The monthslong staredown between Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings appears to be settled, if far from amicably: Peterson has announced that he will rejoin the team for OTAs later today, apparently without getting the new contract he wanted. Though Peterson is 30 years old and will be the highest-paid running back in football this season, the Vikings definitely won this game of chicken.
Peterson, who missed all of last season—but received his salary—after being charged with child abuse, says he’s back in camp because he really loves football, gosh darn it.
“I’m returning because I want to. I’m a part of this football team and I owe it to the guys I play with and to our coaches,” Peterson told ESPN. “I was planning on coming in this week, and I’m looking forward to getting back on the field. It’s what I love to do.”
Peterson made a lot of noise about how he didn’t feel supported by fans and team officials during last year’s trouble, but in the end, this almost-holdout was for the oldest and blandest of reasons: money.
He’ll make a healthy $12.75 million this year, but the $32 million Peterson is set to make in 2016 and 2017 is entirely non-guaranteed. The Vikings can cut him at any point without penalty, and given his age and the size of his pending cap hit, it’s almost certain they’ll waive him next offseason. Peterson was seeking a new contract with guaranteed money through his age-32 season, something the Vikings were strongly against offering. Given that Peterson hasn’t played since Week 1 of last year, it’s unclear what the Vikings will get out of him this season, let alone for the next three.
Given the usual drop-off for running backs (a trend Peterson has bucked so far), Minnesota wasn’t inclined to commit beyond this season. That’s understandable. It’s also understandable that Peterson wanted to secure the next few years of his career. But given Mike Zimmer’s “he can play for us, or he can not play” ultimatum, the Vikings had all the leverage. Peterson will be playing for the Vikings in 2015, and he will be playing for a contract.