The Adrian Peterson saga returned to the national spotlight with the NFL announcing early Tuesday that the Minnesota Vikings’ All-Pro running back has been suspended without pay for at least the remainder of the 2014 season. The league suspended Peterson for violating the league’s personal conduct policy and said he will not even be considered for reinstatement before April 15, 2015.
Peterson’s suspension is the latest development from his September indictment on a felony charge of injury to a child stemming from an incident involving his four-year-old son. Peterson was placed on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List shortly after the indictment was handed down. While on the exempt list, Peterson was not allowed to be with the Vikings, but he was still paid.
On Nov. 4, Peterson pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of misdemeanor reckless assault, seemingly paving the way for his removal from the exempt list and eventual return to the field. However, the NFL kept Peterson on the exempt list while reviewing his case, a decision that prompted the NFL Players Association (NLFPA) last week to file a grievance for immediate reinstatement on his behalf.
A hearing on the grievance was held on Monday and the arbitrator is expected to announce a decision soon, but the NFL decided to act first, suspending Peterson without pay for a personal conduct violation. From a legal perspective, Peterson’s case is far from being over, but it appears that he will not play again this season.
But what about next year? Peterson can apply for reinstatement in April and provided he adheres to the conditions (including counseling and treatment) laid out by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, there’s no reason to think his professional career is over.
For one Peterson won’t turn 30 until March and he played just one game prior to being placed on the exempt list, so in essence, he has one less year of wear and tear than would be expected. Second, this is a player who is just two seasons removed from a MVP campaign during which he ran for 2,097 yards. He has rushed for 10,190 yards in 104 career games and is not just one of the top players at his position, but also in the entire league.
As a player, there’s no NFL team that wouldn’t want Peterson on its roster. But we all know that talent and ability are no longer the only factors when it comes to personnel decisions. Even if he’s reinstated, Peterson will join the growing list of players who come with plenty of baggage.
However, Peterson’s case is unique in that no player, not even fellow running back Ray Rice whose career was put on hold this season because of a disturbing incident involving his then-fiancée, now wife, with perceived “baggage” is of the same caliber as it relates to on-field production and accomplishments. So with that in mind, here is a look at which NFL team Peterson could wind up playing for in 2015.
Why Not Minnesota?
Peterson is under contract with the Vikings through 2017, so he is their property until they decide otherwise. However, given everything that’s transpired this season, it’s certainly not out of the question that the team decides to part ways with Peterson, either by trade or simply releasing him. Minnesota would obviously save cap space by getting rid of Peterson and the dead money ($2.4 million in 2015) amount it would absorb should the Vikings release him is certainly manageable. The Vikings saw one major sponsor cut ties with them as soon as Peterson was indicted, so no one would be surprised if the team decides it’s time to turn the page and move on.
The Best Fits:
New England – Stevan Ridley tore his ACL in Week 6 and the Patriots right now are relying on third-year journeyman Jonas Gray to carry the load. Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger and depending on whom you ask, New England’s championship window with him is getting narrower. What better way to help an aging quarterback than give him an All-Pro running back? Besides, it’s not like Bill Belichick hasn’t gone down this road before. Do the names Corey Dillon or Randy Moss ring a bell?
Indianapolis – The Colts have a franchise quarterback in place in Andrew Luck. They thought they traded for the running back they needed last season when they acquired Trent Richardson. It has not worked out that way, to say the least, and Indianapolis just lost reliable veteran Ahmad Bradshaw to a broken leg. Luck is much younger than Brady and Peterson could be the missing piece the Colts need to become a perennial Super Bowl contender.
Seattle – The Seahawks’ defense of their Super Bowl title has not gone smoothly. The team has already traded Percy Harvin and now it appears that Marshawn Lynch is not a happy camper. Lynch was a late report to training camp due to a contract dispute, and he will be a free agent after next season. He’s a year younger than Peterson, but chemistry seems to be a rather important factor when it comes to Pete Carroll’s team. If the Seahawks were to cut ties with Lynch what better way to replace him than by bringing Peterson on board?
Oakland – This one’s pretty simple. The Raiders need all of the offensive playmakers they can get. It looks like Oakland has a building block in rookie quarterback Derek Carr, but there’s been no semblance of a running game this season. The Raiders also have a reputation for attracting “bad boys,” if you will, and I have little doubt that the Black Hole wouldn’t welcome Peterson with open arms should he end up on the West Coast.
Dallas/Houston – Peterson is a Texas native who was a star for three seasons at Oklahoma. The Cowboys connection is not only obvious, it’s also already apparently been discussed by Peterson and Jerry Jones. Tampering allegations aside, I think Jones will sign DeMarco Murray to a long-term contract before Peterson’s even eligible for reinstatement. But there’s more than one team in the Lone Star State and Houston may decide it’s time to move on from injury-prone Arian Foster. Foster is under contract for two more seasons, but most of the guaranteed money has already been paid out, limiting the hit the Texans would take if they decided to release him. Both teams are probably a long shot, but Peterson would certainly consider any opportunity to play in his home state.
Other Possible Options:
Atlanta – Steven Jackson has not aged well since joining the Falcons, so Peterson would be a definite upgrade to an offense that already has a potent passing attack.
Carolina – The Panthers like to run the ball and need to run the ball to make life easier for Cam Newton, but haven’t had a 1,000-yard back since 2009. Injuries and ineffectiveness have been the main products of Carolina’s backfield since Newton was drafted in 2012.
Denver – Peyton Manning paired with Adrian Peterson. Who wouldn’t want to see that? Putting Peterson in the Broncos’ high-powered offense would only help extend Manning’s career in his quest for another Super Bowl ring. Financial resources and offensive system could be possible obstacles, but it’s still fun to dream, right?
Jacksonville – Just like Oakland, the Jaguars need superstar players like Peterson to help speed up the development of a young team led by a rookie quarterback. Peterson also would be a coup for Jacksonville in terms of marketability and a reason for the fan base to get engaged. And if there were one team where financial resources shouldn’t be an issue it would be the Jags and their billionaire owner Shad Khan.
New York teams – The Jets are probably more likely than the Giants, given the former’s current running back situation and uncertainty surrounding the coaching staff, but what better place for Peterson to rebuild his image off of the field and reputation on it than the media capital of the world?
Rest of the NFC North – If Peterson were a vengeful guy, he would want a situation that would present him with the most chances to exact some payback on his former team. That’s where the NFC North enters the picture, since joining one of Minnesota’s division rivals would guarantee two games against the Vikings every season. Green Bay’s been down both sides of this path recently, first with Brett Favre then Greg Jennings, but the Packers have Eddie Lacy so I don’t see a “need’ there. Chicago added former Viking Jared Allen this season, but the Bears have Matt Forté and let’s face it, offense is the least of this team’s problems right now. That leaves Detroit where Peterson would easily become the best running back the Lions have had since Barry Sanders tormented defenses in the 1990s. The only difference is that Sanders never had a supporting cast that included the likes of Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Could Peterson be the final piece that helps the Lions finally reach the Super Bowl?