If you've been paying attention recently, it seems incredibly likely that star running back Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings are heading for a divorce. Peterson said he is "uneasy" about returning to play for the Vikings after they didn't really stand behind him last year in wake of investigations of child abuse. Most recently, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported that Peterson's agent and a Vikings executive became involved in a heated exchange at the Combine and had to be separated.
Naturally, with the Colts needing a running back, having a ton of salary cap space, and with the uncertainty surrounding Peterson's situation in Minnesota, Indianapolis is being mentioned frequently as a possible landing spot for the running back due to the fit. And Adrian Peterson was, at least before his almost full year off a season ago, one of the best running backs in football - if not the best.
Peterson will be 30-years old when next season starts, which is especially old for a running back, but he has had an incredibly productive career, rushing for 10,190 yards and 86 touchdowns while averaging 5.0 yards per carry in 104 career games. He has added 208 receptions for 1,715 yards and five touchdowns in the passing game as well. He is a six-time Pro Bowler, a three-time first team All Pro, a three-time second team All Pro, has led the league in rushing twice (2008, 2012), was the NFL MVP in 2012, was the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2012 and was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2007. Clearly, Peterson has been absolutely terrific in his career.
So let's look at the question of whether the Colts should sign him or not, because without question there are a number of fans wondering this very question and there are many speculating that the Colts could be a fit based on several factors we mentioned above. It's worth noting that it sounds like Peterson would prefer to play for the Cowboys, so if he does part with the Vikings that would easily be the favored landing spot. Furthermore, Peterson is under contract with the Vikings for 2015. According to Over the Cap, Peterson has a $15.4 million cap number in 2015, but the Vikings could save $13 million by cutting him. Though it's unlikely that they would bring Peterson back with that contract, it is important to note that they don't have to do anything with him. Even if the running back doesn't want to be there, the team doesn't have to cut him or trade him unless they want to - but with such a large cap number, it's unlikely that the Vikings would bring him back unless Peterson agreed to a restructure, and with what we've heard about his relationship with the Vikings, it sounds like that would be unlikely.
So all of that brings us to the question we're asking, which is this: would the Colts be interested in Adrian Peterson if the star running back were cut from Minnesota? I'm just going to assume that the Colts would not trade for Peterson, having learned their lesson from the Trent Richardson trade and being unwilling to take on such a large cap number. So for the sake of this discussion, we're asking this question purely on if Peterson is cut, would the Colts pursue him?
Production-wise, of course the Colts would be interested in Adrian Peterson. Though he'll be 30-years old when next season starts and while that's an old age for a running back, he's one of those running backs that you're willing to take a chance on despite his age because of how good he has been in his career. With a year away from football, nobody really knows how that will affect him, but it could result in him being more fresh than other running backs - that remains to be seen. But for a Colts backfield that's currently led by Boom Herron, who is a restricted free agent, Zurlon Tipton, an undrafted rookie last year, and Vick Ballard, coming off of two season-ending injuries, a 30-year old Adrian Peterson suddenly doesn't look like that bad of an option. We know the Colts will address the running back position this offseason so the position won't be Herron, Tipton, and Ballard to start next season, but right now, that's what it looks like. That running back situation makes it easier to take the chance on Peterson, who despite his age has been a star in the league for years.
So based on his talent and production, of course the Colts should pursue Adrian Peterson. But that's not the only thing that factors in to this discussion. His off the field issues last season could be a concern to teams, particularly a Colts team that had zero interest in Ray Rice a year ago. Would they move past the child abuse situation from last year? It's impossible to tell, but it's a question that at least must be asked.
Finally, let's look at the money. And clearly, the Colts aren't hard-pressed when it comes to the salary cap. Over the Cap's most recent projection has the Colts with around $43 million in cap room at this point, which is pretty impressive. Obviously, if the Colts really want Peterson, they'll have the money to make it happen. But what are their other free agent plans, particularly on defense? It's a safe bet that a large chunk of whatever money is available to sign free agents would go towards fixing the defense and the offensive line, while at the same time the franchise looks towards re-signing their own free agents in the coming years. How much would the Colts be willing to take away from their defensive spending to bring in a 30-year old running back with off-field issues that caused him to miss last season? It's safe to say that it wouldn't be anywhere near the number Peterson is scheduled to play under in 2015.
Ultimately, there are much more questions than answers when it comes to the Colts and Adrian Peterson, and right now it's all just speculation. I mean, he's still a member of the Vikings and the only team we've heard actually reported to be in the mix other than Minnesota are the Cowboys. The Colts are of course thrown in there because of their cap space and running back need, but I really doubt that Adrian Peterson would be playing in the Colts blue and white next season. Cowboys blue, maybe, but likely not Colts blue.