Adrian Peterson’s future with the Minnesota Vikings remains uncertain, following his arrest this weekend on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. Vikings Executive Vice President and General Manager Rick Speilman told ESPN the team is looking at all of its options, and it’s possible the running back could be traded.
Peterson was deactivated for Minnesota’s Week 2 contest, but then reinstated Monday and is expected to play in Week 3. The Vikings won’t release Peterson, but a New York Post report said the team could look to deal him if worse details about his child abuse case are revealed.
Trading Peterson in the middle of the season would almost be an unprecedented moved. Star players are rarely traded in the NFL, especially during the season, and Peterson is widely considered to be the best running back in all of football. He ran for 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, and was named the league MVP in the previous season.
While Peterson might be the best player at his position, the Vikings could find it hard to get a lot in return for the veteran. His legal troubles will likely have to be resolved before a team is willing to acquire him, and Minnesota could find Peterson to be untradeable, at least for the time being. The 29-year-old is also in the middle of a lucrative seven-year deal he signed in 2011 worth a maximum $100 million, including $36 million guaranteed.
Peterson faces a possible two years in prison if convicted of child abuse, as well as a potentially lengthy suspension from the NFL. Recently released running back Ray Rice has been handed an indefinite suspension for punching his then-girlfriend in a hotel elevator, and the league’s recent public relations nightmare involving domestic abuse incidents could force Commissioner Roger Goodell to come down just as hard on the Vikings running back.
Even if Peterson wasn’t in any legal trouble, it would be hard for the Vikings to get equal value in return. In 2014, NFL teams don’t value running backs as highly as they value quarterbacks, or even wide receivers. They are considered very replaceable, and most teams use more than one running back for a bulk of the carries.
A look at the most recent NFL drafts exemplifies just how little teams value having an elite rusher. In the last two years, no running back has been selected in the first round. In May, Bishop Sankey became the first rusher drafted at No.54 overall.
Trent Richardson was taken No.3 overall in 2012, becoming the last running back to be taken near the top of the draft. Richardson has been of the biggest draft busts in recent memory, totaling just over 1,500 rushing yards in his career. NFL teams would much rather spend big money on other positions.
The Dallas Cowboys might be considered a potential landing spot for Peterson, if the Vikings decide to shop him. Before the start of the regular season, ESPN reported that the six-time Pro Bowler told Cowboys owner Jerry Jones he would like eventually to play for Dallas.
Jones, though, knows firsthand how unloading multiple players for a running back can backfire. When he first took control of the Cowboys in 1989, Dallas made perhaps the most lopsided deal in league history. In somewhat of a role reversal, the Cowboys sent Herschel Walker to the Vikings, after the running back ran for 1,514 yards in the previous season. The Cowboys received a package of veterans and draft picks, one of whom turned out to be Emmitt Smith, that would help lead Dallas to three Super Bowl victories.
If Peterson’s legal issues are resolved and he’s eligible to play for the 2015 season, the Vikings will be able to find a taker for him, though his trade value could be diminished. He proved his worth in 2012 when he led a largely unimpressive Vikings team to the playoffs on the strength of 2,097 rushing yards.
For the time being, it looks like Peterson isn't going anywhere.