Earlier this offseason, Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson said he was "in the driver's seat" as he approached the final year of his rookie contract. He was due to make at least $10.72 million in 2011 and had a premium foundation from which to base contract negotiations.
You can now add another weapon to Peterson's negotiating sheath. As you've probably heard by now, the Tennessee Titans agreed to terms with tailback Chris Johnson on a four-year contract extension worth $53.5 million, including a precedent-smashing $30 million guaranteed. The four years will be added to Johnson's existing deal, leaving him under contract through 2016.
Other than having one additional year's worth of wear and tear, Peterson lines up pretty squarely with Johnson in terms of market value. So for the first time, we in the public have a decent idea of what it will take for the Vikings to lock up Peterson.
There have been no reports of intense negotiations between the sides. We discussed through the relative lack of urgency during training camp and wondered if the Vikings wouldn't play out the season and then place a (decidedly cheaper) franchise tag on Peterson this winter. Franchise tags don't usually go over well with players, but the Vikings have to at least consider the well-discussed pitfalls of premium second contracts for running backs.
Some of you might wonder if Johnson's deal will impact negotiations between the Chicago Bears and Matt Forte. Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com has reported the Bears are offering a guarantee of less than half what Johnson received Thursday. Ultimately, I think the Johnson deal will go down as a premium contract for a special player, but there is no denying the ceiling has been raised for all of those on the running back market. Stay tuned.