The Minnesota Vikings have changed coaches this year, hiring Mike Zimmer to replace Leslie Frazier, and are also ready to move on from 2011 draft pick Christian Ponder after selecting Teddy Bridgewater.
If Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman is correct, those might not be the only big changes taking place in Minnesota. According to Freeman, the Vikings are also seeking a way to move on from superstar running back Adrian Peterson.
The Vikings’ wish to get rid of Peterson has nothing to do with Peterson’s production, but is all about the money. Peterson is still a good player, but it’s hard to justify his huge contract numbers for the next four years when you consider the overall devaluation of the running back position, not to mention Peterson’s advancing age.
How big are those contract numbers? The Vikings owe Peterson base salaries over the next four years of $11.75 million, $12.75 million, $14.75 million and $15.75 million.
Even with the salary cap set to inflate each year, that’s a lot of money to be paying a running back who, at least according to all statistical models, is set to see a steep decline as he surpasses the age of 30.
It’s too much money to be playing any back, regardless of age and production, in this new era of the running back assembly line system.
So what can the Vikings do? Freeman doesn’t speculate, but only says the team is looking to move on from Peterson sooner rather than later. “My personal opinion,” one AFC GM told Freeman, “is this [coming] season will be Peterson’s last with the Vikings. Despite the cap hit, they’ll make some sort of move to get him off the roster.”
It seems unlikely that the Vikings would be able to trade Peterson, given the way running back value is trending, unless they were willing to accept much less draft pick compensation than he would otherwise be worth.
Cutting Peterson now or after the 2014 season doesn’t seem like a great option either given the salary cap hit the team would incur. The only realistic option for the Vikings might be to carry AD through the 2015 season, at which time all his prorated bonus money would be paid out, leaving them in a much better position to cut him.
Re-negotiating Peterson’s contract could also be an option, but Peterson would have to be amenable to such a move.
As painful as it would be for Viking fans to see Peterson go, it might be in the best long-term interests of the organization to get out of paying the full value AD’s contract.