The Cost Of Dumping Adrian Peterson
Let's deal with the latest facts. Then the finances. Then the morality.
THE LATEST FACTS: Adrian Peterson was indicted last Friday in a child injury case based on allegations he hit his 4-year-old son repeatedly with a a "switch'' (a tree branch). The Minnesota Vikings, independent of an NFL that has its behavioral hands up, deactivated Peterson for Sunday's game against New England. (Minnesota lost the game.) Vikings owners owners Zygi and Mark Wilf announced on Monday morning that Peterson will return to practices and meetings and is eligible to play this Sunday against New Orleans.
Here is the Vikings' statement, from the Wilfs:
"Today’s decision was made after significant thought, discussion and consideration. As evidenced by our decision to deactivate Adrian from yesterday’s game, this is clearly a very important issue. On Friday, we felt it was in the best interests of the organization to step back, evaluate the situation, and not rush to judgment given the seriousness of this matter. At that time, we made the decision that we felt was best for the Vikings and all parties involved.
"To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child. At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action. This is a difficult path to navigate, and our focus is on doing the right thing. Currently we believe we are at a juncture where the most appropriate next step is to allow the judicial process to move forward.
"We will continue to monitor the situation closely and support Adrian’s fulfillment of his legal responsibilities throughout this process."
Peterson surrendered Saturday in Houston on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child and was released on $15,000 bail. Peterson's trial is likely to be in 2015 and it seems the harshest possible penalty is a two-year sentence.
THE DOLLARS AND SENSE: The national media is going wild over the idea of Peterson being cut or traded. The Dallas Cowboys always come into play here, first because the Cowboys are an attention-grabber, and secondly because Peterson is a Texas native who has expressed interest in someday playing at "home.'' (Most recently in a "casual'' phone call placed to Jerry Jones.)
But as is often the case, such speculation ignores the financial realities.
The rule governing Peterson getting full pay is Article 30 of the CBA "Termination Pay":
Section 1. Eligibility:
(a) Any player who has completed the season in which his fourth year or more of credited service under the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Retirement Plan has been earned shall be eligible for Termination Pay under this Article if:
(1) He is released after his Club’s first regular season game; and
(2) He has made the Active/Inactive List of his Club on or after the date of his Club’s first regular season game.
(b) Subject to Section 3 below, the amount of Termination Pay payable to such player shall be the unpaid balance of his Paragraph 5 Salary for that League Year. Termination Pay under this Article shall be claimed and payable no sooner than one day after the end of the regular season schedule, and no later than February 1. A player will not be entitled to Termination Pay more than once during his playing career in the NFL.
Additionally, Article 42 "Club Discipline" says that they can't deactivate him for more than four weeks for Conduct Detrimental to the team.
This means that Peterson's full 2014 base salary of $11.75 million is already guaranteed. His signing bonus proration has this year and next year still remaining, at a cost of $2.4m each year. So the Vikes would be on the hook for $14.4m in 2014 cap money (already accounted for) and $2.4m of dead money in 2015.
Despite a New York newspaper's attempt at an "inside report,'' there is no financial sense to cutting Peterson (though it can be argued there is moral sense; read on). There is a $16.8m "penalty" for doing so.
If AD is on the street? Any team would then be able to sign him for the minimum, and the Vikings would be on the hook for the difference between the two dollar figures. Where this hits a snag is that Peterson has three additional years remaining on his deal ... so why would he sign with someone for only the minimum?
If the Vikes were to trade AD, they would no longer be responsible for the remaining base salary he is owed, that would transfer to the new team. 15/17th of $11.75m is $10.4 million for the rest of the season. There are currently only seven teams in the NFL with that much space, and the list doesn't include Dallas. Even some of those teams would have to restructure his deal and convert base salary into signing bonus on a new deal, should they trade for him.
If the Vikings wait to cut AD until after the season, they will only have $2.4 million of dead money on their 2015 cap, as none of his base salary for 2015 or beyond is guaranteed. That seems the most viable option, should they decide to part ways with him because of advancing age, his imprisonment or issues of morality.
THE MORALITY OF IT ALL There is a clearly a divide among observers of the Peterson case, some (including the authors) who believe drawing blood from the flesh of a 4-year-old's buttocks is obviously obsessive and others who have an "old Texas'' or "Old Testament'' view regarding sparing rods and spoiling children. But for the moment, let's put the Vikings and the NFL on trial.
While we certainly get the sense that the league is once again hiding behind the NFL Shield rather than honoring it, we would all be hypocritical to note that Peterson's status and skill is what allows the Vikings to cite "due process'' and move onto Sunday. Should Baltimore's Ray Rice, Carolina's Greg Hardy and San Francisco's Ray McDonald be allowed to show up at work due to their level of productivity? Maybe the answer sits in the cubicle right next to ours, where the very best doctor, lawyer or shoe salesman is allowed more leeway by our employer depending how well he doctors, how well he lawyers, how many shoes he sells.
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