After months away from the game, Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice are back in the news. Will the former return to the Minnesota Vikings this season? Will the latter ever play another meaningful down in the NFL? Chris Burke and Doug Farrar examine that and more.
If you're the Vikings, how do you handle Adrian Peterson now that his legal issues have been resolved?
Chris Burke: Tossing Peterson back into the fold right away would be challenging, for a variety of reasons. Public-relations ramifications aside, it would be a very difficult setup for your rookie quarterback and his offense to add Peterson in mid-November. The Jerrick McKinnon-Matt Asiata tandem has played well, too.
This sort of all comes down to what the plans are for Peterson beyond this month and this season. Because of his placement on the "exempt' list, Peterson has continued to earn a paycheck from the Vikings each week. Paying him all year only to send him packing as soon as his legal process concludes is counter-intuitive. If they were going to cut him, wouldn't they already have done so?
Personally, I'd cut the cord -- or, would have cut the cord weeks ago.
This is not a situation where Peterson has denied wrongdoing and the Vikings are hoping he's proven innocent. Add on his recent admission of marijuana use and reports that he is "not in game shape," and this seems pretty straightforward.
Doug Farrar: It's obviously up to the NFL to reinstate Peterson, and given the conditions of his agreement to enter the league's exempt list, they'll have to at some point. The easiest and least painful solution for all involved would be to give Peterson "time served" for the games he missed -- he hasn't played since Week 1 of the 2014 season -- under the league's new conduct policy, which gives players a six-game suspension for first-time violations of the league's domestic violence policy. Peterson would have to give back the salary from six games this season, Roger Goodell would have to be satisfied to whatever degree he needs that Peterson understands what he did, and that would be that.
That's what I would do. Given the level to which Goodell has mangled the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson situations, I have no earthly idea what he will do.
True or false: Peterson will play another down for Minnesota in 2014 or beyond
Burke: False. It would cost the Vikings a mere $2.4 million to cut Peterson after this season. So at this point, my best guess is that they hold onto him through 2014 but keep him on the sideline, and then try to dump him off on another team for some small draft-pick compensation and cut him if/when no one comes calling.
Peterson's base salaries of $12.75 million, $14.75 million and $16.75 million over the next three seasons will make any trade for him rather untenable for another organization, even with the absence of guaranteed money.
It's hard to see how this ends in any way other than the Vikings releasing Peterson.
Farrar: True. From a football and financial perspective, they really have nothing to lose by letting him back on the field -- at least, this season. As part of the seven-year, $96 million deal he signed in 2011, Peterson has a base salary of $11.75 million this season, with a total cap number of $14.4 million. It's after this season where things become interesting. According to OverTheCap.com, the cap hit for a June 1 release of Peterson in 2015 is a fairly negligible $2.4 million, with a $13 million cap savings. The Vikings have Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon for the long-term; they can take the rest of this season to see what Peterson has left in the tank and decide from there.
If you're the GM of an NFL team, would you sign Ray Rice?
Burke: Probably not, though the off-field situation between Rice and his then-fianceé is only part of the explanation. From a strict football sense, the upside in signing Rice would be minimal at this point -- he's a soon-to-be 28-year-old running back with more than 1,400 career carries who had an awful 2013 and has not played for almost a year.
There is an argument to be made that Rice has served his time. The legal process concluded long ago, he was cut by the Ravens and suspended by the NFL. If he's deemed eligible at this point, is it necessary to continue punishing him?
That's a question each individual team will have to wrestle. If it were up to me, Rice would not get a call. There are enough other running backs out there to avoid taking on this headache.
Farrar: No, and it's not necessarily because of his off-field issues. I have no clue whether Rice is personally redeemable; it's possible he did this once and will never do it again. He may be a model citizen for the rest of his life, and I certainly hope that he is. As a hypothetical general manager, however, I have one primary responsibility: to acquire players whose abilities help my team win. And at this point in his career, I don't believe that Rice has enough left in the tank to make that happen.
Rice yards-per-attempt average has fallen from 4.7 to 4.4 to 3.1 over the last three seasons -- he no longer has the ability to hit the edge and beat defenders who are trying to stop him. He's still a decent receiver in space, but that's a fairly common skill for a running back at his level. His pass-blocking has always been problematic; before his suspension, it was disastrous. And this is the same Baltimore Ravens team that has, with a different offense, out of nowhere, turned Justin Forsett into one of the NFL's most productive runners.
And maybe that's where the personal side comes in. I've known Forsett since he played for the Seahawks in 2010. He's one of the best people in football. And given what I do know, both on and off the field, I'll take 100 Forsetts before I'd give one Rice a cursory look.
Who returns to the field first: Rice or Peterson?
Burke: Peterson. And that's my answer for one reason only: Peterson is better.
When we cut right to the heart of it, talent continues to be the overwhelming factor influencing roster moves in the NFL. So if Peterson somehow shows that he's healthy and ready to go, there will be a team out there -- possibly even Minnesota -- willing to give him an opportunity.
Again, beyond how unpopular signing Rice might be for an NFL team, there is the question of just how much he actually can help a roster right now.
Farrar: Peterson. Based on his aforementioned productivity issues, I'm not sure we'll ever see Rice play a meaningful role for any NFL team again. Drama aside, the wear was already starting to show in a big way.