Thursday, March 19, 2015

Vikings Almost Certainly Attempting to Trade Peterson

When the NFL decided to levy what amounted to a season-long ban on Minnesota Vikings' running back Adrian Peterson, most of the public took the action for what it was--an attempt to resurrect the league's tarnished image in the face of its darkly comical handling of Ray Rice's beating of his girlfriend.  Peterson's suspension raised some eyebrows, but the more vocal crowd included thos those who believed that all abuse is identical and all abuse requires the abuser to forever adorn a scarlet letter.

In its never-ending sense of entitlement, the NFL made the nearly unthinkable a reality, however, greatly shifting the discussion regarding Peterson's general predicament.  By essentially claiming the right to punish any player to any degree for almost any offense--and then imposing such a philosophy when suspending Peterson without pay for the remainder of the 2014 season and, possibly, into the 2015 season--the NFL made a sympathetic figure of the running back.  The league only broadened sympathy for Peterson by hiring a close personal friend of league commissioner, Roger Goodell, to review Goodell's punishment.  Not surprisingly, that friend, long beholden to the NFL for his livelihood, found the punishment warranted and permissible under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement.

Then real people entered the debate--specifically, Judge David Doty of the U.S. Federal Circuit.  In some quarters--particularly those frequented by entities that have contempt for the rights of others--Doty is viewed as a rubber stamp of player requests for relief.  In other quarters--particularly those frequented by those who accept governing principles of law--Doty is the voice of reason.  In response to Peterson's request for relief, Doty obliged, reasoning that the league clearly concocted a penalty for Peterson to meet PR pressures in the aftermath of the Ray Rice debacle.  Doty hammered the league for failing to abide by any measure of due process and remanded the case to the arbitrator to make determinations consistent with the Court's findings.

Through Doty's ruling, Peterson appeared to be vindicated--not for his treatment of his son, but for the NFL's handling of his offense.  Peterson expressed as much on the courthouse steps.  Had he left it there, the NFL's roughshod approach to dealing with PR nightmares would have remained the focus.

But if Adrian has shown anything throughout this entire process, it is that he is not a particularly insightful individual. Rather than accept his victory over the league, Peterson decided publicly to express his dissatisfaction with the way the Vikings responded to his situation.  In Peterson's mind, the Vikings were not squarely enough in his corner.  What that means is not exactly clear.  What Peterson is suggesting, however, is that the Vikings should have publicly approved of his switching of his son.  Needless to say, the Vikings did not do that.  Nor, for that matter, did the Vikings offer much in the way of public expression.  Nor, probably, would any other team in the NFL--outside, perhaps, Carolina and/or San Francisco.

Even with such infantile behavior, Peterson might still have emerged as a martyr in the eyes of an NFL public increasingly weary of many of the NFL's antics, but neither Peterson nor his agent appeared capable either of understanding or capitalizing on that possibility.  Instead, both through his agent and in public appearances, Peterson continues to maintain that the Vikings somehow have wronged him.  It's one thing to let others decide that you are the victim of unjust conduct.  It's quite another to attempt to lead the public perception on that front, particularly in the wake of child abuse.  Whatever was going to fly--because of the NFL's behavior and Peterson's celebrity status--now stands virtually no chance of prevailing.

That would be bad enough for Peterson, in Minnesota or in any other NFL city.  But Peterson and his agent are now perilously close to ensuring that Peterson turns from tenuously justified martyr to unequivocal pariah.  And the Vikings seem to be reading the writing on the wall.

The Vikings hold most of the chips in their dealings with Peterson.  They have him under contract through the 2017 season.  They have cap room to deal with his hefty cap hits in each of the next three seasons.  And, even after 2017, the Vikings can franchise Peterson, if they choose.  All of which means that, if they so chose, the Vikings could force Peterson to essentially finish his career in Minnesota.

Despite the leverage, however, the Vikings appear virtually certain to trade Peterson before the beginning of the NFL season, and possibly even before the NFL entry draft in April.  The Vikings' current position is an iteration of the above--that they hold the cards and look forward to Peterson's return in 2015.  The unofficial position, however, is that Peterson has become so toxic, that keeping him, no matter the returns on the field, are not worth the aggravation or cost.

Peterson's agent acknowledged as much yesterday, sending out public "confirmation" that the Vikings had "no plan to release Peterson."  Peterson's agent has been hard at work for over a month, attempting to work a trade of Peterson.  For that agent to publicly state that the Vikings have no interest in releasing Peterson only makes sense if the agent is attempting to convince a possible trading partner to pull the trigger on a deal, rather than wait for the Vikings to release Peterson.  And the comment itself would only make sense if the Vikings were in coordinated efforts with Peterson's agent to move Peterson.

Up Next:  Why The Vikings Will Improve With or Without Peterson.

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