Just before the 2011 season started, Adrian Peterson signed a seven-year, $100 million contract. Less than one year later, that contract is a pill looking harder and harder to swallow.
Peterson had multiple injury problems in 2011, played in only 12 games, the fewest of any one season in his career, and finished the year on injured reserve with a torn ACL/MCL.
Then there was also that pesky little arrest.
On Monday came the news from ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Bears running back Matt Forte signed a four-year, $30 million deal to stay in Chicago.
Now, Forte is no Purple Jesus, but can anyone really say that Adrian Peterson, even before his ACL tear, is worth almost $70 million more than Forte?
I can’t say that. Not with a straight face, anyway.
Adrian’s deal is too long for too much money. He is 27 years old right now. When his deal expires in 2018, he will be 33. How many 33-year-old running backs can you name that were worth over $10 million per year?
None. And Adrian will be no different.
Don’t get me wrong, Adrian’s deal had to get done. He is the best running back and one of the best players in the NFL. He was squeaky clean and a great ambassador of the game when he signed his contract, and his arrest will soon be swept under the rug and forgotten. The Vikings need Adrian Peterson to stay a Viking as long as he still performs like AD.
Peterson was in the perfect situation to demand a record contract, and he got it.
The Vikings needed him infinitely more than he needed them. They are the team in rebuilding mode trying to sell tickets to disinterested, dejected fans. They were the club trying to get state government monetary support for a brand new billion-dollar stadium. They were the team considering the possibility of a move to a different city and state, and with that move, they would have needed the face of the team and one of the best players in the NFL to join them to sell the Vikings brand to a new market.
In contract negotiations, it’s not about what you deserve or what you’ve earned, it’s about what negotiating chips you have in front of you.
And Adrian had all of them.
Matt Forte had considerably less chips in front of him. He is less talented, although more versatile. The Bears are not as dependent on Forte for offensive success, where as the Vikings entire offense has revolved around AD’s production every year except for 2009, the first year with Brett Favre at the helm.
Peterson is the wrecking ball that crumbles buildings, and the other 10 guys on offense are the construction workers standing idly by in awe. Without him, they are just a bunch of guys hammering bricks. Without Adrian, the Vikings are in the Stone Age.
Without Forte, the Bears still have All-Stars at quarterback and wide receiver.
Adrian is more important to his team than Forte, and with that comes some amount of compensation. Just not that much, not $70 million and three extra years in his early 30s, a period usually reserved for aging running backs who won’t walk away from the game.
Forte’s contract is relatively short and can allow both him and the Bears to readjust at least one more time. Peterson’s deal is a logjam the Vikings were forced to agree to.
If Peterson can return to the same level he was at before his ACL tear and remain healthy for the duration of his career, he will postpone the inevitable. But sooner or later, Adrian’s contract will be the anchor slowing down the Vikings’ ship. The Vikings front office knows it and Forte’s contract proves it.