Earlier this week, it was reported that running back Adrian Peterson, who is about to become a free agent after the Minnesota Vikings elected not to pick up his contract option, might "consider" less money to play for the New England Patriots.
With the soon-to-be 32-year old having earned almost $100 million over the course of his 10-year career, he seems willing to accept a lower contract for the best chance of winning a championship. However, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (via Chris Wesseling), the two sides are currently not working on a deal to bring the veteran to Foxboro:
"There is nothing going on with Adrian Peterson and the Patriots right now" — @MikeGarafolo
With New England’s number one running back, LeGarrette Blount, also hitting unrestricted free agency tomorrow, brining Peterson aboard would make sense from a team-building approach – at least if the team feels that the 2012 NFL MVP has anything left in the tank at this point in his career. Coming off a season-ending knee injury, though, the Patriots might be more willing to explore more realistic long-term options.
Garafolo’s report seems to support that view and puts some doubt on a possible Patriots-Peterson union. Considering that the team has fared well in the past without big-name runners in its backfield, it likely will be fine whether or not Peterson is part of it.
It is worth noting that Peterson’s camp wants the reigning Super Bowl champions to consider the running back in free agency. Peterson’s father spoke with the Pioneer Press to discuss ideal landing spots and noted the Oakland Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks, before noting:
"If you have an opportunity to play for an organization like the New England Patriots, you have to consider that,’’ said Nelson Peterson. "To have an opportunity to play with Tom Brady, you have to keep that door open as a possibility.’’
Peterson’s camp likes how Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was previously the Vikings offensive coordinator in 2007-10 when Peterson averaged 1,738 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns per season, and was named First Team All Pro twice and Second Team All Pro twice.
They also like the Raiders because of their investment in the offensive line. Now we’re not sure if Peterson’s dad is taking a shot at the Vikings or the Seahawks, but he noted that the Raiders "haven’t been trying to get offensive linemen from the bottom of the barrel and trying to make them into something."
The Vikings suffered a long string of injuries on the offensive line in 2016 and the Seahawks invested just 4.15% of their 2016 cap space on the offensive line, easily the lowest mark in the entire league (Giants ranked 31st with 8.52%).
It seems like the Patriots fit the bill with a strong offensive line, although it seems like all interest between a Patriots and Peterson connection is coming from Peterson’s camp.
Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson is tapped into the Peterson decision-making process and notes a few key negotiating points.
1. Peterson wants to join the Raiders at $4-6 million per year. $4 million represents what veterans Matt Forte and Frank Gore received in free agency and ties the 13th highest average salary for a running back. $6 million would be the 9th highest average salary, behind the likes of Chris Ivory and DeMarco Murray.
2. If Peterson goes to the Patriots or Seahawks, it will be on a $2-3 million contract with "heavy incentives." $2-3 million is roughly the 20th-22nd highest paid mark for running backs and represents a paygrade not represented by veteran rushers; only Browns RB Isaiah Crowell falls in this range and that’s only because the Browns used the second-round restricted free agent tender.
Peterson wants a chance to win a Super Bowl and all three teams can offer that opportunity- and an inventive-laden contract is exactly what the Patriots are comfortable constructing.
The Patriots gave RB LeGarrette Blount a one-year deal worth $1 million, with an additional $1 million available in yardage and Pro Bowl incentives. A similar structure could work for Peterson. Blount received between $50,000 and $100,000 bonuses for each 50-yard increment he achieved beyond 700 rushing yards.
What if the Patriots offered Peterson a $2 million contract with similar yardage incentives linked to Peterson’s yards from scrimmage? The Patriots could offer an additional $2 million, broken down by $50,000 for each 50-yard increment from 700 to 800 and $100,000 for each 50-yard increment from 850-1,100 yards, which is in alignment with Blount’s incentives. Then add $150,000 for each 50-yard increment from 1,150-1,450 yards from scrimmage, capped off with a $200,000 bonus if Peterson reaches 1,500 yards from scrimmage.
Add in a Pro Bowl, All Pro, and playoff round incentives, and the Patriots could easily construct a $5-6 million offer heavy with Not Likely To Be Earned incentives, to reduce impact on the salary cap. And if Peterson achieves all of those marks, then he would absolutely be worth the money.
There might not be anything brewing between the Patriots and Peterson, but there is definite interest from one side- and the other can construct a team-friendly deal that works for both parties.
Edit: It seems like the Seahawks don’t have any interest in Peterson, either.
#Seahawks have no immediate interest in Adrian Peterson, I'm told. History shows they'll revisit sometimes if a guy is sitting out there.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 8, 2017
Peterson might be surprised by the sheer lack of interest in his abilities in free agency.