There are often plenty of trades during the annual NFL Draft, but you rarely see a big-name established player like Vikings running back Adrian Peterson dealt during it. Will it happen during this week's draft in Chicago? We examine the chances.
Why Peterson Is In Limbo
We all know by now what happened with Peterson last season as he played in just one game because of child abuse charges, but he still was paid his entire salary as he wasn't technically suspended by the NFL. There have been numerous reports, including a clear-as-day public statement from his agent, that Peterson doesn't want to return to Minnesota because he believes the team torpedoed him and hid behind the commissioner's office, which placed him on the Exempt/Commissioner's Permission List.
The league was potentially considering an actual game suspension this season, much like it just did to new Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy (who also ended last season on that Exempt/Commissioner's Permission List). The league had suspended Peterson through at least April 15 for his involvement in a child abuse case, but U.S. District Court Judge David Doty reinstated Peterson, ruling on behalf of the NFL Players Association's lawsuit against the NFL.
The Vikings had voluntary workouts earlier this month but Peterson missed those. Don't read much into that as Peterson usually stays in his native Houston to work out before joining the team later in the spring. Peterson's workout bonus, $250,000, is tied to his participation in organized team activities and the team's mandatory minicamp (June 16-18).
Vikings, Cardinals Or Cowboys?
For what it's worth, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said this week the team has "no interest" in trading Peterson, which is what Coach Mike Zimmer said at the owners' meetings last month.
"We’re looking forward to having Adrian Peterson back here as a Minnesota Viking in 2015. That’s the end of the story. That’s it,” Spielman said.
It should be noted that Spielman said much the same thing two years ago about wide receiver Percy Harvin and a month later Spielman traded Harvin to Seattle for draft picks -- a trade that turned out to be a steal for the Vikings. Two players who came out of those draft picks were cornerback Xavier Rhodes and running back Jerick McKinnon, and both played significant roles last season. McKinnon showed some signs that he could be the team's long-term future at running back so theoretically the club could be just fine without Peterson this season.
If the Vikings are going to deal Peterson, it will be this weekend at the draft because they will want some sort of 2015 pick(s) as compensation. Peterson has made his preference known, saying this week that "it would be nice" to play for the Cowboys, the team he grew up idolizing. Peterson was raised in Palestine, Texas, about two hours southeast of Dallas.
"I've got family here, my dad's here. But I'm under contract, so we'll see," Peterson said to a Houston TV station during the Mavericks-Rockets NBA playoff game in Houston on Tuesday.
The Cowboys have a gaping hole at running back with the loss of DeMarco Murray. The Arizona Cardinals also badly need a running back. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also have been linked to Peterson but that's unlikely. None of those teams are going to give up a first-round pick for a 30-year-old running back who has a $12.75 million salary this season. The Vikings' asking price has reportedly been quite high, at least a second-rounder.
There are two things to consider here. First is whether the Cardinals or Cowboys get their running back in the first round on Thursday. Arizona picks No. 24 and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon could well be there. That would take the Cards out of the running for Peterson. Or if Arizona addresses another position, Dallas is known to covet Gordon at No. 27 (or maybe it trades in front of the Cardinals). Maybe if one of those teams doesn't get the tailback it wants, a trade for Peterson could happen during Friday's Round 2.
Second, a team would have to be able to slot Peterson's contract into its salary cap. Right now, Dallas is $12.67 million under the cap, according to Spotrac.com. Arizona is $9.1 million under. Any draft pick salaries also would count against the cap.