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Minnesota Vikings should take opportunity to move on from Adrian Peterson

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The Minnesota Vikings are clearing the way for the team to welcome back star running back Adrian Peterson next season - and that's a mistake.

The 2012 NFL MVP missed the majority of last season after being placed on the commissioner's exempt list following an indictment for injuring his son with a switch.

This case to move on from Peterson will not consider the moral questions raised by bringing him home. Peterson is coming back, as a Vikings player or not, and this will explore why the organization should not put him back in purple for football reasons alone.

They have an ideal opportunity to move on from a player approaching his 30th birthday, playing the NFL's most precarious position, who brought nothing but negative headlines to the team last season.

There have been countless articles on the death of the franchise running back. But team officials still want him to return, baggage and all.

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Earlier this week Vikings president Mark Wilf said 'Adrian…is a Minnesota Viking, and we'd love to have him back.' Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman have publicly supported him too.

Yesterday, Vikings COO Kevin Warren echoed their thoughts.

"Once Adrian gets all of his items resolved with the NFL, is free to play again and rejoin our franchise, I think it's good for Adrian," said Warren.

"It'd be good for us, it'd be good for all the Vikings fans, it'd be good for our community and it'd be good for the NFL."

Running backs

Teams have stopped spending first round picks on rushers, last year no NFL team drafted one in the first 32 selections. This is a reflection of the pass-first NFL.

The last 'elite' crop of running backs was 2012, when three (David Wilson, Doug Martin and Trent Richardson) went in the first round. All three have struggled, each for different reasons.

The running back by committee has killed the franchise back, teams now prefer to spread the carries around, lowering the risk of season ending injury and saving precious cap space.

Every team apart from the Chiefs, Cowboys, Seahawks, Steelers and Eagles did not have a feature back. Even Eddie Lacy only had 15 carries a game.

Super Bowl champion New England Patriots were the best example of this, none of their backs averaged more than six carries a game across the entire season. LeGarrette Blount led the team with 107 carries, while Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley and Jonas Gray each had between 104 and 93 for the year.

And you only have to look at the value discovered further down the draft to see why. In recent years, teams have got Lacy, Lamar Miller, Alfred Morris, DeMarco Murray, Le'Veon Bell and Andre Ellington between the second and sixth rounds.

Jerick McKinnon

Even the Vikings got in on the act. In a shrewd bit of foresight, they drafted what they hope will be Peterson's successor when they selected Jerick McKinnon in the 2014 draft.

The 22-year-old went in the third round, and quickly won a share of the carries from Peterson's back-up Matt Asiata. Before going on injured reseve on December 6, McKinnon had rushed for 538 yards at a very respectable 4.8-yards-per-carry.

Without Peterson, the Vikings still fielded a league average rushing attack last season. The team averaged 112.8 rushing yards last year, good enough for 14th in the NFL.

Per Football Outsiders, McKinnon had the seventh best rushing DVOA in the entire NFL (minimum 100 rushes). The six better? DeMarco Murray, Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles, Jeremy Hill, Lamar Miller and CJ Anderson. Good company.

And in Asiata, they have a power back capable of converting those short yardage situations. In fact, the Vikings had the league's second best 'Stuffed Rank' in 2014 - just 15 per cent of runs were stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage.

That's a promising one-two punch in the backfield.

Cowboys

Peterson publicly admitted last season that he'd considered playing for another team, with the Dallas Cowboys most often mentioned. DeMarco Murray is a free agent this summer, and Peterson would surely love to run behind one of the NFL's best lines.

Peterson, about to turn 30 next month, also has the biggest cap hold among running backs in the NFL at $15.4m for 2015. The next biggest is LeSean McCoy at $12m.

He has already shot down the idea of restructuring his deal for less money, and the Vikings could cut him before June 1 and save $13m on their cap. They're not blessed with space, they have around $18m in cap space at the current projection, so the Vikes would be wise to think about it.

As outlined here by SB Nation, it looks increasingly likely that AP will be back in Minnesota.

But considering their depth at running back, that money could be put to good use elsewhere and the Vikings would be without the distracting media circus that will surely accompany Peterson's return.

Rebuild

In the 2014 draft they lucked into Teddy Bridgewater, who fell down the draft and is now their quarterback of the future.

In that same draft, two rounds later, they found Jerick McKinnon, who might just be their running back.

The Vikings have an opportunity to reload on offense, and give defensive guru Mike Zimmer the cap space to build a terrorising defense on the model of his Bengals squad.

It would be difficult, and unpopular with the fans, but they should take it.

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Topics:
Adrian Peterson
NFL
Minnesota Vikings

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