An arbitrator denied Adrian Peterson‘s appeal of a season-long suspension, the latest chapter in what feels like a never ending saga surrounding the league’s former MVP.
“The facts in this appeal are uncontested,” arbitrator Harold Henderson wrote. “The player entered a plea which effectively admitted guilt to a criminal charge of child abuse, after inflicting serious injuries to his four-year old son in the course of administering discipline. No direct evidence of the beating was entered in the record here, but numerous court documents, investigative reports, photographs and news reports, all accepted into evidence without objection, make it clear that Mr. Peterson’s conduct was egregious and aggravated as those terms are used in the Policy, and merits substantial discipline. … I reject the argument that placement in Commissioner Exempt status is discipline. I conclude that the player has not demonstrated that the process and procedures surrounding his discipline were not fair and consistent; he was afforded all the protections and rights to which he is entitled, and I find no basis to vacate or reduce the discipline.”
The Vikings placed Peterson on the exempt list after he was charged with child abuse in Texas. He later entered a no-contest plea in exchange for avoiding jail time. Peterson was fined and ordered to complete community service.
Peterson then lingered on that exempt list — still paid by the Vikings but unable to play — until Nov. 18, when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for the remainder of 2014 and announced that the running back’s status would not be revisited until April 15, 2015. That six-game penalty could roll into next season, with Weeks 15-17 of this year and Weeks 1-3 of next year counting as the punishment.
Peterson appealed in hopes of returning to the field (or at least to the Vikings’ active payroll) sooner. After Friday’s decision, Peterson reportedly will take his appeal to federal court.
Where does he stand in the meantime with the Vikings and the league? A closer look at those issues:
• Current status: As mentioned above, Peterson had been on the exempt list prior to Goodell’s ruling. While there, he had earned a prorated portion of the $11.25 million salary Minnesota owed him for the 2014 season. His permanent move now to an NFL-mandated suspension means that Peterson will forfeit his salary for the final three weeks of the year.
Goodell could opt to reinstate Peterson for the beginning of the 2015 season, essentially crediting him with time served. The commissioner will not have to make that decision until April, barring a ruling in favor of Peterson from federal court.
• Contract: Peterson remains under contract in Minnesota through 2017, and he is still owed upward of $43 million in total, including $12.75 million next season.
The key for the Vikings at this point, though, is that the guaranteed money on Peterson’s deal has been paid already. What that means is Minnesota could release him at the end of the 2014 season and owe him no further money.
In other words, from a financial standpoint, the Vikings could part ways with Peterson rather easily. Which leads us to …
• What happens in Minnesota?: The simplest solution for all parties would be for the Vikings to cut bait on Peterson after the league year ends. He could secure a fresh start elsewhere, while the Vikings could move forward with an extra $11.75 million next season.
Two alternatives: 1. The Vikings opt to hold onto Peterson, perhaps asking him to restructure his contract in light of how this season unfolded. He did make more than $7 million while playing one game, after all.
Or, 2. The Vikings could attempt to trade him. His cap hit and still-intact suspension would be roadblocks, but in similar fashion to the Jets‘ trade for Percy Harvin, any interested team could bail with no cap penalty.
Odds are that Peterson has played his last game as a Viking, one way or another.
• Would another team give him a shot?: Short answer: yes.
Though he will have gone 12 months between games by the time he can take the field again, Peterson remained one of the league’s most exciting backs pre-suspension. The year off actually could work in his favor from a football sense. It’s 15-18 less games of tread worn off his tires.
If the Vikings release Peterson, his contract would be wiped off the books, so his next team could start from scratch with a much cheaper deal.
Peterson earlier expressed some interest in playing for Dallas. Could Jerry Jones give him a chance if DeMarco Murray walks in free agency?
That may be the most obvious fit right now, but other teams no doubt will give Peterson consideration.