We are 10 days out from the biggest non-game day event in professional sports. That’s right the draft is not far off and yet there is an even bigger story in the NFL that might play a major role in what happens in Chicago on April 30th.
Pro Bowl running back and probable future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson is sitting in Football’s purgatory, on a team that he does not want to play for and that seems to be unwilling to deal him.
Back in March, Adrian Peterson’s agent Ben Dogra put it very blatantly. “We want out of Minnesota.”
Meanwhile, the Vikings front office continues to be set in their stance that AP isn’t going anywhere. Rick Spielman, the Viking’s general manager put out his own blatant line on the situation, “He’s under contract with us.”
Even Mike Zimmer, the head football coach in Minnesota believes that #28 will be back running the ball for the Vikings this fall. “We have no plans to trade Adrian,” Zimmer told ESPN. He also said that the Vikings “fully expect” Peterson to remain in Minnesota. Whether that is going to happen or not is the real question.
But maybe it’s just a matter of the price being right. If Peterson threatens a holdout into the regular season, it might be better for the Vikings to give up on their bluff and try to get something for their ace.
Right now if Peterson is serious about not playing in Minnesota this year the Vikings would be taking a 15.4 million dollar hit to their salary cap. That’s over 10% of the Vikings salary cap, while if traded that would free up that 15.4 million dollars to sign their draft picks or players they get in exchange.
So if the price is what is keeping Minnesota from dealing the most prized player possibly available this offseason, what is the right price, and who’s willing to pay it?
So far there seems to be 3 teams that want a chance at the best running back of the 21st century. The Cardinals, Cowboys, and Raiders all feel like they off something to offer Vikings for the All-Pro.
What do they have that the Vikings would find fair for the future Hall of Fame running back? Picks? Players? Both?
Looking back and trying to see what would be an appropriate proposal for a 30 year old RB who can still play at an elite level is tough. There has rarely been a situation where an established RB at this age was on the move.
The closest thing to this situation could be what was called the greatest one sided trade in the history of the NFL. A 27 year old star RB named Herschel Walker and 4 late round picks were traded to the Viking in 1989 for a host of players and more importantly, picks. The Cowboys got 5 serviceable players, and a total of 8 picks including 6 in the first 2 rounds.
Could a 30 year old Adrian Peterson who missed all but 1 game last season fetch that price? Doubtful.
It’s much more likely that Peterson goes for the same price as LeSean McCoy went to Buffalo a month ago for. Both McCoy and Peterson are ultra-productive backs and although McCoy is 4 years younger than AP, nobody expects any major drop off from Peterson’s elite level. McCoy was traded straight up for a Pro Bowl caliber LB in Kiko Alonso, although that trade was mocked and considered a travesty by Philly fans.
So can the Raiders match that kind of price?
Although they may not have a player to offer that would interest the Vikings in a one for one trade, the Raiders do have draft picks. The Raiders probably would not trade away their 1st round 4th overall pick for Peterson but they do have the 35th overall pick in the second round to pair up with something that could possibly interest the Vikings. Minnesota could use that pick to help sure up the OL and protect QB Teddy Bridgewater with LSU’s La’el Collins or Florida’s DJ Humphries potentially still on the board at that point in the 2nd round. Pair that up with the Vikings 11th and 45th overall picks and the first 2 rounds could really help change the landscape of the NFC North for the purple and gold.
But can the Cowboys outdo that kind of bid?
Possibly. Knowing how Jerry Jones likes to wheel and deal (remember he was the one along with Jimmy Johnson who orchestrated the Herschel Walker trade in 89’), it’s definitely possible that Jones could give away his 1st round #27 overall pick to have Peterson in his backfield. Jones also knows that Peterson being a Texas native would mean that he would probably get a discount on a contract extension in Big D. And that would be a big deal considering the Cowboys only have an estimated 12 million dollars in cap space for the upcoming season, and need to resign Dez Bryant after his 2015 franchise tag expires.
What about the Cardinals?
Arizona seems to be the least likely place that the veteran running back lands out of the places rumored to be in the bidding. While the Cardinals do own the 24th overall pick in this month’s draft and have a need at running back with Andre Ellington not an every down back, head coach Bruce Arians believes the draft is plenty good enough for finding a running back. “This might be the best group (of running backs) top to bottom that I’ve seen in about 10 years. There are 15 really quality running backs in this draft,” Arians said.
Add to that the Cardinals having less than 10 million dollars of cap room for this season and it seems they won’t be making any kind of major push for the superstar running back.
And all that is IF the Vikings are willing to deal him. But with long time sponsors like Radisson Hotels already pulling out and others threatening to do the same, for the team standing behind a child abuser, Minnesota is in a tough place.
Never before has a 7-9 team and a player who played 1 game the prior season had so much say in the landscape of the NFL. But the unusual Adrian Peterson situation and the entire league could have a major shake up in 10 days depending on what one team decides to do with one man.