On the same day that Titans running back Chris Johnson agreed to a four-year, $53.5 million contract extension (which coupled with the remaining two years of his rookie deal puts him at six years and $55.2 million), the Vikings had a preseason game. And while running back Adrian Peterson wasn’t dodging (or bowling over) defenders on the field, he had to tiptoe around multiple contract-related questions from reporters.
Asked whether Johnson’s deal establishes a “baseline” for Peterson’s next contract, Peterson said (via quotes distributed by the team), “I don’t look at it like that. I look at his contract and the things that they have put together for him and I look at whatever I need to get done for me. It’s going to be my own separate deal so I don’t think it has anything to do with his.”
Peterson said he’s happy for Johnson, and that the fifth-year star isn’t focusing on his own contract, but on playing football.
The fundamental difference between Peterson’s situation and Johnson’s is that, as Peterson recently observed, he’s in the driver’s seat. With a 2011 base salary of $10.7 million and a 2012 franchise tender (if/when the Vikings apply it) of $12.84 million, Peterson is looking at $23.5 million over the next two years — the same two years in which Johnson was due to make $1.7 million. A second application of the franchise tag would give Peterson another $15.4 million, pushing his three-year haul to $38.9 million, if he remains healthy and effective.
Thus, Peterson has significant leverage. Any long-term deal will need to pay him that same $38.9 million over the first three years, which will allow him to push the bar for running backs to a new level.