Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson reportedly turned himself into authorities early Saturday morning, and was released 30 minutes later after posting $15,000 bond. Peterson is accused of striking his 4-year-old son with a “switch”, causing visible injuries. In lei of the legal matter, the highest earning running back of all-time has been deactivated for this Sunday’s match against the Patriots.
Current Contract Status
Peterson is entering his 8th NFL season in 2014, all in Minnesota. He signed a 6 year $96 million extension almost exactly 3 years to the date. The deal runs through the 2017 season and contained $36M in guaranteed money – all of which has been paid at this point. He has $57 million in remaining base salary to earn over the next 4 seasons.
Implications of Trading Peterson
Reports are now circling that the Vikings may entertain trade offers for their long-time star running back. This means the unallocated signing bonus in 2014 and 2015, and the 2014 workout bonus would remain with the Vikings in the form of dead money. The base salaries and future workout bonuses would transfer to the new team. His traded contract would look like:
The Vikings would be on the hook for $2.65M in 2014, and $2.4M in 2015.
Implications of Releasing Peterson
Should Peterson’s legal troubles force the Vikings to release him at some point this season, the financial impact would be minimal. Peterson carries only $5.05M in dead cap: two seasons of unallocated signing bonus proration, and a $250,000 workout bonus for this past offsason. This dead cap would split across the next two Vikings’ salary caps:
Should He Be Suspended
Should the NFL suspend Peterson, he’ll forfeit $691,176 per week from his $11.75 million 2014 base salary. It’s also possible for the Vikings to request that Peterson pay back $141,176 of his pre-paid signing bonus per suspended week. In either case it’s likely to be a minute fraction of the nearly $72 million he’s earned to date.
Career Running Back Earnings
With $12M earned in 2014, Peterson launched himself to the top of the All-Time Running Back Earnings list, surpassing long-time Colts rusher Edgerrin James. He’s earned nearly $20 million more than any other active back (Steven Jackson, ATL, $53M). And with the trending devaluation of the running back position in the NFL, his $71.78M figure may never be approached.
Rushing Yard Leaders
Peterson has been a threat to the all-time rushing yard number since he entered the league. He currently finds himself 27th on the list (10,190), 8,165 yards behind the great Emmitt Smith. At age 29, Peterson has averaged 1,455 yards rushing per season. If we drop that figure to 1,200 yards per season going forward, Peterson must play until the age of 34, or 13 NFL seasons to approach if not pass Smith’s all-time figure. If he plays 15 seasons, like Emmitt did, he’ll reach a projected 19,715 rushing yards.
The Vikings Cap Going Forward
While the release of Adrian Peterson wouldn’t leave a huge dent in their salary cap financially, it would leave an extra-large void on their roster. Peterson accounts for 11% of the Vikings entire adjust 2014 salary cap. No other running back on the roster accounts for more than $570,000 in cap. In 2015, without Peterson, the Vikings currently have 3 running backs (Jerick McKinnon, Zach Line, MarQueis Gray) on the books for a combined $1.82M in salary cap.
So while the immediate financial impact for losing Adrian Peterson wouldn’t necessarily be impactful – the running back position as a whole would take an enormous step back in terms of production.