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Should the Vikings Trade Adrian Peterson?

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson

The NFL trade deadline is 4 p.m. ET today. The Minnesota Vikings are 1-6 and seemingly headed nowhere. Should the team seriously consider trading its franchise running back and the reigning league MVP? Athlon editors Braden Gall and Mark Ross weigh in with their thoughts.

First, let me state for the record, that Adrian Peterson is the best running back I have ever watched or covered professionally in a decade of being in the business. He is the most physically gifted runner to come out of high school since Herschel Walker or Bo Jackson in the 80s. He is great. But the question about his future in Minneapolis is one that the Vikings brass should be asking themselves after falling to 1-6 on the season Sunday night. There are more than a few good reasons why Minnesota should trade their star tailback.

Peterson is due over $60 million in salary from 2014 to the end of his contract following the 2017 season. He hits the Vikings salary cap with over $14 million in each of the next four seasons, so taking that contract off the books opens up a tremendous amount of space to rebuild a roster. He plays the most destructive position on the field, has an extremely violent running style and a history of serious injury. All-Day Peterson, who will be 29 years old at the start of the '14 season, never comes out of the game and has touched the ball 21.8 times per game for his career — over 2,000 touches in seven seasons. Should that continue, he'd be nearing 4,000 career touches by the end of his contract. Only three players have ever topped 4,000 touches in a career: Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Curtis Martin. Needless to say, his best years are likely behind him.

Lastly, his value will never be higher than it is right now. The Browns just got a first-round pick for Trent Richardson, a guy who is very talented but has averaged 3.4 yards per carry for his career. If T-Rich is worth a first-rounder, albeit a lower pick, what would A.D. be worth? Two firsts? A first and a second? Three No. 2s? Peterson is a huge cap hit, plays a devalued and high-risk position, has already used up a lot of his career tread and won't ever be worth as much on the open market as he is right now.

I would hate it for the people of Minnesota, but Vikings fans know all too well what can happen to a team that trades away a star tailback for small boatload of draft picks. The Cowboys acquired three first-round picks, three second-round picks and three Super Bowl championships for Herschel Walker in 1989.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

To borrow a phrase from a wildly successful musician who recently entered the sports agency business, Minnesota has close to 99 problems but Adrian Peterson isn’t one of them. And while he clearly represents the best trading chip the Vikings possess, there is just no way the team will get a proper return for the reigning NFL MVP and the league’s top running back.

In 1989, Minnesota traded for Dallas’ Herschel Walker, one of the top running backs in the game at that time. The cost for the Vikings was high — five players and six draft picks. The Cowboys turned those draft picks into the likes of Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith and Darren Woodson, and the rest, as they say, is history. The Cowboys went on to win three Super Bowls in the 1990s while Walker played just three seasons for the Vikings, helping them get to the playoffs just once.

While Peterson (28) is around the same age as Walker (27) when he was traded and is considerably more accomplished, there is no way the Vikings can even hope for that same type of return, not in the current NFL. The Indianapolis Colts got Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns for a 2014 first-round pick in September. Richardson may not compare to Peterson in terms of production, but he is six years younger, a factor that has become even more important when it comes to running backs.

If anything, Peterson could be among the last of what is becoming an endangered species — the workhorse running back. More and more teams are either employing a running back-by-committee approach in their backfield or moving on to the “next” guy as soon as the current one starts showing signs of slowing down.  Case in point, no running backs were taken in the first round of April’s draft for the first time since 1963.

There’s no denying that Peterson is worthy of a Walker-esque haul in a trade. He’s the best running back in the NFL and one of the best to ever play the position. But there is no team that will give the Vikings that many players and picks, not in this new era of the rookie salary cap. To put it simply, Peterson is an once-in-a-lifetime player and it would take a historic trade to validate getting rid of him. Like the one Minnesota did 24 years ago. Sorry Vikings fans, I don’t see history repeating.
Mark Ross

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