How Close?

There is no questioning the talent of Adrian Peterson. The value he has to the draft class of 2007 is yet to be determined. While picks in front and behind have gone off the board, the Vikings are seemingly no more likely to get a deal struck today than they were yesterday.

The signing of first-round draft picks has picked up in the last 48 hours – making the question of when Adrian Peterson will sign a question of big-time importance.

The biggest hurdle? Those who have already signed and what their role is with the team they've signed with.

As anticipated, the players behind Peterson have signed – No. 8 pick Jamaal Anderson, No. 9 pick Ted Ginn and No. 10 pick Amobi Okoye. The first two of those signed five-year deals. Okoye, a defensive tackle, signed a six-year deal. In front of Peterson on draft day – DE Gaines Adams and OT Joe Thomas – both signed six-year deals.

The biggest dilemma facing the Vikings as of today is that there is no way a running back is going to get signed to a six-year deal. The only other top-tier first-round running back – the Bills' Marshawn Lynch – signed a five-year deal Friday.

For all appearances, the signing of Peterson is going to hinge on two factors – how much he wants to be in camp early enough to make an impression and how much his agents are convinced he can be a franchise player who is worthy of top-market dollar.

There is no question that Peterson is going to be a difference-maker – some scouts who have a load of street cred have gone on record saying that A.P. is the biggest impact RB since LaDainian Tomlinson to join the league in this decade. But, should that be a bargaining chip in his behalf?

The biggest question for Peterson and his representatives is whether they can convince the Vikings into a five-year deal that gives Peterson the hammer after four years. Larry Johnson has taught all subsequent rookie RBs that you don't want to commit to a contract that is too lengthy – especially if you are the bomb. Johnson is scheduled to make $1.9 million this year – peanuts for a player that set a new NFL record for carries in a season last year. He likely regrets his rookie deal, as he should. But he put his signature to paper, so he has nobody to blame but himself. Peterson has yet to sign his name to the most important piece of paper that he or his family will likely ever see and there is really little reason for him to accept anything less than face value for his services. While the picks before him and after him have all signed off, Peterson holds the one card that the others don't – he is an offensive difference-maker that can help turn the Vikings from league also-rans into a playoff contender.

He knows that. His agents know that. The Vikings know that. While linemen sign six-year rookie deals knowing that they will be re-worked if they live up to the expectations of their initial contracts, the same can't be said for running backs. While the shelf-life is short, the results are epic – especially if you have the talent to back it up.

There is every reason to believe that the Vikings and Peterson will reach an agreement within the next few days. When they do, it will likely be a five-year deal that gives Peterson an out-clause after the fourth season. Why? Long-term running backs are a dying breed in the NFL and they are starting to get a little salty about their disposability.

The Peterson Era is going to begin with the Vikings this year. How soon that comes is between people who wear suits for a living, not uniforms. Most first-round running backs are taken because the team in question is desperate – i.e. the Bills and Marshayn Lynch. The Vikings aren't in those straits, but they are close. Those who tell you that a running back is the one position that can go until the end of the preseason without signing and still be good to go when the bell rings in September may have a valid point, but not in this situation. Both the Vikings and Peterson's representatives can do all the huffing and puffing they want, but the longer he remains unsigned, the worse it is for both parties. A deal needs to get done.

The Vikings need a face to the franchise. Peterson needs to set his family up for the "second" contract that will set them up for life. A couple of hundred thousand dollars shouldn't come in the way of that.

SATURDAY NOTES
* The Vikings agreed to a four-year deal with wide receiver Sidney Rice Friday that will have him in practice Saturday. He had been holed up in a Twin Cities hotel since arriving in town Wednesday, but has checked out and will be on the field fighting for a starting job at WR starting today.
* While the Vikings have plenty of salary cap room, it appears that signing Pat Williams to a contract extension is going to be put on hold. With the bar being raised extremely high for defensive linemen in the past couple of weeks, it's unlikely the Vikings are going to give Williams top dollar for any extended period of time. Seeing as a year ago at this time, Williams was Brad Childress' first example of the "my way or the highway" mindset, he has made huge strides in the subsequent 12 months. But, the fact that the lack of contract progress is news from the Vikings side of the negotiating table.
* For those holding out hope that Michael Vick would play football this year, the scheduling of his trial for late November should put an end to those notions.

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