Peterson's pay versus production

Adrian Peterson's draft status and incentive-laden contract have kept him fairly compensated while the top two yardage-producing running backs last year are in a much less desirable position. We compare and contrast the situations, which has the top back looking for a new contract while Peterson's pay continues to go up.

Eventually, the Vikings could find themselves in an interesting contract debate with Adrian Peterson, but for this year at least they appear to be in good shape when it comes to the compensation of one of the league's most productive running backs.

On Monday night, NFL Network had a short and inconclusive discussion on whether the Vikings' Adrian Peterson or the Titans' Chris Johnson is the best running back in the league right now.

Johnson rushed for more than 2,000 yards last year while Peterson hasn't reach that mark yet and had only 1,383 yards rushing and 436 yards receiving. But Peterson certainly has the advantage on Johnson when it comes to compensation.

In fact, Johnson and Baltimore's Ray Rice are caught in a contract numbers game with their respective teams, which was the subject of a comparison between some of the top-paid running backs in the league in a "Seven Points" column by's Ed Thompson.

Johnson and Rice both broke the 2,000-yard threshold for total yards from scrimmage last year (Johnson with 2,509 and Rice with 2,042), Thompson points out. But their production on the field isn't in keeping with their compensation off of it.

According to Thompson, Johnson's base salary is $550,000 and his prorated signing bonus puts him at $1.56 million in compensation for 2010. Rice's base salary, prorated signing bonus and roster bonus combine to compensate him at $1.09 million this year. "Though that might sound like pretty good money to you and me, it's paltry when you compare it with the money paid the other NFL backs who finished behind the duo in total yards from scrimmage last year," Thompson writes. "The Vikings' Adrian Peterson (third), the Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew (fourth), the Rams' Steven Jackson (fifth) and the 49ers' Frank Gore (sixth) have compensation numbers that range from $5.69 million for Peterson to as high as $8 million for Jackson. That group worked hard for its money as well, totaling anywhere from 1,500 to roughly 1,800 yards."

But even Peterson looks underpaid when compared to the richest of running backs in the league.

"The Redskins' Clinton Portis will earn $10.69 million this year — including the prorated portion of previous bonus money — following an injury-shortened season in which he appeared in just eight games and contributed 551 yards from scrimmage," Thompson writes. "Even if he had stayed healthy and doubled those results, he would have trailed Johnson and Rice by more than 800 yards.

"It's also hard to understand how the Saints' Reggie Bush will earn $8 million in salary this year against a total compensation of $11.99 million after he finished 41st among running backs last year with 725 scrimmage yards. Or how about the Chargers' Darren Sproles earning $7.28 million in salary as the team's franchise player after finishing 37th in the NFL among backs with 840 yards? While both of them double as return specialists, that doesn't explain their inflated value. Sproles finished 22nd in punt return average and 18th in kickoff return average last year, while Bush was 27th in punt return average."

Rice and Johnson have two and three years, respectively, left on their contracts, but they aren't compensated nearly as heavily as Peterson because they weren't drafted as high. Peterson's annual compensation goes from nearly $5.7 million this year to $12.78 million in 2011 with a base salary of $10.72 million, and he's earned numerous escalators through his Pro Bowl honors and yardage escalators.

When compared to Johnson and Rice, Peterson can hardly complain about his contract, and to this point he hasn't. It's also not the reason he is expected to miss at least a portion of this weekend's minicamp. That will happen because Adrian Peterson Day in his hometown of Palestine, Texas, was scheduled for Saturday.

It's uncertain if Peterson has been excused from the mandatory minicamp, but if he's not he could be fined, although it is an inconsequential amount when compared to his contract.

According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in 2006, teams could fine players up to $1,500, a price that could only increase 10 percent each year after 2006. So the maximum the Vikings could fine Peterson would be just over $2,000 for missing minicamp if he is unexcused. More likely, they will look the other way and hope the good will help in his production on the field and in future negotiations.

For now, however, it appears that Peterson is fairly compensated and certainly not in a contractual stalemate like Johnson and Rice.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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