Agent Ben Dogra, and thus running back Adrian Peterson, is pitted against the Minnesota Vikings.
What was mostly an amicable situation with Minnesota declaring its support and hope Peterson would return to the team next season has started to turn ugly. Peterson, for his part, has been mostly quiet; only releasing a few vague comments and saying he feels "uneasy" about coming back to the team which made him the league’s highest-paid running back in 2011.
Dogra took the battle a step further last week with two interesting comments.
First, Dogra announced he was told the team wouldn’t release Peterson, the Vikings’ all-time leading rusher.
No one should have been surprised at Minnesota’s reluctance to let, perhaps, the best running in the league go without getting anything in return. Peterson might have turned 30 years old — the magical age where running backs legs apparently turn atrophic — this weekend. But Peterson has proven time and again he’s unique and can’t be judged by the assessments held of most running backs.
Later, Dogra told reporters he declined to meet with Vikings general manager Rick Spielman at this week’s owners meetings.
Dogra is prepared to force Peterson’s way out of Minnesota. Not meeting with the team is Dogra’s way of gaining some control in a situation of which he and Peterson hold little.
Peterson is signed for three more seasons. He’s under the Vikings’ control and due $13 million in base salary and bonuses this year. He won’t see the $13 million if he isn’t on the field. Minnesota could play tough with Peterson, but doesn’t appear as though it wants to drag this situation into the season.
Head coach Mike Zimmer is a Peterson advocate. Zimmer wants Peterson to return and the Vikings even appear willing to hold up their end of the big contract and pay Peterson his $13 million this season. The running back will also count a hefty $15.4 million against the team’s salary cap.
But even Zimmer said he won’t force Peterson to be in Minnesota if the running back doesn’t want to be with the Vikings.
All of which led to last week and Dogra drawing a line.
Perhaps Peterson is seeking more guaranteed money. More likely is Peterson just can’t see himself returning to the Vikings. Multiple reports last week said Peterson is still unhappy, even after Zimmer and Spielman flew to Houston to meet at Peterson’s home and Peterson himself traveled to New York to meet with Mark and Zygi Wilf, Minnesota’s principal owners, with Spielman in attendance again.
To be clear, Peterson put himself in this situation. Peterson was charged with injuring his 4-year-old son while disciplining the boy with a tree branch. Peterson later pleaded no contest in Texas to the charges. He’s still in a legal confrontation with the league about his suspension from the charges; a circumstance which could linger into the summer as the two sides throw appeals at each other.
The impasse between the Vikings, Dogra and Peterson could gain traction this week.
The NFL is in Phoenix for the annual owner’s meetings. Spielman won’t be meeting with Dogra, but he will have a chance to meet with his fellow general managers.
Trading Peterson — if Minnesota relents — won’t be easy. Not many teams could fit Peterson under their salary cap, especially two weeks into free agency. And the Vikings won’t want to give away Peterson cheaply.
Teams like the Dallas Cowboys (Peterson’s likely preferred destination) don’t have the salary cap room to fit Peterson in. Others like the Indianapolis Colts (signing Frank Gore) settled their depth chart in free agency. Seattle re-signed Marshawn Lynch. The Philadelphia Eagles, a team apparently enamored with running backs, signed DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews.
Only nine NFL teams could fit Peterson under the salary cap at his current number. The Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns all have the most cap space at more than $31 million each. How would Peterson feel about Jacksonville or Cleveland?
Then there’s the issue of compensation for the Vikings. Trading a possible future Hall of Fame player for a Day 3 draft pick wouldn’t look good for Minnesota, which also has to worry about being seen as being strong-armed by Dogra and Peterson.
Charles Robinson of Yahoo! has been at the front of the Peterson reporting. Robinson reported last week that the Arizona Cardinals are prepared to offer the Vikings a second-round draft pick and would also acquiesce to a contract restructure for Peterson.
Arizona began Monday with just $9.9 million in salary cap space for next season. A restructure would be needed if Peterson was traded to the desert. Peterson could seek more guaranteed money, as his current contract is no longer guaranteed. The Cardinals might also have to clear some space of their own.
All told, there aren’t many options for Peterson, Dogra or the Vikings as they have set themselves up for a battle.