While he had $17 million in guaranteed money, his salary cap hit for his first two seasons combined was a mere $4.4 million. That started to change in his rookie season. Winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year earned him an extra $250,000, but the heavy lifting of his contract wasn't coming due for a couple of years.
That was a couple of years ago.
An escalator in Peterson's contract would bump his base salary by $2.5 million a year if he ran for more than 1,000 yards in two of his first three seasons. Considering he has run for more than 4,400 yards, that wasn't an issue. Factoring in a $2.8 million roster bonus written into his rookie contract, Peterson is on the take for approximately $5.7 million this year. In 2011, it will get significantly more expensive to play All Day.
With a base salary of $10.72 million and escalators kicking in, Peterson's 2011 salary could be around $13 million in its current stage.
What makes that even more impressive is that the contract would have kicked in another $1 million had Peterson scored 20 rushing touchdowns last year. He scored 18 and had a couple of fumbles on plays that appeared to be going for TDs.
While he signed a six-year contract, the final year is voidable, which means that, realistically, Peterson has two years left on his current deal. Given the current state of flux in the NFL pertaining to free agency, even if Peterson found himself locked into a sixth season, the 110 percent rule on his contract would have him smiling bigger than Darren Sproles.
It will be interesting to see how the Peterson saga with the Vikings plays itself out. He has more than over-performed his contract to date and is in line to earn just about every escalator available to him. The question now is which side – the Vikings or Peterson's – will be the first to talk about signing a new contract? At this point, it would seem neither side is too anxious to jump to the table. Even with the heavy lifting portion of his rookie deal kicking in, given the economics of the NFL, what is expensive now may be a bargain in two or three years.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.