Adrian Peterson is one of the best running backs in the NFL, and a sure-fire Hall of Famer when his career is over, but recent speculation from Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman suggests the Minnesota Vikings would like to part with Peterson “sooner rather than later” as he approaches his age-29 season.
Vikings’ general manager Rick Spielman indicated that he wanted to draft a running back to help ease Peterson’s workload going forward, and he did just that by taking Georgia Southern’s Jerick McKinnon in the third round. But could McKinnon become Peterson’s successor, and could that time come soon if the Vikings look to trade Peterson?
Apart from the well-documented decline running backs have as they approach age 30, Peterson’s contract situation is a huge road block to a potential trade. He signed a seven-year, $100 million contract in 2011, which he looked unlikely to see the end of at the time any way, and his base salaries escalate over the next four seasons. Starting with being scheduled to make $11.75 million this coming season, Peterson will make $12.75 million in 2015, $14.75 million in 2016 and $15.75 million in 2017, when he will be 32 years old.
Hall of Famer Curtis Martin is a rare running back who defied the age-30 decline phase, with over 1,300 rushing yards in 2003 at age 30 before setting a career-high (and leading the league) with 1,697 rushing yards in 2004. But Martin also led the league in carries (371) in 2004, and after a dismal season in 2005 (735 rushing yards and five touchdowns in 12 games) he never played another down. It’s worth noting that Peterson has over 300 fewer carries than Martin did through his age 28 season, but having played all 16 games just three times in his seven seasons, while Martin missed just four games over that time frame in his career, is the logical explanation for that.
If the Vikings seriously look to unload Peterson soon and a trade can’t be worked out, likely in concert with an agreement to restructure his contract, releasing him may become the prudent move even with the salary cap hit that would come with.
I don’t see the Vikings entertaining trade offers for Peterson over the rest of this offseason, and releasing him isn’t realistic either. But after the 2014 season, particularly if Peterson is limited by injuries again, every possible option should be on the table.