There has been a sentiment that has been getting some traction recently, sometime being said in a nuanced sort of way and at other times being pretty frontal that it is all but a done deal.
If you look solely at his current contract, there is reason to believe that line of thinking. Given the pride that Peterson has shown when it pertains to being the best running back of all time, it is clear that, barring a significant injury, he won’t likely be ready to hang it up after this season.
The great ones never do because they want to leave it all on the field. Jim Brown and Barry Sanders are the exceptions to the rule. Other than those two, almost all of the other great running backs have done their damage and posted their career numbers with more than one team and, given his circumstances, Peterson would seemingly fit in that mold.
There were many who thought Peterson displayed hubris after getting paid eight game checks before being suspended officially and taken off the commissioners list to ask for a restructured deal to guarantee money.
From the outside, it appeared that it was a bold and unlikely meaningless gauntlet-drop that made no sense.
Yet, the Vikings agreed to the deal. The team agreed to a three-year, $42 million contract restructuring, with $20 million guaranteed. It was obvious when the deal was made that it was a two-year $27.4 million deal. If the Vikings had traded Peterson in the offseason, they would have taken a dead-money cap hit of $11.75 million. To keep Peterson this season, they’re paying him $12 million.
From this year on, that’s a different story.
Peterson is due $18 million in 2017 and, if a line is drawn in the sand this time around, there is no dead-money cap hit for the Vikings. Their obligation to the Peterson contract will expire at the end of this season and, given the downward cycle of how elite running backs are now viewed in the NFL, that line is nowhere near the $18 million he will be due in 2017 if the two sides move forward with the final year remaining on his current deal.
There is a strong likelihood that the Vikings and Peterson will attempt to work out a compromise deal that will keep him a member of the Vikings family for his entire career. Peterson’s Hall of Fame credentials have already been met. He doesn’t need to play another down in the NFL to end his career at Canton. The only question is whether his final numbers will all come as a member of the Vikings organization or if his last few seasons will pad his resume with someone else. In 2007, few people could have envisioned that Brett Favre would end his career in Minnesota, yet it happened.
The general consensus at this point is that Peterson won’t get the $18 million that will be due him under his current deal in 2017, which could well make 2016 his final season with the Vikings. There is the lingering hope that the two sides will be able to reach a compromise number that will allow Peterson to play as long as he wants to as a member of the Vikings, but, given the current state of affairs with his contract status, 2016 is the only season that is guaranteed for Minnesota to be Peterson’s NFL home.
There likely won’t be much in the way of contract discussions this season. There’s no need to have that sort of a distraction. But, once the 2016 season is over, all bets are off. Because of that, Vikings fans should relish in the fact that they have the best running back of the current generation on their roster because it may not last much longer after this season – whether by design or circumstance.