DAVE CAMPBELL, AP Pro Football Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings agreed Tuesday to restructure the final three years of his contract, giving the six-time Pro Bowl running back $20 million in guaranteed money.
The Vikings announced the agreement four days before players will report to training camp, clearing away any lingering haze that surrounded their relationship with Peterson. Initially disinterested in returning to the team following his reinstatement by the NFL, Peterson softened this spring and took part in several offseason practices with the Vikings last month.
Peterson and his lead agent, Ben Dogra, didn’t appear to have any leverage in negotiations once Vikings general manager Rick Spielman stood firm in his intent to keep Peterson on the team rather than trade him. But despite the drama of the past several months, Peterson got the guaranteed money he sought, another sign of the organization’s widespread appreciation of him.
In a statement distributed by the Vikings, Peterson said he was pleased by the team’s good-faith effort. On Twitter, he posted simply, “Amen,” next to an emoji of a pair of praying hands.
“I appreciate the Vikings for working together on this restructured contract, which provides additional security for me but also allows opportunities for me to further prove my value to the team and within the NFL,” Peterson said in the statement. “It was important for me to continue my career in Minnesota, and I cannot wait to get on the field in front of Vikings fans again.”
Peterson, out of action for all but one game last year because of the child abuse charge he faced involving his young son, came back from his personal conduct policy suspension with $45 million left on his existing contract. None of that money, however, was guaranteed.
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the terms of the contract, Peterson will be guaranteed $20 million for signing the new deal. That’s the $13 million he was previously scheduled to make this season, plus $7 million next year to cover him in case of injury. By next March, he can make another $5 million with a roster bonus. Peterson’s salary cap hit will be a bit lower the next two seasons, but he can earn back more money with performance incentives.
Peterson will be the highest-paid running back in the league.
The revamped contract clearly is designed for him to be in Minnesota’s backfield when US Bank Stadium opens in 2016.
“This agreement is a win for both Adrian and the Vikings and is a positive step toward Adrian finishing his career as a Minnesota Viking,” Spielman said in a statement distributed by the team. “As we have consistently said, Adrian is a valuable part of the Vikings organization and we look forward to his return to the field.”
This will essentially become a two-year deal plus a team option for the third season, when the Vikings would be off the hook if they were to decide he wasn’t productive enough to keep at age 32. According to data on the NFL Players Association’s website, Peterson will have a base salary of $17.75 million in 2017, which would be a raise of $1 million from the previous contract. Factoring in his $250,000 workout bonus, that’s $18 million.
That also is a matter for another day. For now, the Vikings have their franchise player back in the fold after a tumultuous year away, yet another example of money resolving a conflict in this ultra-competitive league.
Peterson, who turned 30 in March, can let himself loose without worrying about getting hurt. He’ll be aiming to help the Vikings improve upon their 7-9 record from last year and rise up the ranks of the NFL’s career rushing leaders along the way.
“I feel like I’m blessed,” Peterson said last month, when asked about his longevity at a demanding position that churns up some of the best. “I feel like just my mindset that I have, my work ethic, as well.”
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