Felton opts out to give himself options

Jerome Felton opted out of a $2.45 million contract year to giving himself more options in 2015.

In what came to the surprise of few, Jerome Felton officially opted out of the final year of his contract. The reason for his decision wasn’t based on turning away from the money he was going to be offered in 2015, it was opening his opportunities for what he saw as being the eventual cutting of ties with the Vikings.

Felton was brought in to be an elite fullback paving the way for Adrian Peterson to hit the second level of the defense. When Peterson was sidelined by the NFL, Felton’s role in Norv Turner’s offense became almost nonexistent. While he rarely compiled offensively verifiable stats as the plow driver for A.P., his role in Peterson’s epic 2012 season was critical.

Felton would be walking from $2.45 million in 2015.

The reality is that the longer Felton remained a Viking, the less time he would have to hook on with another team. Regardless of how the dispensation of Peterson’s situation plays out, Felton was in a no-win situation with the Vikings.

There was no way the organization would pay Felton nearly $2.5 million next season, regardless of the outcome of A.P.’s future with the organization. If Peterson returns, they might look to cut payroll to accommodate his $13 million base salary. If he doesn’t come back, Felton doesn’t have a role in the new-look Vikings offense.

The best business decision for Felton was to make the public-opinion incongruous move to opt of what appears to be a fat-stack deal in his benefit.

The reality of a Peterson inclusive and Peterson exclusive future is that, under either scenario, Felton might not have a place in the big picture of things. If Peterson counts hefty against the salary cap, Felton could be a trimming of the cap fat. If A.P. doesn’t come back, the Vikings couldn’t handle paying the fullback more than the featured back.

In the terms of NFL economics, neither scenario makes sense.

The contribution Felton made to the Vikings organization will never be fully appreciated, much in the same way Tony Richardson’s role in Peterson’s NFL maturation won’t be adequately evaluated. They both served a thankless role as a cog in the bigger machine, but, as diminished as the power of a running back has become in the modern day NFL, the fullback has become Jurassic.

By opting out of the final year of his contract, Felton can negotiate with 32 teams – for markedly less than the current market will pay a fullback.

Therein lies the genius. A team in need of a Pro Bowl fullback can win a bidding war for less than Felton would receive if the Vikings held onto him throughout training camp – when teams have effectively finalized their rosters. By opting out of the final year of his deal, Felton opens up opportunities in February that could be dried up in August.

In the big picture of things, if Felton doesn’t come back to the Vikings, it won’t be a determining factor in the 2015 Vikings going 11-5 or 5-11. But he earned his money doing what he does best. That will be his calling card to other teams and there will be a market for his services.

Players are wont to say that the NFL at its core is business. The best business move Felton and his agent could make was to pre-emptively opt out before the Vikings made that decision for him.

Felton will be missed for reasons both on and off the field. He led by example. If there is a way he can return to the team in 2015, the fan base would be pleased. But it won’t be for $2.45 million.

“Want to thank the Vikings organization for the last three years. It’s been a life changing few years and I have so much respect and admiration for what they’ve done for my family and myself!!” Felton tweeted on Tuesday. “Vikings fans are some of the best in the league and I want to say thank you for all your support. No doors are closed but I’m excited to see what the future holds. #skol #thankyou”

Money talks and players walk. That’s how the business works and it would appear that Felton is more likely to reunite with A.P. in another location than it is for both to start off the 2015 season in purple and gold. His exodus may be a portent of things to come.

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