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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings should find new franchise face, let Peterson sign elsewhere

By Matthew Coller

Superstars’ endings with their long-time franchises are rarely pretty.

Patrick Ewing in a Supersonics uni or Emmitt Smith as a Cardinal – those things are enough to haunt your dreams. But the Minnesota Vikings should put emotion aside and let Adrian Peterson wear another jersey next season.

When the Vikings announced they would not pick up Peterson’s option for 2017, they left the door open for a return.

“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,” GM Rick Spielman said via release.

What’s best for the Vikings’ party is the only thing that should matter. And what’s best for the Vikings is to find their next running back in this year’s draft or free agency.

You can understand why the team might believe that the rules of the age curve don’t apply to Peterson. Very few running backs in NFL history have done the things that Peterson has, a la clearing 2,000 yards, averaging 6.0 Yards Per Carry, leading the league in rushing at age 30 and on and on.

But look at it this way: Peterson has already been defying the age curve for several years. How much longer can he do it? Looking at some of history’s best running backs, it’s almost impossible to tell when they will hit that wall. Some of the greats have lasted into their 30s like Curtis Martin, who led the NFL in rushing at 31, but many others have dropped off suddenly. Can the Vikings really risk having Peterson going through a Shaun Alexander-like slide?

For the team, the hardest part of moving on from Peterson certainly won’t be finding a running back who can average 4.5 Yards Per Carry, as AP did in 2015, it will be saying goodbye to the face of the franchise – the player most associated with the Vikings over the past decade.

Who is that face now? Who is the player that will immediately come to mind for football fans across the nation with the Vikings’ franchise is mentioned? Who will get attention on ESPN highlight reels?

It isn’t the most logical reason for bringing a player back, but that type of relevance is probably tough to walk away from. Especially when there isn’t an heir apparent.

This decision would probably be easier if Teddy Bridgewater was healthy and coming off a good season. Turn the keys over to the young QB. Done. But nobody knows if Bridgewater will play again or if Sam Bradford will sign a long-term extension. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are both excellent receivers, but they aren’t likely to gain AP-like attention, even if they both have great 2017 seasons. Maybe a running back in the draft will be that guy, maybe he won’t.

Unfortunately the Vikings’ choice can’t be based on the past or stardom or relevance or hope that Peterson be 100% healthy and find 2012 again. It should be based on cold facts.

Like the fact that Pat Shurmur’s offense is probably better suited to have multiple duel-threat running backs instead of a one-dimensional running. Like the fact that Peterson’s Yards Per Carry have been drifting South over his past couple hundred carries. Like the fact that his past suggests it will be problematic if he isn’t the centerpiece of the offense.

Here’s the reality: Vikings fans don’t care who the face of the franchise is. That’s not an indictment on them, it’s all sports fans. They would trade a 2,000 yard season for a playoff berth 100 times out of 100.

Moving on from Peterson allows all the other players to move on, too. It allows Diggs or Bradford or Thielen to take the spotlight, to aim for a video game cover. It allows them to take the locker room and make it theirs and allows them to avoid answering questions when inevitable AP drama comes ’round.

Everybody can walk away fairly happy if the Vikings don’t offer Peterson a deal. He can return home to Houston or play for Jerry Jones and take a swing at a Super Bowl and the Vikings can become a pass-first team for the first time since Favre (assuming you don’t count last year when AP was hurt).

If you don’t move along now, the situation with Peterson could get a whole lot more ugly if he doesn’t perform well or wants more carries or whatever.

It’s never a happy ending, but walking away now could make for the least unhappy ending for everyone.

The post Vikings should find new franchise face, let Peterson sign elsewhere appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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