Vikings running back Adrian Peterson certainly knew about the four-year, $53 million contract extension Chris Johnson signed with the Tennessee Titans, but that didn't mean he was excited to talk about it.
"I don't focus on that," Peterson said after being one of 25 Vikings that didn't play in Thursday's 28-0 preseason finale win against the Houston Texans. "I don't think that his [deal] has anything to do with the process, or what's going to happen with mine."
That likely isn't the case. Johnson and Peterson's production since they entered the league – Peterson in 2007 and Johnson in 2008 – has been similar, meaning as contract talks continue with Peterson, Johnson's contract has to be at least a reference point in negotiations.
In three seasons with the Titans, Johnson has 4,593 yards rushing. In his first three years with the Vikings, Peterson rushed for 4,484 yards. Despite those similar numbers and others, Peterson said he doesn't view Johnson's contract, which called for a reported $30 million in guarantees, as a baseline for Peterson's extension.
"I don't look at it like that. I look at his contract and the things that they have put together for him and I look at whatever I need to get done for me. It's going to be my own separate deal so I don't think it has anything to do with his," Peterson said.
Peterson is scheduled to make $10.72 million in base salary this season, but he is in the final year of his rookie contract. An extension could offer the Vikings some temporary salary-cap relief and offer Peterson some long-term stability at a position that typically takes a physical beating.
He is also one of the most popular Vikings over his four-year tenure in Minnesota.
"He's definitely the No. 1 selling Vikings jersey," said Steve LaCroix, vice president of sales and marketing and chief marketing officer for the Vikings. "I'm not sure where he ranks in the league necessarily. … He's certainly our top-selling jersey."
Brett Favre may have taken over the top spot temporarily from Peterson upon the quarterback's arrival in 2009, but last year Peterson and Favre were "neck-and-neck" in jersey sales, according to LaCroix.
Peterson said he is "focused on playing football" and letting his agent, Ben Dogra, handle the contract negotiations.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier is taking a similar approach.
"You know there are some other people in the organization that handle that one and I just like the fact that we can hand off to 28," Frazier said after Thursday night's win.
For his career, Peterson has averaged 4.8 yards per carry while Johnson has a 5.0-yard average. Peterson has 52 touchdowns in four seasons while Johnson has 34 touchdowns in three years.
"I was happy for him," Peterson said of Johnson's contract, which reportedly calls for $31 million over the next three years. "I like watching him play. I was happy that he got a deal done."
The Vikings could place the franchise tag on Peterson next year, putting him under a one-year deal that would be worth $11.792 million, but negotiating a long-term deal would appear to be the ideal scenario for both sides.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Peterson deflects contract focus
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