This morning, it was announced that the Minnesota Vikings would not exercise the option on Adrian Peterson’s contract, which makes him an unrestricted free agent.
At this point, it wasn’t a huge surprise; it had been possible for a little while now that Peterson might be on a different team next year due to his age and having some issues with injuries. Thus there had already been speculation about what was next for him; whether it was guessing who he’d sign with, if he still had anything left in him, and even the occasional suggestion of the possibility of retirement (which I personally believe is unlikely).
It’s worth mentioning, to begin with, that signing a new contract with the Vikings is still not out of the question. There is still interest from both parties. Peterson has said he wants to get a Super Bowl ring, which he believes is possible in Minnesota. The main question is whether Minnesota will end up agreeing to his asking price, which apparently isn’t particularly likely.
If he chooses not to return to Minnesota, there are several teams that are currently struggling in the RB department that could potentially be interested, such as the Ravens, Jaguars, Giants, and Broncos, to name a few. Going to the rival Packers isn’t entirely unrealistic either, as they’re short on good RB’s right now as well.
Regardless, one has to wonder if the future Hall of Famer still has anything left in him. On one hand, he’s defied all logic before and come back from injuries where many thought he was finished. Let’s not forget he had a 2,000-yard season after tearing his ACL. And at age 30 in 2015 after missing all but one game of the previous season due to the child negligence incident, he went for almost 1500 yards, leading the league. There are reasons why he’s been considered the best back of the era.
But on the other hand, he is now 31 and will be 32 by the start of the 2017 season. Few running backs can last long in their 30’s. And he’s coming off another injury plagued year where he missed most of the season with a torn meniscus. He rushed for only 72 yards on 37 carries and no touchdowns, coming out to a measly 1.9 average; the worst of his career by far.
So is he truly finished, regardless of his destination? Well, the short answer is I don’t know for sure. An extra factor that has to be taken into consideration is just how truly awful the 2016 Vikings offensive line was. It was one of the biggest reasons they collapsed from their 5-0 start. It was amazing that Sam Bradford played as well as he did, considering he had no help from his linemen. No one was able to rush for anything with that line. The whole team finished with 1,205 rushing yards; worst in the league. Their leading rusher—Jerick McKinnon—had only 539 yards.
The point is, even though we saw very little of AP last year due to injury, it’s difficult to say just how rusty he actually was because his line was so bad. If he went to another team with a stronger line, or if the Vikings dramatically improved on that front, anything could happen. He could rush for 1,000+ yards one more time. Peterson has defied all reason before; why couldn’t he do it again?
The question, though, is who’s going to be willing to take the risk. Peterson may be asking for more money than some are willing to cough up for a 31-year-old RB coming off an injury-plagued season. Someone will probably be desperate enough, of course. The question is whether he’s still got anything left in the tank at all. I think it’s possible, but he’ll have to have a good o-line. I do feel like he’s the kind of guy who’d want to go out on his own terms—like Steve Smith Sr did—so anything’s possible.