Cowboys Out On AD? No, Just Another Bidder More In
Even as the Minnesota Vikings sit with a favorable salary-cap position and money to spend, they wait, as general manager Rick Spielman said, “laying in the weeds.”
They are taking a disciplined, conservative approach to free agency with the expectation of continuing to build mostly through the draft. Dallas, obviously, was doing the same thing holding firm with its $6-mil-a-year idea on DeMarco Murray and therefore losing him when the Eagles bid closer to his desired $9 mil number. The Cowboys can't say it like Spielman can say anything regarding a certain player who is in a different league that Murray, but they can still be "laying in the weeds.''
That "different-league'' talent is Adrian Peterson.
Peterson’s situation with the Vikings remains unresolved, with only one sure thing: the key decision-makers for the Vikings want him back. But does Peterson want to be back with them? The silence, even following his New York meeting with the Wilf ownership family, is deafening.
The Vikings have tried everything they can to convince Peterson to return, sending coach Mike Zimmer and Spielman to meet with him in Houston last week, and then having Peterson fly to meet with ownership. Through it all, the Vikings and Peterson have said little, which might be the indication that things are far from smoothed over.
If the issues and hard feelings that Peterson had, and probably still has to some degree, are worked through, both parties should say so and offer some reassurance that he will return. They haven’t, which can only lead to the conclusion that nothing has been resolved.
Peterson declined to get into details of his discussions with the Vikings when contacted by ESPN.
“We had a great dialogue and they were able to understand where I was coming from and concerns my family and I still have,” Peterson said. “We respect each other and hopefully the situation can pan out so that everyone involved is content.”
All of this should leave an uneasy feeling for Vikings fans who want Peterson to return to the team after dealing with child abuse charges (he pleaded no contest to reckless assault) and being unable to play after the season-opener last year. And there is justifiable excitement for Dallas fans who have envisioned the Texas native in a Cowboys uniform ever since he burst onto the scene a decade ago at Oklahoma ... and more excitement when he does offer 105.3 The Fan's Shan Shariff a simple "yes'' or "no'' to a question about his early-week whereabouts.
Now, developments around the league at the running back position could open the door for the Vikings to explore trade possibilities, even if he hasn’t strictly requested that.
First and foremost are the Dallas Cowboys, who wanted to re-sign 2014 NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray to an affordable contract in the range of $6 million. But Murray believed he was worth more and Philly took him there. The $12.75 million salary that Peterson is due in 2015 would probably double what the Cowboys were willing to pay Murray.
CowboysHQ.com has noted the following Valley Ranch view: “The Cowboys are in possession of a study that shows when ‘standout’ runners turn 28, their yards-per-game production goes down 18 percent … at 29, down 30 percent … at 30, down 45 percent … at 31, down 46 percent … at 32, down 55 percent.”
The question is whether Peterson is an exception to that trend. He has been busting perceptions since his arrival in the NFL, especially with his speedy recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in December 2011 and his rebound for the second-most rushing yards (2,097) in a single season in 2012.
The Cowboys have the money to spend on Peterson, and owner Jerry Jones’ respect for Peterson showed when it was revealed he talked with Peterson last year and told him as much. But having the money and the respect doesn’t necessarily mean the Cowboys are willing to take on Peterson’s full contract, which calls for increasing salaries of $14.75 million in 2016 and $17.75 million in 2017.
Yahoo is reporting Dallas is out on AD. This is, frankly, illogical. The Cowboys are in a good position to select a running backs like Georgia’s Todd Gurley in the first round of the 2015 draft or Indiana’s Tevin Coleman in the second round. They are in a good position to avoid spending $12 mil for a runner, even though Jerry views AD as an above-the-marquee exception to any rule.
And consider this: Should the Cowboys prefer to:
a) end up acquiring Peterson at $12 mil or so and then use their own first-round pick on a pass-rusher?
b) maybe end up spending less than $12 million on pass-rusher Greg Hardy and use their own first-round pick on someone like Gurley?
Wait a minute ... Hardy? Aren't the Cowboys out on him, as detailed here exclusively on CowboysHQ.com? That is indeed the position up top, as detailed in Mark Lane's story. But at some point, we think Hardy -- behavioral issues and all -- merits re-examination the longer he sits on the shelf.
