INDIANAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings haven’t closed the door on the Adrian Peterson-era, but it’s barely ajar.
After the team announced Tuesday they would not pick up the running back’s $18 million option, general manager Rick Spielman reiterated Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine the team is “very open” to discussing a potential return.
First the GM will wait to see how the 31-year-old running back’s market shakes out.
“I talked to Adrian, I was very specific with him…” Spielman said. “I believe in just putting everything up front and on the table. I told him there were some areas we’d like to address. The one thing you can’t predict is what the market is going to be. Usually, you have expectations coming into this market when we get into the negotiating window with other free agents next week. You might have expectations today and all the sudden those expectations change in a week.”
When later asked if he had any expectations of Peterson’ potential market, Spielman bluntly replied: “I have no idea,” citing the changing dynamic of the open market given the amount of cap space teams have to spend.
Not only might Peterson find suitors willing to pay him more than the Vikings can afford, listening to Spielman gush over the current draft class, it sounds clear the team would like to get younger and cheaper in the backfield.
“I don’t remember this amount of running backs coming out, and we just got out of our draft meetings and there is a significant amount of talent at that position,” he said. “To be honest with you I can’t remember a year where the draft class at the position was this deep.”
Spielman cited Peterson’s injury, lack of continuity on the offensive line and inexperience in the backfield as reasons the Vikings‘ rushing offense struggled in 2016.
Spielman added that he’s spent a portion of his offseason in meetings with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and coach Mike Zimmer discussing what type of running back would best fit their scheme in 2017.
“‘Are we going to be more shotgun? Are we going to be more I-formation?’ As our offense is evolving,” he said. “But I also know the coaches do a great job of understanding what the strengths and weaknesses of the players are and trying to adjust the schemes to that as well.”
As Around The NFL’s Chris Wesseling pointed out, when Peterson entered the league in 2007, no team used shotgun on half its plays. Last season, 63.6 percent of all plays in the NFL were run out of shotgun. Peterson notoriously struggles with shotgun runs.
Spielman might be keeping the door open for a return, but it feels like it’s going to take a steep discount for Peterson to return to Minnesota. The Vikings‘ cap space concerns, a move toward more shotgun and quick passing attack behind a porous offensive line, and the availability of cheaper running back labor though the draft all foreshadow the split with their franchise face sticking.