INDIANAPOLIS — Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman did his best to shoot holes in one of Cowboys fans’ most popular offseason storylines on Wednesday.
Speculation has swirled since September that the Vikings might choose to part ways with All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, who is currently serving a lengthy suspension after he was indicted for injuring his 4-year-old son while disciplining him. Were Peterson to be released, the Cowboys would be free to pursue him — as has been discussed plenty in the previous four months.
Peterson isn’t even eligible to return until at least April 15, but Spielman said he fully expects the six-time Pro Bowler to play a role for the Vikings going forward.
"He’s a suspended player right now and we’ll see where it goes from there, but there’s no question that I don’t think any — I’ve said this before — I don’t think any team in the NFL wouldn’t want an Adrian Peterson-caliber running back on their football team," Spielman said.
That comes at the expense of one of the most-discussed avenues for the Cowboys to take in 2015. With DeMarco Murray scheduled to enter free agency, there has been plenty of conversation about the Vikings potentially cutting or trading Peterson.
Peterson is from Palestine, Texas, roughly 100 miles away from Dallas, and he has been linked to his home state team on several occasions. As recently as last summer, in a story for ESPN, Peterson reportedly told Cowboys owner/general manager he’d love to play for the Cowboys at some point.
That point doesn’t seem likely to be soon, from listening to Spielman’s comments.
"Adrian Peterson is under contract with us. He’s a very unique football player," he said. "I’m sure he’s doing everything he can to make himself better as a football player but also a better person off the field. That’s the type of person that Adrian is."
The Vikings still owe Peterson a hefty sum of money when he does return, as his seven-year deal has helped shape the market for what the Cowboys might anticipate paying Murray. Peterson signed a six-year, $86 million deal in 2011, and he is expected to make roughly $12.7 million in 2015.
The size of those figures is part of the reason so many have suggested the Vikings may part ways with their running back. On top of his legal issues, Peterson is owed a lot of money for a player about to turn 30.
Spielman didn’t see it that way, pointing back to 2012, when Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards and won NFL MVP honors less than a year after undergoing surgery for a torn ACL.
"I know people and I have talked about this a little earlier — he’s a 30-year-old running back," Spielman said. "But I also know people said that when he was coming off his ACL, and he had one of the best seasons a running back can have."
There’s also the wear and tear factor working in Peterson’s favor, as he played in just one game and tallied 21 carries in 2014. That’s effectively an entire year of work he never incurred — a fact that can’t be ignored.
"We’re talking about a guy who didn’t take many hits to his body last year — he only played one game," Spielman said. "I expect that when Adrian Peterson comes back, he’s going to come back with a point to prove to everybody."
Whatever still has to play out in order for Peterson to return to the NFL, Spielman made it sound like something he’ll deal with as a member of the Vikings — not the Cowboys.