Back to AD and the obstacles: They are not so much about money or age. They are about what other teams would bid. BucBlitz.com reports that Tampa Bay would like to trade for Peterson, which would reunite him with former head coach Leslie Frazier. Yahoo reports that the Cardinals are very interested, and voices inside Valley Ranch tell us that the Cowboys are aware of Arizona's willingness to outbid the field -- to give a draft-pick package that exceeds what Dallas might give.
But the potential trade market, if Peterson forces the Vikings’ hand that way, will still revolve around the money.
Even so, LeSean McCoy’s five-year, $42-million contract shows that there is still an appetite among select teams to spend big bucks on an elite running back. And nobody has been better than Peterson since his arrival in the league in 2007 and his contract still represents that. His $14.55 million average per year is still $4 million-plus above what Marshawn Lynch is getting in his new deal with the Seahawks, and $5 million or more ahead of Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster and McCoy.
How much is he worth at 30 years old, which he will turn next week? Will anyone be willing to pay what he is scheduled to make with the Vikings? Did his 15 games off in 2014 further motivate or refresh him? As those issues are being considered ...
The Cowboys are not out of this. It's just that they are examining other options while at the same time the Cardinals seem more in.
*Heads up on the compensatory picks Dallas will be getting for losing DeMarco and the rest. Done right, this will be a Cowboys windfall in 2016, as KD brilliantly explains here.
*Dwayne Harris considers himself the NFL’s most versatile special-teamer and now the Giants will pay him that way, luring him away from Dallas with what sources tell us is a five-year, $17.5-million contract.
"Will be taking my talents to the Big Apple,'' Harris tweeted Tuesday, shortly after the NFL's free-agency shopping period opened.
Harris caught just seven passes for 116 yards (with four carries for seven yards). But offense wasn’t his Cowboys forte as much as special-teams play was. He dipped a bit in 2014, averaging 24.7 yards per kick return and 9.2 yards per punt return. But the year before he averaged 30.6 yards per kick return and 12.8 yards per punt return, in addition to perennially being Dallas’ best kick-coverage guy. He also led the Cowboys with 18 special-teams tackles.
Meanwhile ... A couple of days ago we spoke to Justin Durant and despite his impending free agency, he was optimistic about returning to the Dallas Cowboys.
"I'm glad people are interested," The team captain told us. "And hopefully we get it done."
It turns out the "people'' that are most interested are the Atlanta Falcons, who are hiring away Durant after his two seasons in Dallas.
The Cowboys have prioritized the return of Rolando McClain, will get Sean Lee back from injury, have Anthony Hitchens coming off a fine rookie season, and have signed NFL veteran Keith Rivers to a deal.
But Durant was the consummate pro during his time here even as he missed two thirds of last season due to injury. He earned a reputation as a playmaker and was even voted team captain by his mates as he began his second year at Valley Ranch.
*We reported Monday afternoon that agent Tom Condon has no face-to-face meeting scheduled with the Joneses regarding client Dez Bryant's cap-compliance-deadline-beating "Cowboys For Life'' deal. This is not a good thing. We will monitor. Research here for how the Dez deal works.
We reported on Sunday that the "Tyron Trigger'' would happen before cap-compliance time, 3 p.m. Monday. It's done, and now Dallas has about $8 million of room (with Tyson's $8 mil of space created). In addition to DeMarco, Rolando McClain is a priority and Dallas is touching base there. Ro's market doesn't seem hot; maybe that's advantageous for Dallas.
*The Cowboys are sitting on the Brandon Carr talks right now, likely to re-explore if/when needed.
*The Buccaneers signed Bruce Carter to $20.5-mil deal for four years. Last year Carter recorded 68 tackles with five interceptions. Henry Melton is also signing with Tampa. And Sterling Moore is visiting there.
*Here's the "why'' of Dallas' signing of Darren McFadden. Heads-up here: What if McFadden isn't meant as DeMarco's replacement, but rather the replacement for any backup runner who happens to put his fist through a windshield? Dallas has also signed middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley and fullbacks Jed Collins and Ray Agnew.
*Should we be angry at Cowboys management for opting to avoid paying "star-market-value'' for a good player they think is replaceable? Should we be mad at DeMarco Murray for being told Dallas loves him near $6 mil and Philly loves him near $9 mil ... so he loves the $9 mil back more? We've got the details on DeMarco's departure to Philly here.
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