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To say Adrian Peterson’s 2016 season with the Vikings was a disappointment would be putting it lightly, but then again Minnesota’s ground game as a whole was nothing short of abysmal. As a team the Vikings had the league’s worst rushing attack, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry with nine touchdowns and three fumbles.
For his part, Peterson played in only three games and managed just 72 yards on 37 carries, for an average of just 1.9 yards per tote, while failing to find the end zone and fumbling once. It was easily the worst season of his career, which has led many to question Peterson’s capabilities as a lead back in the NFL. On the wrong side of 30, there are concerns of durability issues and whether he will be able to regain his prior form.
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With so much uncertainty surrounding Peterson and his future, he is far from being considered the sure thing and safe bet he once was, going forward. Over the last three years he’s failed to top 75 yards twice and only managed to play one full season. The 2007 first round pick is looking more like a liability than a key contributor. His dependability woes and open flirtation with finishing his career elsewhere has left Minnesota in a precarious position about what to do with the aging back.
With Peterson set to draw a non-guaranteed $18 million salary in 2017, the Vikings’ best option looks to be through a strict contract renegotiation in which they attempt to sign the seven-time Pro Bowler to a one-year deal worth around $6.4 million with $3.2 million of it guaranteed. Minnesota would be wise to include a two to three-year option that can be picked up if his performance meets or exceeds expectations while incorporating specific production incentives and roster bonuses.
If a deal cannot be reached between the two sides, there is a good chance that the Vikings will cut Peterson before March 12th, when his $11.75 million base salary becomes guaranteed along with his $6 million roster bonus.
Without the soon to be 32-year-old back, Minnesota would likely lean on the 2017 free agency class, loaded with running back depth, to fill their immediate need in the backfield, while looking to the draft to find a long-term answer for their rushing attack.
Potential free agency fits could include rushers such as Latavius Murray, Eddie Lacy, DeAngelo Williams, Terrance West and Darren McFadden.
Without a first-round-pick, the Vikings would be forced to look at running backs who are likely to fall to the second-round and later with potential finds like Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, Texas’ D’onta Foreman, Wyoming’s Brian Hill and BYU’s Jamaal Williams.
As it stands Peterson will find it difficult to command the same value he once did if he decides or is forced to look elsewhere. He has already made it known that if he is not in purple next year he would like to play for a contender and has mentioned the New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Houston Texans as teams of interest. Earlier in the week Peterson took to Twitter to express his feelings about the Giants’ recent roster moves, almost hinting that there may be room for him there.
It is unknown where the Vikings and Peterson will end-up in regards to his future or even how far apart they are at this point. The only thing that is certain is that both sides recognize there is clear need to restructure number 28’s contract if he is to have a future with the Vikings and a chance to finish his career in Minnesota Purple and Gold.