The likelihood of Adrian Peterson’s potential return to the Minnesota Vikings has already received plenty of speculation, but he is far from the only player of interest from the “will he or won’t he return” crowd among Vikings fans.
Here are some of the top guys fans are wondering about as the sun set on the Vikings’ 2016 season, ranked in order of likelihood we think they return:
Teddy Bridgewater: The quarterback suffered a knee injury that was clearly season-ending from the time teammates witnessed his leg as he laid on the practice-field turf at Winter Park on Aug. 30. The question is whether the injury is career-ending. The Vikings are giving few specifics, despite repeated requests.
“I don’t know all the medical terms, the capsule joint,” head coach Mike Zimmer said on Tuesday when asked for specifics. “I don’t know. You’d have to ask Eric.”
Eric is Eric Sugarman, the team’s head athletic trainer and he has been asked for specifics and declined. Unlike some other injuries to “star” players, the Vikings haven’t made Sugarman available to talk, which leads nearly everyone on the outside (media and fans included) to assume the worst.
Bridgewater was at Winter Park often in the second half of the season and walking without crutches, but he declined numerous interview requests, too.
Bridgewater’s cap number for 2017 is a very manageable $2.18 million, so that is not the major issue. But a decision will have to be made before minicamp whether the Vikings pick up the fifth-year option for somewhere around $11.4 million. Given his injury and, at best, his backup status for 2017, that isn’t likely to happen, but maybe by that time the Vikings will have addressed his injury status.
Likelihood to return for 2017: Good, if the Vikings actually believe he can make a nearly full recovery from his knee injury. Bad, if they are convinced his career is over.
Mike Harris: He was another injury/illness player in which the condition was a well-guarded secret. Harris talked on Monday as if he wanted to reveal what ended up placing him on the reserve/non-football illness list, but he, too, deferred to someone else – in this case, Zimmer – to talk about it.
Zimmer’s response? “I honestly don’t think I should divulge this, because of, I mean it’s kind of a freak thing that’s happened and so we’re trying to get it taken care of. That’s all. It’s the best thing for Mike right now.”
Zimmer said he “honestly” didn’t know if Harris would be playing in 2017. Harris said he’s feeling better and waiting for clearance to practice. So, whatever the issue, it is looking like Harris might be ready to practice when organized team activities start in May and that would be a welcomed sight for an offensive line that was in shambles in 2016.
He is a free agent, but he would likely sign a reasonable contract if given the opportunity to resume his career.
Likelihood to return: Good, so long as he gets clearance to practice/play again.
Sharrif Floyd: While the Vikings took a patient approach with Harris’ situation, patience was wearing thin with Floyd’s inability to come back from a knee injury that clearly the Vikings didn’t think would put him out of action for all but the regular-season opener.
Last year, the Vikings picked up the fifth-year option on the 2013 first-round pick, but this is a tricky situation. That option is guaranteed only for injury so there will certainly be some debate on whether Floyd’s knee injury qualifies.
With a salary-cap number of nearly $6.8 million, it’s unlikely the Vikings want to invest that much in a player that seemed to irritate Zimmer with his lack of availability.
“Well, we’re evaluating everything right now,” Zimmer said when asked Tuesday if he wants Floyd back. “So Sharrif’s under contract, and I know Rick (Spielman, general manager) is in charge with all that, so we’ll see where it goes.”
Likelihood to return: Poor. The Vikings seem fed up with his availability, but there could be some wrangling with the injury terms.
Adrian Peterson: In mid-December, Peterson was asked about his hefty $18 million salary-cap hit in 2017 and replied by noting that the salary cap is expected to go up by about $10 million, indicating he believed the Vikings could afford to pay that. A few weeks later, he seemed more open to the possibility of taking a pay cut to remain with the team.
The question facing the Vikings is what Peterson is worth after missing all but three games in 2016 and not producing much in those three outings anyways – a 1.9-yard average. One thing seems certain: He’s not coming back at $18 million.
So what would be the right number to offer a future Hall of Famer whose career seems to be turning more pedestrian by the year? His scheduled $18 million cap hit is more than twice the amount of the next-highest-paid running back. Given the landscape of running back salaries, his age and recent production, he is closer to a $5 million-a-year back. Would Peterson accept that? And, given how the Vikings offense has morphed into more of a short passing game than the previous run-first mentality during Peterson’s heyday, is he even worth that much to the Vikings?
Given all the factors – his previous salary, his production of late, his pride and the Vikings offense – this one has the potential to get messy with hurt feelings.
Likelihood to return: Poor.
Chad Greenway: He’s been an important player in the Vikings defense for a decade, but his role has diminished and he seems resigned to the fact that his career is over, even if he isn’t fully and publicly committing to that reality just yet. He was the last player introduced pregame on Sunday, he was shown on the big screen at U.S. Bank Stadium waving his appreciation to fans after the game. And he went to the press conference podium – a rarity for a defensive player – following the game.
It seems only a matter of time before he announces his retirement.
Likelihood to return: Poor.