(photo credit: vikings.com)

As Austin Belisle recently posted, Vikings GM Rick Spielman “expects” Adrian Peterson to be back with the Vikings for the 2015 season.

The front office has made additional positive statements regarding Peterson in the months since his suspension, but these comments were the strongest made thus far in regards to the running back staying in Minnesota.

And last week, Vikings owner and president Mark Wilf said the following:

“Adrian has done a lot of good in this community. He’s done a lot for us on the football field as well, and of course, he’s a Minnesota Viking and we’d love to have him back […] a lot depends on the NFL and the steps he’s making on his own personal journey, but that’s where we’re at with it.’’

It’s probably safe to say that [most] Vikings fans are excited about this pretty blatant stance on Peterson’s side… but there are several other factors to consider.

Namely, if Peterson keeps the purple jersey, how much will it cost the Vikings?

According to the Pioneer Press’ Chris Tommasson, Peterson is under contract next season for $12.5 million, but none of it is guaranteed. If he is paid the full amount, it will put a pretty nice hit against the Vikings’ salary cap.  And let me be clear—I’m not necessarily saying it’s not worth it, but I am posing the question.

Ted Glover of The Daily Norseman pointed out earlier today that Minnesota is currently $18,545,501 below the cap, good enough for No. 17 in the NFL. It seems like an okay number, but again—does it make sense for Peterson (who will be 30 in March) to eat up that much?

The answer may depend on what happens during the offseason with other players currently holding large contracts.

Let’s take Chad Greenway, for example. In early January, some questions arose around the linebacker’s future with Minnesota and if the Vikings would keep his contract considering both his age and the upside of some young guys on the roster, including Anthony Barr and Gerald Hodges. The veteran has been in the NFL for 10 seasons; if he stays in Minny, Greenway would count $8.8 million against Minnesota’s salary cap. if released, he would count a much smaller number ($1.7 million) against the cap.

Jerome Felton’s decision to opt out of his contract would also leave the Vikings $2.5 million of cap space, and Glover also pointed out the possibility of cutting guard Charlie Johnson:

“[Johnson] moved to guard in 2012, and [he] has been meh to bad for his tenure inside. The Vikings need a tune up on the offensive line, and Johnson is the first position I think they’ll address, along with depth.”

Other names (including CB Captain Munnerlyn and WR Greg Jennings) have been mentioned as potentially being on the chopping block or being asked to restructure their salary, and the bottom line is this: a lot can happen within the salary cap during the offseason, and Peterson’s contract is not an isolated factor in the equation.

Another option that you can guarantee the front office is looking at is proposing to Peterson that he come back to the Vikings for less money. No. 28 has said more than once that he wants to stay with the team that drafted him. But when it comes down to dollars and cents, asking Peterson to take less money is a risk that the Vikings will have to decide if they want to take.

At the end of the day, the goal during the offseason is to better the team. What steps do the Vikings need to make in order to make this happen—and keep their star RB in the mix?