The Vikings made an "as expected" move Tuesday in announcing they weren't picking up Adrian Peterson's $18 million option for 2017. Even if it was just procedural, though, and the Vikings still can sign Peterson after he hits free agency, the transaction inches us closer to the definite possibility that Peterson has played his final game in purple.
Officially, the end isn't here yet. But Tuesday's news has me thinking more about Peterson's legacy as a Viking.
In some senses, the legacy is complicated. His 2014 off-field issues and his penchant for untimely fumbles cannot be forgiven by some Vikings fans. In other senses, it is not complicated. Peterson was one of the most gifted pure running backs in NFL history and had massive success at his position since being drafted No. 7 overall in 2007.
But where does he fit in among the Vikings' all-time greats?
If we can treat this as a purely football question, it becomes easier to answer. I don't know if that's the right approach — and I think if Peterson had left Minnesota after seven seasons following 2013, we would think differently about him. But fair or not, that's how I want to tackle this question — in football terms only.
From there, we have to look at former Vikings players who spent a good chunk of Hall of Fame careers in purple. That's the group Peterson — a future Hall of Famer — belongs in. These 11 players are on that list: Alan Page, Carl Eller, Cris Carter, Gary Zimmerman, John Randle, Paul Krause, Randall McDaniel, Ron Yary, Chris Doleman, Fran Tarkenton and Mick Tingelhoff
Randy Moss also has to be part of that conversation since he will be in the Hall someday, too (perhaps as soon as next year). I'd listen if you also wanted to put Jared Allen in the mix, but I'm not going to.
From there, it becomes difficult — particularly since so many of the players on this list were before my time. Was Peterson better than, say, Paul Krause — a defensive back who played 40 years before Peterson? I don't know.
I would say this: Peterson belongs ahead of Chris Doleman, Cris Carter and John Randle on the list of all-time Vikings greats. That puts him into top-10 territory.
The most apt comparison is between Peterson and Moss — two game-changing, once-in-a-generation athletes.
Moss never won an MVP award; Peterson did, in 2012, when he had one of the greatest individual seasons in NFL history. But Moss did redefine his position. We have seen running backs like Peterson before, as great as he is. We had never seen anything like Moss.
Both had NFC title games that will haunt them (Moss in 1998 and 2000, Peterson in 2009). Moss played for better teams with better quarterbacks and was a part of four playoff victories with the Vikings. Peterson's prime was largely wasted as the Vikings searched for a long-term quarterback. But he was a part of just one playoff victory; the thing we remember more about his postseason games (2009 vs. New Orleans and 2015 vs. Seattle) was the fumbling.
Both are in the top 10, easily — within this franchise and within their NFL positions all-time.
In terms of the better all-time Viking? I'd put Moss over Peterson.