Adrian Peterson a free agent after 10 years with Vikings

Published 7:57 am Wednesday, March 1, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — Adrian Peterson, Minnesota’s all-time leading rusher and a first-team All-Pro pick in four of his 10 seasons with the Vikings, will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career when the market opens next week.

The Vikings as expected said Tuesday they will not exercise their option for 2017 on Peterson’s contract, which called for him to make $18 million. That would have been an unwieldly hit to their salary cap and by far the highest figure in the NFL for a running back. Pittsburgh’s decision to place the franchise tag on Le’Veon Bell will likely mean a $12 million-plus salary for the 25-year-old, but nobody else at the position in the league is even close.

The Vikings left the door open for Peterson to return to the team that drafted him in 2007 with the seventh overall pick, only at a much lower price. The fact that they announced their decision nine days before the deadline was an indication that little dialogue about a new deal has taken place to date. General manager Rick Spielman told reporters last week that he had not yet spoken at that point to Peterson or his agents about the future.

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“Adrian is an important part of the Minnesota Vikings organization,” Spielman said Tuesday. “We will continue to have conversations with his representatives and leave our future options open while determining what is best for both parties moving forward.”

Peterson’s agent, Ben Dogra, didn’t return messages from The Associated Press. Peterson told ESPN he spoke with Spielman over the weekend.

“It’s been a great 10 years with the Minnesota Vikings. They know what I bring to the organization as a player, with my work ethic and dedication,” Peterson said, according to the network. “The door is still open to find some common ground. I understand addressing the offensive line is one of their main priorities this offseason. In the meantime, I will explore my other options and see what path God leads me on. My main goal remains the same: to win a Super Bowl championship with a great team, which I also believe we have in Minnesota.”

Peterson has occasionally hinted at interest in playing elsewhere, even cryptically tweeting last week that the New York Giants have intrigued him with their recent moves that included releasing wide receiver Victor Cruz and running back Rashad Jennings to make space under the salary cap. Before the 2014 season, an ESPN profile on Dallas owner Jerry Jones revealed a casual phone conversation between Peterson and Jones during which the running back expressed his desire to one day play for the Cowboys team he grew up rooting for in East Texas.

Peterson, who turns 32 in three weeks, is coming off a meniscus tear in his right knee that limited him to 72 yards on 37 carries over parts of three games in 2016. He suited up only once in 2014 because of the child abuse case he was involved in.