Adrian Peterson’s Future with the Minnesota Vikings

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.


In Conclusion

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?

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Lindsey Young

Lindsey Young (Featured Columnist) is a graduate of University of Northwestern – St. Paul and is an avid Minnesota sports fan[atic]. It’s been argued females don’t know much about sports, but she begs to differ. Her work has been featured on Bleacher Report, KSTP.com, and Fox Sports North. In addition to her work with VT, Lindsey is a contributing writer for Canis Hoopus, runs a bi-monthly fan feature for Timberwolves.com and is a freelance writer for Vikings.com. You can read her blog at Making the Call and follow her on Twitter.

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  1. Was there really any value added by quoting Mike Florio? lol

    “but the reality of it all is that Minnesota lacks depth at the WR position.”

    We have quality through the top 4 spots. And we’ll have a good battle for the last spot – maybe 2. Getting rid of AD does not change this equation.

    It’s a passing league – if you want to win shootouts during the regular season. If you can play defense and run the ball you can roll through the playoffs just as well as a passing team with deficiencies elsewhere.

  2. Whether or not the Vikes should eventually deal AP, or not, I don’t think they will. The last time the Vikings traded away such star power was when they traded Randy Moss. Randy Moss actually had a poor year the year before, and was not quiet about wanting out of MN.

    More recently the Vikings traded Percy Harvin. He may be a star, or he may not be… but with enough complaining the Vikings traded him as well.

    The difference is… Adrian Peterson wants to be in Minnesota. Like Lindsey said, AP is a team leader and the kind of guy that you want as part of your organization. Adrian Peterson may have a huge contract, but is still much smaller than the QB contracts that are being handed out. The Vikings will save money on QB’s through the 2018 season(when Bridgewater’s rookie contract runs out).

    In essence… Though we are paying a lot for AP… We are saving money where others are spending it.

    1. Thanks for reading, Zach. I agree with you entirely. I personally don’t think that the Vikings will trade AP, and a large part of that IS his positive attitude and desire to win in Minnesota.

  3. People over-analyze WAY too much! No offense, you’ve displayed your context perfectly, but this article gets my blood pumping just as much as Arif’s less contextualized bashing of Greenway. Throughout MN sports there is always anxiety over getting top-knotch FA’s, and keeping players we draft that turn into highly coveted players. Recently, that climate has changed quite a bit over the entire spectrum of the MN scene. Look at the state of the Twins for an example. Running guys out of town in favor for hometown favorites who are liked by the fans, but may not be performing all that great. Part of being a winner is keeping quality players, and yes, you might have to keep someone past their ‘prime’ a little, AD past his prime is still a top 5 RB. Greenway is a smart player and leader on defense and one of the first players to get accolades from Zimmer. MN fans and media seem to want things both ways. Some fans and writers get unsubstantiated ideas/theories about players based on formulas and charts and history which turns into a collective misunderstanding. It’s a lot easier. Keep good smart football players and lose the bad ones. AD is a good one.

    1. Thanks for reading — I cannot disagree with you. I simply wanted to present the different factors here and offer a few different angles. I personally hope to see Peterson stay on the roster, and all things considered, I think he will. Appreciate the feedback!

    2. CS…… you criticize the Twins for keeping ‘hometown favorites who are liked by the fans, but who may not be playing all that great’…. that sounds like exactly the reasoning of the Greenway defenders on this and other sites. CW has been a not-good very bad LB for 3 years now. Arif’s critique of him came from an incredibly heavy dose of research and game film review. I know Chad is well liked for his community work, charity work, and even more now for his recent heroism, but it doesn’t mean he is a good starting-level football player at this time. After his boating rescue, Dan Zinski at TVA actually came out and said he doesn’t want to hear any more criticism of Chad after what he had done. The guy does a good deed, totally unrelated to his job which he gets paid a very high salary, and for which he has been the 2nd highest paid Vikings’ player for a number of years, until Jennings came along, and he doesn’t have to earn his job? It doesn’t take away from what he has accomplished in the past, but we cannot pretend he is the player he was 4 years ago. I hope he finds the fountain of youth and can play at a high-level again, but hope is all it is, and we have to face reality, and field the best team possible, not starting guys who are liabilities, just because they are nice guys.

