Alexander Shun | @alexpshun
Digital Content Manager | KFAN.com
The Minnesota Vikings declined the 2017 option on running back Adrian Peterson's contract, making the assumed future Hall-of-Famer an unrestricted free agent.
Peterson was set to make $18 million this season with Minnesota which would have made him the highest-paid running back in the NFL, at age 32, no less, and coming off a season in which he played in only three games and rushed for just 72 yards while failing to get in the end zone. Certainly not numbers worthy of $18 million, hence the declined option.
With Peterson set to hit the open market, it is obvious that some would question where the Vikings running game goes from here. There are options in free agency, the Draft and there's even potential for a Peterson/Vikings reunion.
Just minutes after news broke that the Vikings had declined the running backs 2017 option, Peterson sent a note to ESPN's Josina Anderson saying that he would explore his options in free agency but noted, "The door is still open to find some common ground," meaning if the payday is right, Peterson would re-sign in Minnesota.
This is a likely scenario considering the market for the now free agent running back won't be as hot as he may expect given his age and injury concerns and, according to Peterson's father via St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson, the only way Peterson doesn't re-sign with Minnesota is if the Vikings "lowball" him.
The Vikings and Peterson could simply go separate ways and Minnesota could move forward with Jerick McKinnon as their starter while adding another back in free agency or the draft. After all, McKinnon did have an alright 2016 season, rushing for 539 yards and two touchdowns while adding 255 yards and two scores receiving. However, the free agency class of running backs is not the strongest and the Vikings don't necessarily have the draft picks to be drafting a running back.
So where does that leave the Vikings?
It leaves them with Peterson on a much cheaper ($4-$5 million) one-year contract that is loaded with incentives regarding both playing time as well as production.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said in a statement Tuesday morning, “Adrian is an important part of the Minnesota Vikings organization. We will continue to have conversations with his representatives and leave our future options open while determining what is best for both parties moving forward."
The mutual respect between Peterson and the Vikings is hard to ignore, and while Peterson may test the free agency waters, if the offers come back in the same range as Minnesota's, it's hard to imagine Peterson going elsewhere.
Many Viking fans may be ready to move on from Peterson, ever thankful for his contributions to the team, but given the options that Minnesota has outside of Peterson, that just doesn't seem likely. It is more likely that the team will re-sign the assumed future Hall-of-Famer and he will finish his career with one last season in the purple and gold.