There has been talk in recent weeks – mostly idle speculation, a little rumor thrown in for good measure – about the possibility of Adrian Peterson being moved on by the Vikings before his contract expires, either via trade or outright release. Mike Freeman made significant waves when he reported on scuttlebutt from the draft saying the Vikings were looking for ways to get rid of Peterson as soon as possible, in hopes of getting out from under his massive contract.
Despite extreme negative fan reaction to such suggestions, it is perfectly valid to ask whether it makes sense for the Vikings to continue paying the 29-year-old Peterson over $14 million-per-year given the severe downward production trend that inevitably kicks in for running backs as they hit their 30th birthday.
Peterson may just be telling it like he sees it in general, or he may be reacting specifically to the rumors about his own possible departure from Minnesota, but he made some remarks on Monday that indicate he could see himself leaving the Vikings sooner rather than later.
When asked by Adam Schein about his future in Minnesota, Peterson’s words got a tiny bit philosophical and some might even say ominous. “I see myself as a Viking for life,” Peterson said. “But I thought Favre would be a Packer for life….Manning a Colt for life.”
Favre and Manning, as we well know, both went through rather ugly divorces with the organizations they once defined, and both for more-or-less the same reason: they got old and their teams decided they could no longer justify paying them. Favre and Manning also both went on to have great success after leaving their original teams, Favre for one year with the Vikings and now Manning for two years with Denver.
Did Peterson mean to drop a big hint by dropping those particular names? Was he implying that he is feeling a little under-appreciated in Minnesota right now? Is he suggesting that he and the Vikings could be headed toward a bitter parting of ways? And furthermore, is he suggesting that like Favre and Manning, he has a good years left in him beyond his Vikings career?
That could be taken both as a message to us and a warning to the Vikings. Peterson should be mindful however that his situation is not like Favre’s and not like Manning’s. Those guys, being quarterbacks, could perform at a high level after their bodies began showing the signs of age. Peterson, being a running back, will be valuable only so long as he can run fast, make cuts and deliver/absorb punishment.
It’s just not the same for running backs, whose bodies break down faster and who are useless once that break down has begun. Peterson may not have begun breaking down yet, but that downward curve is coming, and the Vikings know it could be coming soon. Peterson may be in denial about that, but the Vikings aren’t.
If the Vikings do move on from Peterson, it won’t be personal, it will be strictly business. It will be strictly an acknowledgement of the realities of nature and economics. Peterson might take it personally, like Favre did in Green Bay and Manning to a lesser extent in Indianapolis, but he really shouldn’t. And neither should the fans.
The end comes for everyone eventually. It sucks to have to think about Adrian Peterson’s end point, but that end point is getting closer. For all we know it could be almost here.