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Vikings will not exercise 2017 option on Adrian Peterson contract

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Peterson will become an unrestricted free agent on March 9.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It appears that the end of an era is finally upon us.

The Minnesota Vikings announced on Tuesday that they will not be picking up the 2017 option on the contract of Adrian Peterson. Peterson was due a $6 million roster bonus next week, so the Vikings decided to make AP an unrestricted free agent when the free agency period begins on March 9.

The move is not surprising at all—the Vikings were never going to take on an $18 million cap hit for a 32-year-old running back that has played only 20 games over the past three seasons. But it's still significant because for the first time since 2006, the Vikings may not be starting the season with #28 in their backfield.

AP has been the best running back in the history of the Minnesota Vikings franchise by any measure. Peterson is the franchise leader in rushing yards by nearly 5,000 yards over Robert Smith. He has 45 more rushing touchdowns than any other Viking. His career average of 95.5 rushing yards per game is more than 25 yards better than the next qualified back. Peterson is one of the best natural runners that the game of football has ever seen. His rare combination of speed, power, and work ethic is something that comes along only once or twice in a generation.

That said, this seems like a fitting time to part ways with Peterson for a variety of reasons. He'll be 32 when the 2017 starts and is coming off a major knee injury that sidelined him for most of last season. Releasing him now incurs zero cap penalty. Of Peterson's many talents in the game of football, his pass blocking and catching have never really stood out as major weapons; in today's NFL, those are basic necessities for success. And of course the oft-discussed off-field issue that kept him away for all but one game in 2014 has been a dark cloud hanging over his relationship with the Vikings fan base for the past three years.

However, this isn't the official death knell of Adrian Peterson's time in purple. The team could always sign him back on a restructured deal, especially if the free agent market for his services proves to be as lukewarm as many are predicting. Rick Spielman is already on the record as saying he will always consider Peterson a Viking and would be open to working out a new deal with him. But at this point Spielman's statements sound more like lip service than an actual attempt to keep Peterson around.

We'll have much more on the possible end of the Adrian Peterson era in the coming days here on Daily Norseman.