The Cardinals acquisition of running back Adrian Peterson will force them to make a difficult contract decision at the end of the season.
With their acquisition of former NFL MVP Adrian Peterson this afternoon, the Cardinals hope Peterson can offer the same consistent production at the running back position as Edgerrin James, Emmitt Smith and Chris Johnson all did for Arizona at the end of their respective careers.
Peterson, 32, was only averaging 3.0 yards per carry through his first four games with the Saints. The Saints decided to trade Peterson and his newly-signed, two-year contract to Arizona in exchange for a 2018 undisclosed draft selection. To clear room for Peterson, the Cardinals released running back Chris Johnson from the roster.
What’s interesting about the trade is Peterson’s two-year, $7 million contract.
Often in professional sports, contracts are reported as a term of years with a specific amount of money due over that time span; however, the actual construction of these contracts is nothing at all like the contract stat-lines one would find scrolling on ESPN’s ticker tape.
In the NFL, salaries — like the $7 million due to Adrian Peterson — are broken up into a variety of different covenants and promises made between the player and the organization. For example, Peterson’s contract offers him a $2.4 million roster bonus if he’s still on the team at the beginning of the 2018 NFL league year. The potential $2.4 million bonus is deducted from the total value of the contract’s initial $7 million value. This means the Cardinals will have to choose whether they want to pay Peterson’s roster bonus in order to keep him on the roster for the 2018 season.
Interestingly, Peterson’s roster bonus dwarf’s his 2018 season salary. If Peterson plays every game next season, he’s only due a base salary of $1,050,000 (split up over 16 game checks). This means that, before the 2018 league year begins, the Cardinals will have a $3.45 million decision to make after the immediate season ends.
If Adrian Peterson ends up performing exceedingly well for the Cardinals, he has incentivized bonuses which are not computed into the initial two-year, $7 million figure. For example, if Peterson runs for 750 rushing yards and scores 6 touchdowns through the completion of the 2017 regular season, he receives a $400,000 bonus. Further, if Peterson meets those statistics and the Cardinals make the playoffs, Peterson gets an additional $250,000 bonus. Overall, there are over $8 million worth of additional incentives that Peterson can earn outside of just his salary and his signing bonus.
However, if the Peterson experiment doesn’t go well in Arizona, the team can choose to part ways with Peterson before the 2018 league year begins. In that case, the Cardinals would only be on the hook for the remaining $705,882 in base salary that Peterson is owed per game for the rest of the year. Effectively, his two-year, $7 million contract would be a 12 game, $705,882 contract.
Always remember to read the contract analysis to avoid getting duped by the general figures offered hastily.