For a decade, Adrian Peterson has reigned as the premier running back in the NFC North. That run has appeared to come to an end. On Tuesday, the Minnesota Vikings officially declined Peterson's 2017 option, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Before the decision, Peterson was set to count $18 million against the Vikings' salary cap, roughly $6 million more than the next largest figure for a running back. Understandably, the team determined that it couldn't pay Peterson like a quarterback following a year where he missed 13 games and averaged less than 2 yards per carry.
Because Minnesota declined Peterson's option rather than releasing him outright, he avoids "street" free-agency status. That means any team motivated to sign him must consider the potential loss of 2018 compensatory picks. For a draft-savvy organization like the Green Bay Packers, the difference in status likely depletes any interest.
Peterson joins a wave of NFC North luminaries that have either left their current franchise or expect to in the coming weeks. The Chicago Bears have all but severed ties with long-time quarterback Jay Cutler and reportedly opted not to place the franchise tag on wideout Alshon Jeffery. Meanwhile, the Packers could allow T.J. Lang, Eddie Lacy, Julius Peppers and others to walk in free agency.
Peterson also hits the open market at a time when one of the strongest collegiate running back classes in years enters the NFL, headlined by LSU's Leonard Fournette, Florida State's Dalvin Cook, and Stanford's Christian McCaffrey. Given the surplus of options, Peterson can probably expect a significant pay reduction with his next team.
In 10 seasons, Peterson rushed for 11,747 yards and 97 touchdowns, adding 1,945 yards and five scores as a receiver. In 2012, he became just the seventh player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season, earning MVP honors in the process.