With Vikings running back Adrian Peterson indicted on child abuse charges only days after the Ray Rice video turned the NFL on its head, it’s unclear when Peterson will return to the field for the Vikings.
It’s becoming more clear that he may not be a Viking much longer.
Already in the big-money years of a contract that devotes way too much cash to a devalued position, the charges against Peterson could sufficiently diminish his standing in the eyes of the fan base to allow the Vikings to free themselves of salaries of $12.75 million in 2015, $14.75 million in 2016, and $15.75 million in 2017. (Moving on from Peterson after the coming season would result in a paltry cap charge of $2.4 million.)
Despite the reality that the Vikings could use that money to find a stable of very good running backs with plenty left over to address other needs, it was believed by many before Friday that the Vikings would never let him go. Peterson believed that, too.
“I think the organization would take a heavy hit — for real — more so from the fan base,” Peterson said earlier this year regarding the consequences of cutting him. “I don’t think it would be like a LeBron [James] situation where they’re burning my jersey, this, that and the other. They might be doing [the opposite] and not buying some season tickets.”
The charges against Peterson potentially will turn that dynamic on its head, with the Vikings ultimately scoring points among the fan base by moving on from one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. And with $43.25 million in extra cash and cap space from 2015 through 2017, the Vikings could build the kind of team that will quickly make the fans forget about a player who, before Friday, may now be unforgettable for very different reasons.