      1. I can see how it seemed like I was talking out of both sides there. Let me contexualize a little better.
        I was referring to keeping the Kubels and Puntos and losing the Hardys and Ortizs’. In no way was I comparing Greenway to those players (the kept ones). Yeah, he might not be dominant, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad player, or the one to pinpoint for an all around crappy DEF. How has our DL been? What’s one of the DLs most important jobs? I guess Chad can only earn his paycheck if he’s able to be a lock down covering LB while consistantly shedding tons of blockers due to our DLs failures, and also worry about the run that the DL can’t stop anymore. And, if Peterson doesn’t rush for 2,000+ yds he’s declining. Cut em all! Type yer formulas and equations into yer ‘puters and do some football!!

      2. I hardly classify Greenway as a ‘liability’. Good DEF takes a team and pinning everything on Greenway displays little, or no football intelligence. I would pin more issues with the DEF on Allen, the one dimensional DE who was horrible against the run because all he cared about was his sack totals. You mention Arif’s detail research. He’s a wonderful writer and I like him, but that article made me question his film reviewing skills. What he used for video did not substantiate his claims IMHO. Furthermore, his description of what was happening in most of those videos were misinterpreted IMHO. He ended up blaming Greenway for a play where he made up for another position’s missed responsiblity.

      3. You think Zimmer needs to stroke Greenway’s ego and praise him undeservingly? Then, we have problems, because he publicly and slocitedly said he wants 90 Greenways. We have a great coach, and what proved it was Munnerlyn signing. I’ll take team of Munnerlyns and Greenways. You can go for your your ‘freakish athletes’ who can excel at drills similar to games at a summer family reunion they call the combine.

    3. Ironic you mention Over 30 Greenway in an article about player decline. Fact – Chad Greenway has had a good career as a Viking. Fact – Greenway has played poorly over last 2 years (over 30 ). NFL = tough business. (See K Williams). This will most likely be his last as a Viking. Coaches praise you the most on your way out the door. He had a good career but their are no everybody gets a trophy lines for players over in the NFL. Surprised Greenway getting more sentimental support then K Will did.

    4. Agreed. Plus all of the recent players traded were because of the last TWO coaches we had which set the team back 5-6 years. That and getting the front office straightened out having just one guy (Spielman) responsible for the roster, with coachs (and owner) input, but it all rests with Rick. He has ruled the drafts the past few years and I think Teddy is going to keep Rick in his seat for a quite a few more years. I certainly would hate to see Rick go until he shows boneheaded moves like Childress and Frazier. Neither will EVER be head coaches again.I would bet my life salary on that.

  4. There should have been one more choice “Cut him after this season”. What are you going to do if you cannot afford his contract and no one else can either?

    I think a lot will be determined by Norv Turners offense – does Adrian still fit?

    I hope he retires a Viking – the amount of money and integrity he brings in each week for the team is just different than most of our other players. Kind of like Urlacker for the Bears.

    1. Really, you think anyone would seriously vote for ‘Cut Adrian Pederson’. Even if AP tears both ACL’s in training camp this year, he’s still not getting cut (knock on wood). Also, I completely disagree on the comparison of Brian Urlacher… he’s not even in the same ballpark as AP! (?) Urlacher will be forgotten in 10 years, heck I almost forgot about him already!
      whether it is a passing league or not, at his current pace, Adrian will likely rank above Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Eric Dickerson, etc. as the best Running back to ever play this game… That’s a HUGE value to a franchise 10, 20. 30+ years down the road. The Vikings Brass own calculators. they know they can’t trade that… not because of a $17 mil contract when Drew Brees, Tom Brady, ____ Manning, and Tony (fricken) Romo make $20mil/year. Lastly, the salary cap will continue increasing… can’t believe this wasn’t considered? When AP is making $17mil, as long as he’s still the starting RB, this will be about the time he shatters all those career records… look it up, he’s not going anywhere.

    2. BDUBS – Look at Revis cut by the Bucs. Why was he cut? His contract was way out of line with the rest of the corners. He is still one of the best corners out there.

      I hope AD stays. Sometimes the business forces things to go another way.

    3. Under_Toad, Until you can educate yourself a little more on how a football team is run, its best you keep yolur comments to yourself.

  5. @linds-

    Not necessarily feedback on your quality of work, nor Arif’s. Just ranting b/c of the anxieties I laid out. When we finally get good players whether draft or FA, MN fans/writers tend to single out players that aren’t favorites. It takes a team! It’s also a little wool over the eyes. Like in ’08 when we were ‘all in’ just b/c we signed Favre. IMHO you aren’t ‘all-in’ if you also let two very important kogs in the machine go b/c of a few million bucks (taylor, birk).

