All last week, there was a big to-do made about Adrian Peterson returning to the Vikings, who at 7-6 were not in the driver’s seat but were in playoff contention in the NFC North or for a Wild Card spot. However, much of this exuberance failed to note that Peterson is 31 years old, has bad knees, had been a pedestrian runner when we most recently saw him, and has a longstanding fumbling issue.
Peterson ran the ball six times for 22 yards — raising his season average from 1.6 yards per carry to 1.9 — and lost a fumble, as the Vikings got shellacked at home by the Colts.
In Minnesota’s 10-9 loss to Seattle in the playoffs last season where Blair Walsh is widely regarded as the goat, Peterson rushed 23 times for 45 yards and, you guessed it, lost a fumble. In the last five regular season games last year, he rushed 90 times for 321 yards. Last season, including the playoff loss, he fumbled eight times.
Peterson is an absolute freak of nature, so it’s natural to wonder if his prime would be extended past the typical expiration date for running backs. However, it seems pretty clear at this point that the tread has worn off his tires. He might still be in the NFL next year, but it would be foolish for a team to plan on him being a feature back, or pay him the money that would entail.
You’d expect a fourth round draft pick to be just as productive as Peterson next year, and have better upside. Peterson has a $6 million roster bonus due in March, and would be an $18 million cap hit if the Vikings don’t release him or restructure. They’d be foolish to bring him back. (As a Packers fan, I hope they aren’t reading this.)
Peterson has had a tremendous career, but it’s very conceivable that when he realizes his market value this offseason that he decides it’s not worth his while.