There were some reports yesterday that the Minnesota Vikings were considering releasing running back Adrian Peterson in light of his recent charges of child abuse. This morning Pro Football Talk clarified those rumors as the Vikings being open to trading Peterson but not necessarily releasing the running back.
The reason for this is more or less financial. Had the Vikings been aware of the severity of the charges or the fact that he would be indicted about a week ago they could have released Peterson and taken a $2.4 million salary cap charge in each of the next two seasons and washed their hands of him. However, the fact that this occurred after the first game of the season entitles Peterson to Termination Pay under the terms of the CBA.
Termination Pay protects the entire salary of a veteran player in the event he is on the active roster for the first game of the season, which Peterson was. Once Peterson suited up for the game against the Rams, his $11.75 million base salary was guaranteed for the season. Any release of Peterson puts the Vikings on the hook for paying him the large salary while still allowing him to go and seek employment and a further paycheck from another NFL team that is willing to deal with the charges and negative PR associated with the move. This was different than the situation of Ravens running back Ray Rice who was on a reserve list in week 1 and thus not entitled to Termination Pay.
By trading Peterson they are relieved of the salary obligation, which now transfers to a new team. The difficulty in trading Peterson lies in finding a trade partner. Besides the fact that certain teams would not be willing to touch him due to the charges, the team in question must also have about $10 million in cap space if that trade was to be executed this week. Based on our estimates the only teams capable of doing that trade would be the Jaguars, Jets, Browns, Eagles, Titans, Bengals and maybe Patriots. Of those teams the Jets, Bengals, Eagles, and Patriots would likely have no interest from a football perspective.
Each week that Peterson remains on the Vikings roster reduces the cap space required to execute the trade by just over $690,000. If they carried him to the trade deadline (which would require paying him an extra $4.14 million) teams would need around $6 million in cap room to execute the trade. That would open up about half the NFL to being financial able to trade for him.
So this is a complex issue for the Vikings that goes far beyond just cutting a player because it seems the right thing to do. There may be more justice in letting the legal system play out and allowing the NFL to potentially suspend Peterson without pay than being in a position where they pay Peterson millions of dollars to go away.