  6. Don’t see it unless there is a significant production decline (not likely with the condition AP keeps himself in), or a debilitating injury.
    Too much value to the franchise.

  7. no because you finally have an intelligent accurate pocket passer to take advantage of exactly what a dream Peterson is great at. They have to see what they have with him in Bridgewater together on the field. I do not think Vikings will train a dragon I think he will open the new stadium with this team I think he has every chance to win the Superbowl he finally has his quarterback. That being said, this next of season will be critical to fill any remaining holes. There really aren’t that many on either side of the ball. The Sun products that is this team today it’s been many years in the making, and I would say that our window is just now opening. This is not the time to trade Adrian Peterson. At worst case scenario we cut him or trade him 3 years from now if we have to.but I think there is more likely a chance they will least try to renegotiate his contract but again that depends on his output this year and whether he win Super Bowl MVP or if it’s teddy.

  8. I have hope AD stays productive for the next few years, barring injury. The reason for that is because when James Andrews performed surgery on his ACL, he had as much wear and tear on his knee “as a new born baby.” Oh, and that when he returned to football from an ACL repair quicker than any other human has ever done and rushed for the second most yards in a single season. Religion is all about faith. Have faith in Purple Jesus.

  9. Peterson is expensive but the Vikings can afford him because Ponder busted and they don’t have to negotiate an extension with a QB. I’d rather pay Peterson $12M than pay $18M or more to Alex Smith or Andy Dalton, or even Joe Flacco or Colin Kaepernick (Kaep might eventually be worth it though).

    The Vikings will be nowhere near cap trouble for the next few years: the only guys who’ll need extensions coming off their rookie contracts next year are Fusco and Rudolph, and neither will command top dollar given positional value.

    The 2012 1st rounders (Kalil and Smith) can be team optioned for 5th year extensions in 2016. So the only 2012 drafted players who’ll need extensions before 2016 are the late rounders (Walsh, maybe Ellison or Wright).

    The 2013 1st rounders (Floyd, Rhodes, Patterson) can be team optioned through 2017, and the 2014 1st rounders (Barr, Bridgewater) through 2018. The late round picks from 2013 don’t seem likely to break the bank, and obviously it’s too soon to say about 2014.

    Their recent long-term FA contracts (Loadholt, Jennings, Joseph, Munnerlyn, Griffen) have been pay-as-you-go, without major year-by-year increases in cap hit.

    They have a few premium vets whose contracts will come up around 2016-17 (Sullivan, Loadholt), but they might not be extended much further at that point given their age (30+).

    Plus the cap is going up every year.

    So there’ll be no particular benefit from eliminating Peterson’s cap hit, unless they’re planning to add a hugely expensive (Revis-class) free agent, which hasn’t been Spielman’s style with the post-2011 draft-and-develop philosophy. They might as well keep him.

    I expect that Peterson won’t even be asked to renegotiate through 2015 or maybe 2016, as long as his production and health hold up. Assuming the team is coming together nicely by that point and they’re looking to lock up most of the 7 first round picks to long-term extensions, his last year or two could be renegotiated to a last few extra years so he can retire in purple.

    (with a 2016 Super Bowl ring)

  10. AP has no trade value going into next year. He will renegotiate with guaranteed money. Somewhere less than $10M. That or cut him. Too many contracts coming up next year.

  11. You picked the wrong player for this article…. because I would agree Greg Jennings is more likely to be traded/cut than Pederson. We pay Jennings A LOT (maybe too much) in comparison to the output he’s provided. Check out his contract, no guaranteed at the end.
    Crappy QB play or not, look at the cost/yard and cost/touchdown in terms of salary for Jennings versus Purple Jesus. There is no excuse… great recievers get catches & touchdowns. Look at Chris Carter, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald… all still show up in terms of production despite horrid QB play. Quick slot recievers are not that hard to find. Jennings would be fairly easy to replace. Adrian Pederson = once in a lifetime, at best. I would be willing to bet almost anyone that Jennings is not the clear-cut best reciever on this roster at the end of this season, as long as Patterson stays healthy.

  12. Firstly I think our receiving corps is better than they get credit for,particularly with Norv now running the offence.Secondly,and I am probably in the minority,but I don’t buy this stuff that the NFL is a passing dominated league.The first thing you always hear is coaches saying they want to run the ball,and stop the run.They want their offence to be balanced,and the opponent to be one dimensional.If you want to win championships you need a balanced offence and a good defence.
    Adrian is not just any old running back,he scares the heck out of every defence who goes against him,and opens things up for others to take advantage of.Now that we have a play caller who can design plays and take advantage of what Adrian Peterson brings to the team,I expect this whole debate to go away once the season starts and AP is tearing defences to shreds.
    As KRAUSER rightly states,the salary cap is increasing every year,and #28 isn’t going anywhere except the HOF in Purple & Gold.

