Cowboys + Adrian: What If Jerry Makes A Call?
The Improbable Dream 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).
It's been an on-again/off-again concept ever since, 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. Most recently, Cowboys sources strongly suggested "AD to the Cowboys'' is not a realistic part of the team's plans ... and that Dallas hasn't even contacted Minnesota to explore the idea of a trade for the greatest running back of his generation.
But the "hasn't-even-called'' portion of that statement can be changed with one finger on one button of Jerry's flip phone.
Peterson, who turned 30 this spring, feels "uneasy'' and is disturbed by how some in Minnesota handled his situation. "This is how you treat me when I’m down and out?'' he recently told ESPN. "You kick me?''
So Minnesota "kicks him.'' And Dallas? There can be arguments about morality and parenting and privacy, and about how much tread is left on his tires vs. about how having essentially missed 2014 means he's fresh, and 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 once the arguments are through ...
Why shouldn't Dallas at least call?
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 are saying publicly that they intend to keep him. But would they answer Jerry's phone call? It's highly doubtful any team (including Dallas) would accept the base compensation amounts of $13 mil, $15 mil and $17 mil over the next three seasons. But a Jerry phone call to the Vikings, combined with a request for permission to negotiate a new contract with Peterson agent Ben Dogra, is conceivable.
So shouldn't Jerry push to explore it, even as COO Stephen Jones, scouting guru Will McClay and Dallas' cap people push for the owner to recognize that no running back made over $4 mil per year on the open market last year for a reason?
Could a team really get away with grabbing Peterson at a bargain (in terms of salary)? Inside Valley Ranch, the Cowboys are convinced they could not. Remember, this isn't a cap matter; Dallas can create that room, of course.
Or, does Jones say "to hell'' with a bargain, as he has done so many times before, most famously (in his mind, certainly) in the above-the-marquee free-agency get of Deion Sanders two decades ago ... which led to a Super Bowl ... an insane amount of turmoil ... and a financial marketing bonanza for the Cowboys?
Or, one more collection of zany what-ifs: What if AD will work cheap? What if Dallas' belief that his eventual price will be exorbitant is misguided? What if the Vikings' trade-piece price is cheap? What if Arizona is the only other serious bidder and they back out? What if AD gets cut?
Again, for now, this is just a what-if exercise, a fun parlor game. But can you imagine Jerry not playing it in his mind? Realistically, this conversation would be Vikings-driven, would happen in conjunction with knowledge of the outcome of AD's mid-April hearing (NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expects to make a decision on his status by April 15), and would likely be tied to the deadlines-make-deals reality of the April 30 draft. In other words, it's largely the Vikings' call to make ...
But eventually, all of this Improbable Dream would require a second phone conversation between Jones and Peterson. You know about the first one. Jerry was in his private suite at AT&T Stadium attending a George Strait concert on June 7, 2014. You know about the call, Jerry (according to an ESPN reporter who was present) responding from his end, "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.''
Interestingly, as I reported on 105.3 The Fan shortly thereafter, 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 what many have considered Dallas' almost-certain pursuit of him if he escapes Minnesota.
You already know that Jerry didn't call Adrian (dmnews photo). 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, coat-tailing his way in, 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 certainly, I can envision him being impressed by the "surprise guest'' ... even against the wishes of his most trusted advisers who are preaching cap wisdom. I mean, it was against the wishes of any rational person for Jerry to stay on that phone that day last summer and say, "I'd like that, too,'' as Jones told Peterson. "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."
Jerry's staff is populated by a lot of football people and financial folks speaking plain ol' English trying to avoid committing to the notion of a Cowboys trade for Adrian Peterson. But Jerry is capable of speaking a different language when it comes to superstar buys ... and rather than doing so "Pig Latin'' this time, there is nothing to stop the irrepressible boss from making a very direct flip-phone call to the Vikings people, and then a very direct flip-phone call to Peterson's people.
And when you think about it ... without knowing the certain cost of it all ... pending that mid-April hearing that will determine AD's suspension-related future (remember, at Valley Ranch, "deadlines make deals'') ... Why shouldn't he?
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