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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Recent ranking reminds of Vikings’ investment in Peterson, questions ahead

By Andrew Krammer

Jared Allen may be one of the only players to recently navigate the perils of a lucrative NFL contract without falling into one of its many trapdoors.

Allen, then 31, counted more than $17 million against the salary cap when the Vikings fielded the league’s worst defense in 2013. It was the final year of his contract and, fresh off a run to the playoffs, general manager Rick Spielman never approached him about a restructure, according to Allen.

Every situation necessitates its own decision, but rare is the day a NFL player sees every penny on a major deal. Allen saw veteran teammates released to free up money, including Steve Hutchinson and Antoine Winfield the year prior, and watched others take pay cuts like Kevin Williams.

With a cheap quarterback and roster getting younger, the Vikings chose to keep Allen at a price that led all 4-3 ends by nearly $3 million that season. Afterward, they parted ways as Mike Zimmer established a new system and different visions. It was the end of a six-year, $73 million deal that, in 2007, had made Allen the league’s highest-paid defender.

The team is approaching a similar crossroads with Adrian Peterson, the future Hall of Famer whose cap hit in 2017 spikes to $18 million; the Vikings can then release him at no cost years after making him the league’s highest-paid back in 2011 and again with a restructure last summer.

The latter deal was recently named the third-worst contract for a current NFL running back by Pro Football Focus. A similar list on ESPN.com recently tabbed Peterson and left tackle Matt Kalil as two of the league’s most overpaid veterans.

Whether or not any running back is worth the more than $80 million the Vikings have paid Peterson since drafting him in 2007, not counting the $12 million he’ll earn this year, is a topic for another June post. He’s the highest-earning running back in league history and this year alone he’ll carry a cap hit nearly $2.5 million more than the next running back.

But what each aforementioned list misses is how timing and maneuvering allow the Vikings to make what on the surface looks like two head-scratching investments. First and foremost, as evident by Andrew Luck’s $44 million guaranteed on a new deal, is the presence of Teddy Bridgewater entering his third season with a $1.87 million cap hit. (The current veteran starting QB market is $16 million to $24 million per year.)

Youth abounds around Bridgewater, including six other first-round picks between 2012 and 2014. Their newest blue-chip star, Harrison Smith, recently signed a lucrative five-year extension that made him the league’s highest-paid safety. The deal only raised his 2016 cap by $2 million (to $7.3 million) while allowing him to pocket a $10 million signing bonus. It’s a move that retains top talent while keeping a whale’s room for Kalil, the former fourth-overall pick, at more than $11 million. An ever-increasing salary cap doesn’t hurt, either.

With both Kalil and Peterson, they’re essentially one-year commitments. I’ll never begrudge a NFL player for taking ever single cent he can. And if you’re only counting dollars, the Vikings have taken care of Peterson as well as, if not better than, any NFL franchise has a modern running back. After a September 2014 formal indictment on child abuse charges, he was initially placed on paid leave during his suspension. Less than a year later, he agreed to a restructure that created lucrative incentives and protected millions against injury.

Peterson then reestablished himself as the game’s best runner, claiming his third NFL rushing title at age 30 behind an offensive line that had lost two starters before the opening snap. Though the Vikings’ highest-paid player would be on the field for less than a quarter of third downs. Heavily juxtaposed with power and elusiveness were career-long issues in pass protection and fumbling.

After a devastating first-round playoff exit to Seattle, Peterson vowed to become more versatile for the offense and Bridgewater. That fit with the quarterback is a crucial factor when measuring his remaining value in Minnesota. Entering his age 31 season, Peterson continued to lead the way in every phase during offseason practices. He was involved in the passing game, taking shotgun handoffs and catching passes.

And for however long Peterson decides to continue playing, he’ll surely want to catch all that he can.

The post Recent ranking reminds of Vikings’ investment in Peterson, questions ahead appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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