After a very disappointing second-half collapse, the Minnesota Vikings have an important off-season ahead of them. The team is without a first round pick thanks to the Sam Bradford trade, they have one of the worst offensive line situations in the league, and of course Adrian Peterson has a massive salary due for next season. The team (and Adrian) will need to decide in the near future if they plan to keep him around on a restructured contract or simply cut ties with him.
Up until yesterday, I was under the impression the Vikings would at least try to keep Peterson. Despite his poor, injury-riddled season, he's still the Vikings offense best chance to take a significant step forward next season. It seemed possible that Peterson would overvalue himself and not take the kind of pay cut he would need to to stay in purple, or that he may still hold a grudge from his suspension and the Vikings handling of it two years ago and simply say he wants a fresh start, but the Vikings appear to be the ones ready to move on.
Vikings GM Rick Spielman admitted the Vikings "haven't discussed" a restructured contract with Peterson or even his $18 million option the team has to decide on soon. There's no way the Vikings will pick up the option, so the fact that they haven't even began negotiating a restructured deal at this juncture points to one answer: The Vikings plan to move forward without Adrian Peterson.
I don't think they'll even offer a restructured deal, they'll simply thank him for all of his great seasons and let him go on his way. The team likely would be willing to pay $3 or $4 million on a 1-year-deal, but don't want to insult Peterson with such a large pay cut. (Even though he won't get more than that elsewhere) Considering how quickly running backs seem to fall off, that is probably a prudent decision and the right one for this franchise.
As a longtime Vikings fan, it'd be hard to see Adrian play for someone else. He's been so great, maybe the most talented pure running back since Barry Sanders. It'd be great for the fan base if the team could find a way to keep him around for the remainder of his career, but Peterson's personality has never seemed to be one that would adjust well to declining performance. He's unlikely to take a part time role in the future, and he's so incompetent in the passing game that he's a huge liability on third downs. The team can almost certainly get similar or even better production at a fraction of the cost, because Peterson is unlikely to be a truly elite running back ever again.
I will say if anyone could defy the odds and continue to excel it's Adrian Peterson, but at this point history would suggest he's nearing the end of the road.
Thank you for a spectacular career in purple Adrian, and while I will hold out hope that you and the team can somehow find common ground, admittedly that's looking less and less likely. Just please don't sign with the Packers.