Pro Football Talk reported a story regarding the "speculation" that the Vikings will trade Adrian Peterson. I won't lie... said story was the first I had heard of any such speculation, aside from the random musings of fans in the comments section here. (Which hardly counts, in my opinion, as legit "speculation" so much as counts as fans discussing things amongst themselves.) My buddy last night suggested it was just for the clicks and page views (of which I became a part of), and that well may be right. So maybe I'm just as bad now for it, but I still feel it's worth refuting here.
First off, I do somewhat understand the basic idea regarding trading Adrian Peterson. Yes, he takes up a good chunk of cap space. Yes, he could easily- EASILY- net a first and then some. Yes, he is a running back in a league that devalues that position more every passing day. Yes, we're in full on rebuilding mode (again) and he's not getting any younger.
Of course, all of those "yes" answers are only to the first blush of the question, and ignore several valuable points to consider when examining the situation further. Observe:
He takes up a good chunk of cap space.
So maybe every team should trade their highest players? Of course that's a ludicrous assertion. To the best of my knowledge- and admittedly I haven't bothered really looking into this for the actual factual percentage- the vast majority of NFL teams all have at least one player who pulls down a considerable amount of cap space. Many of these players are quarterbacks, true. But that's not a hard and fast rule by any means. Clay Matthews is the 12th highest paid player in the NFL (admittedly, Aaron Rodgers is top-5). Guess who's also not in the top 10? Peterson. But guess which running back is? Ray Rice. Other non-QBs in the top 10 include Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, and Calvin Johnson. When you get superstar, franchise level players, they don't always have to be QBs to end up taking up large chunks of cap space. And being a well-paid member of the team is kind of a silly argument to open up trade talk.
Furthermore, it's not like the Vikings are looking at serious cap trouble in 2014. Jared Allen's contract will no longer be hanging around our necks, and a bevy of other contracts are going to be expiring as well. Predicting cap space at this point is difficult because we don't know yet who will be cut, who will be resigned on expiring contracts, etc., but the basic point is Peterson's contract isn't going to stop us from acquiring any additional talent or extending/ re-signing key players. And while having unused cap space may be kind of nice for Zygi Wilf, the reality is that quite often a large amount of empty cap space means you've left some talent off your team.
The final point here is that we now live in the glorious age of the draft salary cap, which is wonderful. The Vikings are (most likely) going to be drafting a QB quite high in 2014. Well, even if we get the first overall pick, that contract isn't going to be monstrous- we won't even be close to having to choose between "Peterson or drafted QB".
Yes, he could easily net us a small fortune.
We got a first round pick for Percy Harvin, a player who didn't even want to be here and had missed a considerable chunk of 2012 (and essentially became a non-factor in our playoff run). Of course, we got that because he's also an outstanding, generational talent, but the point remains that many of us were surprised how much we got for him.
Adrian Peterson is the absolute opposite of a malcontent. And aside from 2011, he has never missed significant time (and he did follow that significant time missed with, you know, a fairly decent season in 2012). And Peterson is every bit, if not more, the outstanding and generational talent that Harvin is. So for what we got for Harvin, I can only imagine how much more we would get for Peterson. No, it would not be the "reverse Herschel Walker trade"... after we royally screwed the pooch there, no team would ever make the same mistake again. But we would still get a boatload. HOWEVAH...
Prior to Harvin's trade, I stood against the concept for (amongst other reasons) the basic concept that I disagree with trading proven talent for draft picks. Draft picks are gambles. Proven talent is not. Yes, it appears we leveraged what we got for Harvin quite well, but that's still hindsight. Looking at it now, having had the ability to get Sharrif Floyd, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Xavier Rhodes was great. And looking at it now, being rid of Harvin just before he ended up getting injured- again- and missing significant time seems like a stroke of genius. But do not discount the luck that went into all of that. And even still, it is somewhat early to say that it was actually a good move.
That aside however was the fact that apparently, we really didn't have a choice to trade Harvin. We do have a choice to trade Peterson. He has expressed absolutely no desire to go anywhere else. If that changes then yes, this conversation takes a different turn. But I don't think he goes that route this year or next, if ever. And I will remain firmly committed to my philosophy that trading away proven talent for gambling draft picks is a good way to have the move come back and bite you in the arse. So, for as much as we could get for Peterson, it's simply too risky to consider.
He is a running back, and running backs are a dime a dozen.
The NFL is devaluing the running game ever more with each season. The last draft was the first time in history that a running back did not go in the first round. The Browns just traded away their marquee running back and while I initially lambasted the move, it appears to have little to no effect on the team overall.
