Peterson is technically under contract with the Vikings for the 2017 season, but that contract calls for a $6 million bonus in March that he isn’t likely to see and an $18 million salary-cap figure for next season. Speaking Monday as players cleaned out their lockers, Peterson seemed to realize that a renegotiated contract would have to be part of the business dealings in order to continue his career in Minnesota.
“I guess with the number being so high you could speculate and say that’s the case, but in due time I think we’ll cross that bridge,” Peterson said. “We have a lot of other things. Today is just more focusing on the season and how things ended, things we could’ve did better and improving on that and the business side will be handled when that time comes.”
That time will be coming in the next few months. Vikings coaches are going through evaluations over the next week or so and contracts will be discussed with management before too long. It will all be part of the annual complex roster planning before executives like general manager Rick Spielman and others meet with agents at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
With a $12 million cap hit in 2016 and playing only three games, Peterson was the highest paid running back by almost $2.5 million. With a scheduled $18 million cap hit in 2017, that’s $9 million than the next-highest running back, but the Vikings wouldn’t have a negative cap effect if they simply cut Peterson before his bonus is due.
At best, it seems Peterson and the Vikings are headed for some renegotiation talks, but how he and his agent view his value remains to be seen.
“There’s the reality that there comes a point in time where, yeah, the best thing to do is take a pay cut and it might be in the best interest of the team, as well,” Peterson said. “It’s one of those situations where there’s guys that are, I would say, worth putting the money into as well. Like, for instance, you’ve got a guy like Tom Brady or a guy like Antonio Brown – you put more money into those guys than you would do, I’m not going to name any other receivers or any other quarterback – but then you do other guys. That is what it is. That’s just how things go.”
Peterson’s first choice seems to be staying in Minnesota, the team that drafted him in the first round in 2007 and has stuck with him through thick and thin.
“We have some great things going on here in Minnesota. I would love to continue to be a part of that. That’s how I’m thinking,” he said. “It’s not, oh, free agency, I get to test this. I’m not just going to write myself off here in Minnesota.”
He continues to say he would like to play perhaps five more years and isn’t letting the fact that he will turn 32 in March change that narrative just yet.
Peterson was part of the team in 2009, when Brett Favre came to the Vikings as a free agent and led them to the NFC Championship game. Favre built his career in Green Bay, so Peterson has seen one of the NFL’s biggest stars change teams late in his career and still have success.
“Yeah, I’ve thought about that before and haven’t really thought too deep into it, to be honest,” he said. “It was like, yeah, it would be weird, but at the end of the day Favre came back and had one of the best seasons of his career. Sometimes, you’re able to work things out with business and sometimes you’re not. It’s life. It is what it is.”
Peterson says he has no contract number in mind, but he has clearly seen the business end of things play out with himself and with others around the league. The most recent example was quarterback Tyrod Taylor getting benched in Buffalo to protect the team financially in case of injury.
“I’ve been around 10 years and I know the business. You look at Buffalo and you see their starting quarterback, they sit him. They didn’t play him because if he would have got injured they would have to give him $30 million. That’s the business of it, of the NFL, that people don’t see,” Peterson said. “But I’d be lying to you to say that I haven’t thought about, well, what if we’re not able to work things out. So that crossed my mind.”