<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="INDIANAPOLIS – Adrian Peterson is headed to free agency. Now the waiting game begins – and it might last longer than anyone thinks.” data-reactid=”9″>INDIANAPOLIS –
The Minnesota Vikings’ hard pass on Peterson’s contract option Tuesday wasn’t exactly news to the running back. Indeed, a source close to Peterson said the player has been doing casual research on potential NFL destinations for a little more than two weeks – preparing for the first free agency opportunity of his career. He has a group of teams that intrigue him, with the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants rising up his list.
Peterson also hasn’t closed the door on a Vikings return, but two things are said to be important to him going forward: A starting job and an incentivized contract that offers him the opportunity to prove (and earn) his worth among the game’s best running backs.
One team that is intriguing to Peterson but also very unlikely? The Dallas Cowboys.
As much as Peterson loves Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and has at times thought of finishing his career in Dallas, Peterson isn’t ready at this stage to be a backup running back. And unless the Cowboys were open to a 50-50 shared-carry situation with Ezekiel Elliott, it makes Dallas a less attractive destination. One Cowboys source told Yahoo Sports last week that Dallas was “extremely unlikely” to put Elliott into any position where his impact on the offense would be reduced, and that if Peterson was seeking a starting position and high salary, he “wouldn’t be on the radar.”
The free-agent market has yet to take shape but it should find some form this week at the league’s annual scouting combine as agents and teams begin feeling out the landscape. For now, Peterson will sit tight until March 9, when he’ll officially become free to talk and visit with other teams. He’s apparently willing to play the waiting game as one source said Peterson could take a patient route and weigh all of his options into late March before signing anywhere.
Peterson is expected to pursue Super Bowl-contending teams first and would like to be seen as a significant piece in a suitor’s attempt to win a ring. He also wants a chance to prove that despite turning 32 years old in March, he can still play at a high level despite a torn meniscus that clipped his season to only three games in 2016. In Peterson’s mind, his 20 games played over the past three seasons (including only one game in 2015 due to a league suspension) have reduced the wear on his body. That has him aiming to be a strong late-career producer, with the goal being to exceed the 1,302 yards (rushing and receiving) and eight touchdowns that a 33-year-old Frank Gore put up with the Indianapolis Colts in 2016.
That’s a telling target, too, since teams will be looking at Gore’s most recent contract as a base for their negotiations with Peterson. While Peterson will likely be viewed as the superior player at this stage of his career, the three-year, $12 million deal Gore signed with the Colts in 2015 will likely be the starting point franchises seek in negotiations. Ultimately, Peterson’s market could settle somewhere in the range of $5 million to $6 million per season with incentives to solidly raise his salary with strong output.
This week should shed plenty of light on whether Peterson can nail down that kind of contract, let alone have a team push all of its chips to him as a 32-year-old starter.