The ESPN.com headline blared loud and clear on Thursday — "Adrian Peterson: I'd play for Cowboys." Sorting through the story and Peterson's future in Minnesota came in many steps after that, and it went a little something like this:
1) Wondering if it was true: The story was based around a June phone conversation between Peterson and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in which we only hear what Jones is saying. The implication based on Jones' words is that Peterson is saying he wants to play for Dallas when his time with the Vikings is over. But does he really? Sure, he's a Texas native who grew up a Cowboys fan, but …
2) Hearing Peterson's side of things: The Vikings released a statement on Peterson's behalf. It read: "This was a casual conversation between NFL colleagues in which I never indicated I wanted to leave the Vikings. I have always said I understand the NFL is a business but that I would love to retire as a Viking." Interesting phrasing. A clarification, we suppose, but not a denial.
3) Thinking about a possible trade: If Peterson is interested in playing for Dallas … and the feeling is mutual … and his contract is structured in a way that it would make sense for the Vikings to cut ties after 2014 … then what about a blockbuster trade with the Cowboys? Why, it could be a reverse-Herschel Walker! Yes, it's perfect! Twenty-five years after that fateful Oct. 12, 1989, deal, the Vikings could give Dallas a taste of its own medicine.
4) Except that in the modern NFL, that would never happen: Minnesota gave the Cowboys a boatload of players and draft picks thinking one running back was the missing piece in a Super Bowl run. That, of course, wasn't true. And 25 years later, it's not even close to true. Draft picks are gold, and running backs are a dime a dozen. Even one of the greatest running backs of all time, which Peterson certainly is, would only fetch a small fraction of what Walker did in a trade.
5) Wondering if, regardless, 2014 is Peterson's final year with the Vikings: This has been hinted at for months by NFL insiders. That Peterson was even reportedly reaching out to Jones to talk about playing in Dallas someday could be an indicator that he knows he might not be with the Vikings long-term. If the choice is between dealing away one of the best players in team history for a modest return or keeping him potentially past his prime at a high salary, it's not going to be a fun one for the Vikings to make.