MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings have been trying to take advantage of their opportunity to communicate with Adrian Peterson.
General manager Rick Spielman said Monday the organization has had "open dialogue" with the star running back since the NFL tabled his suspension and returned him to the special exempt list. That's where Peterson spent much of the 2014 season, essentially paid leave, while the child abuse case he was involved in played out in court.
The league made that move Thursday after U.S. District Judge David Doty overruled the arbitrator who denied Peterson's appeal. Under the parameters of his suspension, the Vikings weren't allowed to have any direct contact with Peterson. Now they're able to, for the time being. That's critical with the NFL's transactions period starting March 10. Peterson will turn 30 five days later.
If the Vikings are going to keep him, they need to assess his feelings about staying. If he's not interested, they'd likely try to trade him to receive some compensation for an elite player rather than release him for no return. But any team dealing for Peterson would need to have significant salary cap space.
"We are able to have communication now with Adrian. We'll keep all those communications internal. I don't want to sit here and give you guys a blow by blow every day," Spielman told reporters at the University of Minnesota pro day workout that was attended by more than a dozen people from the organization. "I think it's been very clearly stated that we want Adrian Peterson back. There's no question about the talent. He's a unique talent, and he's under contract with us next year."
Asked repeatedly to elaborate on the organization's current relationship with Peterson, Spielman declined.
"We'll just leave all those discussions between us and Adrian," Spielman said. "I'll just say it's beneficial that we're able to talk to him, just like it's beneficial to talk to any of your players."
Peterson's contract will count $15.4 million against the salary cap this season, including a $12.75 million non-guaranteed salary. If the Vikings were to cut him next week, they'd owe him no money and take only a $2.4 million hit against the cap.
Despite his age and the decreased market value of running backs around the league over the last several seasons, Peterson at his current price wouldn't be such a problem for the Vikings to fit under their cap.
Factoring in their carried-over unused space from last year on top of the NFL's base 2015 cap of $143.28 million per team, according to NFL Players Association data the Vikings have more than $149 million to work with. They're more than $21 million under that already, and pay cuts or releases could be coming for another veteran or two. They let left guard Charlie Johnson go last week.
Executive vice president for football operations Rob Brzezinski "is working through some of our current guys now before March 10, and we'll see how that goes," Spielman said.
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