What Are The Vikings Free-Agent Options To Replace Adrian Peterson?

Alexander Shun | @alexpshun

Digital Content Manager | KFAN.com

By declining the option on Adrian Peterson's 2017 contract, the Minnesota Vikings opened themselves up to a potential change at the running back position for the first time in 10 years. 

Peterson has been one of the biggest names in the NFL and the face of the Vikings franchise since his arrival back in 2007. Now, for the first time in his career, Peterson will try his hand in free agency and see what his market value is.

The Vikings declining Peterson's option does not necessarily mean that they will not re-sign him, it simply means that they are not willing to pay him the $18 million he was owed if they had picked up the option. Perhaps for a lesser price though, Peterson and the Vikings could reunite. Vikings GM Rick Spielman hinted at such in a statement regarding the running back's release.

"Adrian is an important part of the Minnesota Vikings organization,” said Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman. “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.”

Should it be determined that Peterson is not what's best for the Vikings moving forward and they choose to go a different route at the running back position, they would likely look to free agency to fill the void.

However, the free agent market for running backs is not the greatest.

There was zero chance that Le'Veon Bell got away from the Steelers and the team slapped the franchise tag on him a few days ago ensuring that. Isaiah Crowell was another potential option but received a second-round tender from the Browns all but pushing him out of the Vikings price range. After Bell and Crowell, there are few quality options to choose from.

Eddie Lacy is available and has looked good at times but has had multiple problems remaining at a healthy weight and, according to Lacy, the Packers have already shown interest in bringing the four-year pro back. Lacy is also hoping to cash in with a big payday so unless the Vikings are willing to make Lacy a 'franchise back' and pay him as such, the former Packer likely won't land in Minnesota.

Chris Thompson is entering his fifth season in the NFL and has yet to start a game in his career, being relegated to a back-up role. While Thompson has shown flashes of being a solid player, most of his success has come as a third-down back and receiver out of the backfield. The Vikings could take a chance on a guy like Thompson but he is, in essence, a smaller version of Jerick McKinnon so signing him might be considered a redundant move. 

Latavius Murray is a free agent from the Oakland Raiders and has the starting experience that a guy like Thompson lacks, however, Murray has been far more inconsistent, struggling to seize a starting role despite being given every opportunity to do so. The former Raider also had some problems with fumbles, losing the ball four times in 2015 and twice more last season. Murray has the size and skill-set to be a starting running back but cannot seem to string together quality games. He would also fall into a reasonable price range for Minnesota as he'll likely command only $6-$7 million per year.

Lastly, the Vikings could raid the cupboard of the defending Super Bowl champions and make a run at Legarrette Blount. The Patriots' back had a stellar 2016 racking up 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns in all 16 games for New England. Despite turning 30 last December, Blount insists that he still has another year or two of quality football left in the tank, and while his numbers last season may be sparkling, they are also slightly misleading as the eight-year pro mustered just 3.9 yards per carry for most of the season. 

Peterson is still likely the free agent of choice and, upon realizing that he won't command top dollar on the open market, will have to settle for a massive pay-cut to stay here. But there is interest from both parties in reuniting and if the free agent market plays out as it's expected to, the Vikings free agent running back signing might just be Peterson himself.

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