  13. “Too many contracts coming up next year.”

    There really aren’t.

    Go to this link — http://www.spotrac.com/nfl/minnesota-vikings/ — and click “Free agent” in the right column to sort by the last year of the contract

    The only UFA players for 2015 are:
    2011 draft: Rudolph, Fusco –> probably deserve and will receive extensions
    2011 draft: Ponder, Raymond –> probably cut before the season or allowed to leave in FA
    Veterans finishing long-term deals: Sanford, Berger, Loeffler –> probably none of those guys are re-signed
    Veterans on budget 1-year deals: Simpson, Evans, Brinkley, Tom Johnson, Cox, Wootton, Ducasse –> probably none of them are on the team long-term, but maybe a couple of them get another short term deal

    … so that’s Rudolph, Fusco plus whatever budget veterans they re-sign (Cox or Wootton if they have a good year on the prove-it deal this year, maybe a depth player like Evans or Brinkley). Those salaries combined would hardly match the $9M a year it took to retain Griffen this year.

    In 2016,
    2012 draft 1st rounders, 5th year team option available: Kalil, Smith –> probably both get the option and negotiate a long-term extension starting in 2017
    2012 draft: Robinson, Ellison, Walsh, Wright, Cole, Blanton –> probably several are retained (especially Walsh), the rest not
    Veterans finishing long-term deals: Felton, Greenway, Cassel, Charlie Johnson, Sendejo –> maybe Sendejo stays if he emerges as a starter at safety, otherwise they’re probably all gone
    Veterans finishing short-term budget deals: whoever they add in FA next year as budget depth (like Simpson or Wootton or Cox this year)

    It’s only in 2017 that bigger contracts (extending Kalil and Smith) and tougher questions for veteran re-signing (how much do Sullivan and Loadholt have left at age 30?, do they give Munnerlyn another contract?) kick in. The 2013 1st rounders can all be extended through 2017 on team options for fairly cheap, and the late rounders (Hodges, Baca, Mauti, Locke) aren’t going to break the bank.

    It’s just at that point that the cap might be a problem if Peterson doesn’t renegotiate. And that’s the last huge year of his deal, perfect to rework if for a more reasonable number over 2-3 more years, so he can retire a Viking.

  14. I think KWill has more value as a rotational player than Chad at this point in their careers.

  15. Yes, hopefully Williams can come back as situational player. That’s what you need to win. When were the Pats winning more? How are those Spurs? Being able to keep veteran leadership and getting seasoned vets to sign, even if past their prime, as situational players is just as important as drafting young players. Unless you want to keep being a farm team for Seattle, et al….

  16. Money is not going to be a factor and is a trade off with the QB position. By the time Teddy is making around 20 million, Peterson contract will have expired. Between the 2 positions the money about right, So that wont be a issue and I am sure Peterson would rework his contract if ask to. Peterson hasn’t decline at all, With the way he comes back from injury’s. It shouldn’t surprise any knowledgeable Viking fans if Peterson would last longer and be effective pass the age of 35, Than any other RB before him. So before the inks dry on writing about trading Peterson, Lets give Peterson the respect he deserves. Peterson could have forced a trade to leave, After Percy was sent packing and seeing the team getting worst with the drafting of Ponder, Both Peterson and Percy knew this wasn’t going to work. Yet Peterson hung in there. So lets hang in there with Peterson and hope Peterson retires as a Viking. That would be refreshing in this day and age of Football. Staying loyal to the player, who stayed loyal to the Franchise in his prime, On a team that was short a QB every year but 1 in his career as a Viking

  17. My worst fear is Peterson wearing the baby shit yellow and puke green of Green Bay. I know it hurt them to see Favre wearing Purple. I like to see Peterson on the Vikings when they win their 1st. Super Bowl. I see Teddy taking us all the way. Super Bowl Champs within the next 4 years.

  18. The real question is how big of a factor will Peterson be in Norv Turner’s system? If he catches 60 balls and also leads the league in rushing… then he will continue to be the face of the franchise, and the Vikings will continue to pay him.

    Until a new face of the franchise steps up, or until Peterson actually declines… I’m not too concerned about his pay check right now.

    Speculation is a 2 way street. AP could easily have a big year in Turner’s system.