Alexander Shun | @alexpshun
Digital Content Manager | KFAN.com
The question has been discussed and debated by Minnesota Vikings since before last season even ended and it will likely hear no end anytime soon: Will running back Adrian Peterson return to the Minnesota Vikings for the 2017-18 season?
Let's be honest, there are only three ways for the Peterson saga to play out...
1. The Vikings keep Peterson at his current contract number and they see how he performs this year.
2. Peterson renegotiates his contract and he remains with the Vikings for a much lower cap number.
3. The two sides can't agree on a contract and Peterson is traded
Option one is completely out of the question, let's get that straight right away. Peterson is due $18 million next season (that includes roster and workout bonuses) and is going to be 32 years old by the time next season starts; both numbers are uncomfortably high. If anyone should disagree, please feel free to look at Peterson's 2016-17 game film (what little of it there is) and then remember that the surgery he had last season to repair his torn meniscus was his third surgery in the last five years.
Be it an ACL injury, an ankle, a groin, a sports hernia, etc., there have been consistent injury concerns with Peterson and such concerns only grow deeper as he gets older. So let's be honest, keeping Peterson on the Vikings roster at his current cap number both SHOULD not happen and WILL not happen.
So what will the Vikings do then?
When it comes time to sit down and discuss a contract, it appears that the two sides will be at an inevitable standoff.
Peterson spoke after the season and said that he believes his incredible history and epic past performances are important to keep in mind when considering renegotiating his $18 million salary, hinting perhaps that he feels he has earned such a payday. Meanwhile the Vikings front office is staying quiet saying only that Peterson is under contract with the team before General Manager Rick Spielman added that he would like Peterson to retire as a member of the purple and gold.
Such is a charming sentiment by Spielman but also one that is quite non-committal and seemingly more of a push to get Peterson to retire than anything else, yet I digress.
Peterson's return to Minnesota will likely come down to whether Peterson is willing to accept that he is not the back he once was and take a substantial pay cut. If that happens, option two is the way to go and the Vikings can have Peterson complete his career in Minnesota in both a respectful yet financially responsible way. I just don't see things falling this way.
The mind of Peterson says that he is worth the $18 million but the body and his on-field performance says otherwise. Peterson is going to want a 'fair' salary that may be less than $18 million but will certainly be higher than Minnesota would be willing to spend to bring him back. That being said, I think Peterson's days in Minnesota are numbered.
A trade for the former first-round pick is seemingly inevitable and what the Vikings will receive in return is anyone's best guess. There are obvious teams with running back needs (Jets, Colts, Lions, etc.) but how willing those teams would be to give up a potential draft pick - even a conditional one - for an aging and declining running back with injury concerns remains to be seen.
At best, the Vikings could field a fifth-round pick and potentially a conditional fifth-round pick that could turn into a fourth or even third-rounder should Peterson remain healthy and perform well for his future team.
I don't believe any team would be willing to sacrifice that much, especially since the Vikings have zero leverage seeing as how they have to get Peterson to renegotiate, find a trade partner or simply release him, at which point any team could sign him and not surrender any picks.
This Peterson/Vikings situation is a murky one, more so for the Vikings than Peterson, as the Vikings running back is set to make quite a payday should he remain on the roster. Yet, the Vikings have a profound respect for Peterson and want to him either remain in Minnesota on a lower salary or, if necessary, leave on good terms.
His career in Minnesota was historic and Adrian Peterson will surely end up in the Hall-of-Fame someday, but he likely will not be finishing his career in the purple and gold. And while many Vikings fans will surely be sad to see him go given his history here, many also understand that it's best for their team to move on and start a new running back chapter in the book of the Minnesota Vikings.