But there are running backs, and then there's Adrian Peterson. The Minnesota Vikings are currently a run first, run second, and maybe-if-necessary-pass-I-guess team. When that's your setup, you really want the best running back in the game. AD cannot be replaced, it's as simple as that. While many teams opt for running back by committee, for constantly swapping out their ball toting players, and for passing unless it's a one-yard situation, the Vikings aren't many teams. You might say "well, we could change", but it's a bit more complicated than just replacing Peterson and opting for the aerial attack. Our offensive line currently consists of guys whose forte is distinctly in the running game, such as Phil Loadholt (who, remember, is recently extended and not easily replaced himself). Our WR corps exists on the idea that teams will stack the box every time Peterson is in the backfield. And let's not forget, with the sea change under center soon, Peterson makes life much easier for QBs. Since we- I presume of course- will be grooming the next (and hopefully final for a while) QBOTF, then you want Peterson around. The way he opens passing lanes and his still underrated blocking ability both would do wonders for the next guy taking snaps for us in 2014. And there are worse check-down options than Peterson, and in that sense he provides a nice security blanket alongside Kyle Rudolph.
There is a reason Greg Jennings wanted to come to Minnesota, and it was far more than some Favre-ish desire for revenge on Green Bay (who made a play to keep Jennings around, if you recall). That reason was Peterson, and what he does for a passing offense.
The point is simple- while the league as a whole may be seeing the running game as more and more a thing of the past, that's still the same league that looked at Peterson in 2012 and declared him the Most Valuable Player in the entire NFL. Applying "normal running game rules" to him just doesn't hold water.
We're not contending tomorrow and Peterson's no spring chicken.
This is an issue I see more down the road than right now. Peterson is not in his 30s yet, and you'd think he was 35 the way some people talk about him. Yes, running back is the most punishing position in the NFL with the shortest shelf life. Yes, Peterson has taken a lot of wear and tear over the years, including of course his reconstructed knee. But just as with the above argument, you're making a big mistake in my opinion applying all of that to Peterson.
Peterson returned from a destroyed knee and came within a breath of becoming the all-time leading rusher in NFL history. When Dr. James Andrews operated on him, he declared that Peterson's knee amazed him in how fresh it was (even with all the damage of course recently done). This guy is simply not just a generational athlete... he's something truly, truly unique, something not always seen in every generation. For all the beatings he has taken, he has yet to show signs of slowing down. His drop off, when it will of course inevitably occur, might end up being dramatic, but it's also not happening in the normal timeframe.
I just seriously don't understand, considering what we have seen him do, how people continue to believe that Peterson is going to hit 30 and just turn into a pumpkin out of the blue. Yes, eventually Peterson will be unable to continue playing. But how people don't realize he is the Brett Favre of running backs is beyond me. The guy isn't going to have a decline in quite a bit yet, so thinking we should trade him now confuses me.
And teams can turn around surprisingly quick. The roller coaster of 2011-2012-2013 should show us this. We have a lot of holes to fill, and we have some changes at the top that need to happen, but the belief that we are apparently a decade or so away from competing again throws recent NFL history right out the window. Trading Peterson now gives up on the team for the next few years, and that's just not necessary. Again, if in 2 or 3 years it appears we're not going anywhere, I could see this becoming a very legitimate issue. But we're just not at that spot yet.
One last thing... Fran Tarketon and Randy Moss. So what?
The PFT article mentioned that the idea that Peterson wouldn't be traded because he's so popular amongst the fans was moot because the Vikings traded Tarketon and Moss, both also extremely popular players in their time. That is the most boneheaded logic I may have heard in quite some time, and believe me you should hear what I have to put up with at work. That's another "quick glance surface" statement that doesn't hold water in about 2 seconds of further inspection. Tarketon, when he was traded to the Giants, wanted to be traded. He demanded it, so we made it happen. Moss, when he was traded, was becoming known as a headache and trouble child. The team was fed up with his antics, so he was traded. Peterson has yet to declare he wants to be traded, and he sure as hell isn't a problem in terms of his off-the-field activities. (Also, weird coincidence that we ended up trading later on to get both players back, huh? Worked once, not so much the second time. Just an odd tidbit I felt like throwing out there.) So thinking that somehow, trades that occurred so long ago there are Vikings fans who don't remember that happening has some sort of bearing on this... well, uh, I just got nothing here.
The Minnesota Vikings aren't trading Adrian Peterson any time soon. There is no actual "speculation" on this aside from what is being drummed up in the interest of page views (again, feel free to point out my hypocrisy here). And those reasons above are why that's not happening, why it's not even being considered, and why no speculation is going to be anything but a joke for some time yet to come.