Suspended Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is expected to be in a Minneapolis courtroom today. The NFLPA is suing the NFL in federal court on his behalf, hoping to get his indefinite suspension, handed down by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in November, overturned.
As my colleague Kelly Smith wrote in today’s newspaper, this courtroom battle is much bigger than Peterson, as the NFLPA is trying to regain some leverage in their ongoing power struggle with Goodell and the league.
But, of course, this lawsuit is pretty important for the running back, as well.
If, improbably, Peterson’s entire suspension is overturned, he could recoup the paychecks he forfeited as part of Goodell’s punishment. That was six games checks adding up to $4.1 million.
Perhaps more important, an upset victory for Peterson and the NFLPA would give Peterson more flexibility for his immediate future should the Vikings, who have publicly said they would like Peterson back but have stopped short of guaranteeing it, decide to part ways with the star back.
Peterson has a salary cap number of $15.4 million in 2015, which is by far the highest figure for a NFL running back. The Vikings are expected to approach Peterson about redoing his deal, which, in an ESPN interview, the perennial Pro Bowler said was something he felt he shouldn’t need to do.
If the Vikings choose to release or trade him, it will free up $13 million in cap space.
And Peterson, if he is going to be released, would like that to happen before the start of free agency on March 10. His options, and the potential dollars, will be greater if he’s available when the big bucks start flying around. But right now, he is eligible for reinstatement on April 15.
As for a potential trade, the Vikings can trade him at any time on or after March 10 if they want — even if he remains suspended. And if they do decide to go the trade route, it would benefit both sides if it happened before the draft, which begins April 30. Peterson’s representatives would have more leverage then, and the Vikings would likely be interested in adding 2015 draft picks if they dealt Peterson.
Talking trade value, I would still keep expectations low for a potential Peterson deal. His age, his contract, the recent devaluation of the position, and the off-the-field baggage from his child-abuse case are all things interested NFL teams will consider if the Vikings put him on the open market. They won’t get a first-round pick for Peterson, who will be 30 in Week 1, and a second-day pick might be tough to score despite Peterson being the most dominant runner of this generation.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Peterson and the NFLPA would like a quick resolution in federal court with Peterson to be reinstated before March 10. And the Vikings would, too.
They would like the Peterson situation resolved before the start of the league year. Head coach Mike Zimmer recently said in a KFAN interview that the team will have multiple plans for the offseason based on what happens with Peterson. But obviously their preference would be to know whether Peterson is going to be on their team in 2015 before free agency and the draft.