets at a time when fans could be inclined to take a break pending the opening of the team’s new stadium — or the unexpected development of a Super Bowl contender.”
AP sells tickets, and trading him would likely create a flood of backlash and sour feelings. If AP was to be dealt, Rick Spielman would have to find a deal in the “no-way-you-can-pass-that-up” category to preserve the faith and following of Vikings fans everywhere.
AP is Getting Older
Okay, it’s time to take the glasses off. Peterson will turn 30 in March, and that’s not exactly young for the NFL. I don’t think anyone can argue against the fact that, eventually, AP will slow down. But the real question is, when will that be? While some may say that Peterson is already beginning to decline because of lower numbers this past season, Vikings blogger Zach McClellan disagrees:
“I don’t think people are considering all the facts […]. Peterson still managed to run for 1,266 yards in 14 games. This past season was tied for Peterson’s ‘low number’ of touchdowns, but his low number is 10. […] There has been some serious talk of AP ‘slowing down,’ when in reality—he just didn’t rush for 2,000 yards again.”
I think the biggest concern around Peterson’s age and durability is whether or not the Vikings should consider trading him before that decline happens. Peterson has defied the odds plenty of times before, and it’s a gamble on how long the RB will be able to evade the effects of a long-term run in the NFL.
Peterson’s Paychecks are Not Small
This is probably the biggest reason the Vikings would consider trading Peterson. Financially speaking, the Pro Bowler’s contract definitely leaves a mark on Minny’s bank account. Peterson will receive a base salary of $11.75 million in 2014.
Next year, it moves to $12.75 million. Then, it climbs to $14.75 million. By 2017, Peterson will make $15.75 million. That’s a lot of money, and it doesn’t allow the team a lot of extra spending room.
While it has certainly been considered to deal such a huge contract and pick up some more cap space, there is the flip side to consider as well. Any team taking on Peterson’s contract would also be taking a huge hit to its cap, so that could affect the number of squad’s truly interested in making such a deal. In addition, that factor would also influence what the Vikings would receive in return. Would the results be worth the trade?
The NFL is Run by WRs, Not by RBs
Finally, a league-wide fact: the NFL is no longer driven by the success of the running back, but by the impact of the wide receiver. In a recent Fox Sports article, Reid Forgrave explained the way in which the league has shifted over the past few years:
Lost in the hype of 2011’s shattered passing records is the fact that the elite running back, a position that’s been a cornerstone of many a great NFL team, is no longer sustainable in today’s NFL. In this Year of the Passer, the winds of the NFL permanently shifted to a direction the league’s been heading for years. No longer can a team shape its offense around an elite running back who singlehandedly controls the pace of a game.
Now, the running back — or should we say “running backs,” as the best offenses boast an array of specialized runners — is simply a diversionary position, intended to keep defenses off-balance just enough to create breathing room for the passing game, replaced by arsenals of receivers with diverse talents.
In a passing-driven NFL, RB’s like Peterson or McCoy will no longer be enough to win championships. Without a strong receiving core, success is limited. The Vikings look to have an improved receiving game with Cordarrelle Patterson entering his second season, but the reality of it all is that Minnesota lacks depth at the WR position. Trading Peterson could possible open up an opportunity to bring in a larger-name receiver, but again — there are no guarantees. It will be interesting to see how rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater pans out and if this has any impact on the issue as a whole.
There are certainly a number of differing opinions on this subject.
In December, NFL Media columnist Michael Silver said there was “no way” the Vikings will trade Peterson. “Ownership not only reveres Peterson, but it also believes his star power is essential as the Vikings prepare to open a new stadium in 2016,” Silver said. “They want him running through that tunnel.”
Earlier in the fall, however, Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press argued that the Vikings should absolutely deal Peterson in exchange for draft picks before his productivity decreases.
Recently, ESPN’s Ben Goessling weighed in: “Will this be Peterson’s last season with the Vikings? I’m not sure I’d go that far, but his age and his contract structure makes the question worth asking.”
When it comes down to it, everyone involved—including Peterson—understands football as a business and wants what is best for the Minnesota franchise. I personally hope that means AP retiring in purple and gold, but I think a lot of questions will be answered during—and after—the upcoming season.
What do you think?