Cowboys + 'Uneasy' Peterson: A New Reality
It started, in the minds of prideful regional football fans, a decade ago when Adrian Peterson was emerging as a star at the University of Oklahoma. It accelerated last summer when the Texas native found himself on the phone with Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jones -- through no "tampering'' fault of either man (with CowboysHQ.com learning new details of that contact).
And as Peterson works his way through legal issues stemming from his corporal punishment case and works through emotional and financial issues with the Minnesota Vikings, "AD to the Cowboys'' is more realistic than ever.
Peterson, still sitting out a suspension from the NFL while listening to Vikings officials say nothing but positive things about his 2015 return to the team, is putting Minnesota on blast for failing to support him during trying times.
“I know there are a lot of people in the organization who want me back,” he told ESPN. “But then again, I know the ones who don’t. It’s a difficult transition, and it’s not just about me. I have a wife who was able to sit back and see how people in Minnesota said this and said that, how media in Minnesota took the head of the situation with my child, and were digging into things that weren’t even relevant.''
“That wasn’t people in Texas,'' Peterson continued. "It was people in Minnesota that dug in and brought things out. That impacted me, but most importantly, it impacted the people around me — my family, my kids. This came from the state I love so much, that I wish to bring a championship to? This is how they treat me when I’m down and out? You kick me?
“My wife (and I), we’ve had several conversations about me returning to Minnesota, what the best options are. If I left it up to her, I’d be somewhere else today, and that’s with her weighing everything. It’s a lot for me to weigh; she understands that. But there are some things that I’m still uneasy about.”
Peterson is the NFL's best running back, even at age 30. There can be arguments about morality and parenting and privacy. There can be arguments about how much tread is left on his tires vs. about how having essentially missed 2014 means he's fresh. There can be arguments about whether Dallas' policy on not paying running backs "market value'' (an angle we've covered in great detail as it relates to free agent DeMarco Murray) should be violated for a player of Peterson's caliber.
But there is no argument about the window being open here.
Peterson leaving Minnesota is no financial problem for the Vikings. His current deal has three years remaining with very high base salaries. However, they haven't restructured him over the years, so there is only the 2015 portion of the original signing bonus proration remaining that would convert into dead money.
His current 2015 cap hit stands at $15.4 million. $12.75 million is base, $.25 million is workout bonus and $2.4 million is prorated bonus. The base and workout bonus would disappear if released, leaving just the $2.4 million in dead money. That would give the Vikings the net result of $13 million in savings if they released him.
They could try and leverage a trade, but it's highly doubtful any team (including Dallas) would accept the base compensation amounts of $13m, $15m and $17m over the next three seasons. A new deal would have to be agreed to before a trade was made, which is a bit of a possibility.
No running back made over $4m per year on the open market last year, and Dallas already tried to give that sort of deal to DeMarco Murray earlier in the season, as CowboysHQ.com was first to report ("4X4''). Since talks have continued but no agreement made, we can assume Dallas isn't interested in breaking the bank for Murray, but maybe that's because the world has known of the mutual interest between the team and Peterson. Could a team really get away with grabbing Peterson and him not being one of the top-five paid backs in the league? If they can't, then maybe we are looking at around $7.5 million per season in order to sign him. Dallas can create that room, of course. (See our Cowboys Cap Hell myth-shattering work here.)
Interestingly, CowboysHQ.com has learned, the Peterson-to-Jerry phone call in June was a freakish thing that should've never happened on multiple levels ... but the fact that it did is now part of the story of Dallas' almost-certain pursuit of him if he escapes Minnesota.
Jones was in his private suite at AT&T Stadium attending a George Strait concert on June 7. You know about the phone conversation, Jerry (according to an ESPN reporter who was present) responding "Well, I understand, Adrian. I'd like that, too ... I've always respected what you've been about. I've always been a fan of yours. ... Well, we'll see what we can do, if we can make that happen.''
You already know that Jerry didn't call Adrian. But Adrian didn't call Jerry, either. A financial manager who works with Peterson happened to be at the concert, too. He's the one who called AD and then handed the phone to Jones ... and the twist here is that the financial manager did not have an invitation to Jones' suite. A member of Jones' family knows the man ... but he sort of "invited himself'' to the party and then sauntered up to Jerry with the "surprise guest'' on the phone ... all as a way of impressing the owner, basically.
Jerry might not have been impressed by the financial guy. But he certainly is impressed by the "surprise guest'' Peterson as a football player and as an above-the-marquee name that sources tell CowboysHQ.com will, if he's available, cause Jerry to go into "Deion mode'' -- that is, an all-in commitment to a player at a level far higher than simply the personnel department (as was the case 20 years ago when Jones spearheaded the blockbuster free-agent signing of Sanders.)
"I'd like that, too,'' Jones told Peterson that day on the phone. "Well, we're talking Pig Latin here, but let's see if we can do that ... We're talking Pig Latin here, but let's see what we can do about that. OK, Adrian, thanks."
We don't have to speak "Pig Latin'' anymore. When Adrian Peterson specifically mentions a comparison between "people in Texas'' and "people in Minnesota,'' he is expressing his desire by speaking plain English.
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"We're trying to get a deal that works for the Dallas Cowboys and works for DeMarco Murray. His impact on our team was significant last year but again we're in the business part of it right now. We love the guy. We love him as a person. We love him as a player and hopefully we can get the whole thing worked out." -- Jason Garrett, in part of our video coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine.
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