Based off several fiscal moves to restructure the contracts of quarterback Tony Romo, linebacker Sean Lee and offensive tackle Tyron Smith, speculation has revved up again around the Dallas Cowboys possibly acquiring disgruntled running back Adrian Peterson from the Minnesota Vikings.
The Cowboys freed up $12.8 million in salary cap space Wednesday after converting most of Romo’s $17 million salary for 2015 into a signing bonus, according to Fox Sports Southwest. And Pro Football Talk referenced how the extra cap space just so happens to equal Peterson’s salary of $12.75 million for next season.
The Vikings front office has insisted, both publicly and reportedly privately to Peterson’s representatives, that they full expect him to play in Minnesota next season and that they are not exploring any trade options.
However, the fact that Dallas technically might have enough cap room to absorb Peterson’s contract does make them a reasonable trade partner for the Vikings should they decide to part with their MVP and All-Pro running back.
Peterson’s agent, Ben Dogra, reportedly had to be restrained from a Vikings official during the NFL scouting combine in February, vowing his client would never return to Minnesota. Peterson, who grew up near Dallas and played college at the University of Oklahoma, has publicly stated on numerous occasions that he is unsure about his future with the Vikings.
There are still some questions as to whether the Cowboys have the requisite cap space to land Peterson. ESPN pointed out that the Cowboys recent acquisition of defensive end Greg Hardy, the re-signing of linebacker Rolando McClain, and the space required for their seven draft picks this year could muck up the team’s cap and chances of landing Peterson.
As of now, the Cowboys have $14.7 million free to spend on players, according to Spotrac, and ESPN indicated Dallas will need to set aside about $1.7 million for their draft picks. The Cowboys are coming off their best season in several years, and no longer have an elite running back.
Peterson would represent a far bigger salary cap hit than last year’s top rusher, DeMarco Murray, and calls into question Dallas’ refusal to meet Murray’s contract demands last month. Murray, who led the NFL with 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, will only register a $ 5 million cap hit for the Eagles next year, according to Spotrac, while Peterson’s will be $15.4 million.
But the unpredictable Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Peterson’s reported desire to play for his boyhood team could trump any cap restrictions. Much has been made of Peterson calling Jones before last season inquiring about possibly retiring as a Cowboy. It stands to reason that Peterson would be willing to restructure his contract to make it more flexible for Dallas’ cap in the short and long-term.
There are also the comments from Peterson’s father, Nelson, last month. Nelson stated he heard that the Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts were all interested in acquiring his son via a trade. The Colts appear to have moved on after they signed running back Frank Gore, but the Cardinals could still be in the mix, assuming they can find a way to increase their current salary cap room of $9.1 million.
The Vikings appear reticent to part with Peterson, and Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw suggested the team might not even be able to earn a first-round pick for their superstar. Cowlishaw also boiled Minnesota’s decision down to whether it wants to devote $15 million to a player “who doesn’t really want to be there.”