Adrian Peterson Has A Quietly Terrible Contract, And Cutting Him Would Save The Vikings A Ton Of Money

The Minnesota Vikings reversed course and decided to ban Adrian Peterson from the team until his legal issues are resolved on Wednesday.

The Vikings put him on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list — which will keep him under contract while barring him from team activities.

It’s basically a paid suspension.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Peterson will still earn the $US11.75 million he is owed this season. With his trial on child abuse charges not expected to begin until 2015, Peterson will likely miss at least the entire 2014 season. In a statement announcing the decision, the Vikings said he’ll be away from the team “until the legal proceedings are resolved.”

Even if you ignore the public relations angle of keeping Peterson on the team, the Vikings could save a ton of money by releasing him.

Peterson is three years into a six-year, $US96 million contract extension. However, the Vikings have already paid out the $US36 million in guaranteed money that the contract contained, according to Sportrac. That means they can cut Peterson without paying him a dime of the ~$56 million he is owed between now and 2017. The only financial penalty of cutting him would be a small cap hit ($2.7 million this year and $US2.4 million in 2015, Sportrac reports).

Because his contract is non-guaranteed from here on out, the Vikings have no real obligation to keep him.

Even before the child abuse allegations, Peterson’s contract was a knock against him. He’s the 12th-highest paid player in the NFL this year. In a time when running backs are less important than they have ever been before, Peterson is getting paid like one of the league’s most important players.

Grantland’s Bill Barnwell only had him as the 42nd most valuable asset in the NFL this summer because his contract is so massive. Barnwell explained that giving 11% of your salary cap money to a running back is nuts, no matter who he is:

“Your typically good Adrian Peterson season is 15 games, 300 carries, 1,400 rushing yards, and 12 touchdowns. That comes with a cap hit, in 2014, of $US14.4 million. No other back in football is above $US10 million, and the median starting running back has a cap hit of somewhere around $US3.4 million. That’s $US11 million you can’t put toward an offensive line or a secondary or, yes, a quarterback. If you know you’re going to get a 2,000-yard season out of Peterson like you did in 2012, you would happily pay that extra $US11 million. But you’re more likely to get the typical Adrian Peterson season, like 2013’s 279-1,266-10 line, which isn’t far off from what somebody like Alfred Morris can do for $US500,000. Every team would love to have Peterson. Very few want to commit nearly 11 per cent of its salary cap to a running back, even one as good as Peterson.”

Peterson’s cap hit is $US15 million for each of the next three seasons. That’s a huge financial commitment even if he’s is playing at a high level. It’s a crippling financial commitment if he’s not even on the field.

Adam Schefter reports that the Vikings still intend to keep Peterson. If they do so, they’re gambling on him resolving his legal issues, avoiding a lengthy suspension from the league, and returning to his superhuman form from 2012.

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