Making a case for Adrian Peterson's return to Vikings

Adrian Peterson is under contract with the Minnesota Vikings for three more seasons. Yet nearly everything written about him this offseason has treated him like a free agent, available to the highest bidder.

With one full week of free agency over, depth charts are filling up and salary cap space is being used. The Vikings have made it clear they want Peterson back, and it's possible they are running out the clock on him. Peterson appears more likely to stay with the team with each passing day. Here's why:

Release is not an option: From ownership on down, the Vikings have said they want Peterson back. General manager Rick Spielman said in February that he "expects" Peterson to be part of the team, and that was with the full realization that his running back is due $12.75 million this season.

The Wilfs have paid Peterson a lot of money over the years, including last season. Getting rid of Peterson at this stage without getting anything in return is the type of transaction that gets a general manager fired. The "football" people in Minnesota all want Peterson back because he's the best player at his position until proven otherwise.

(Update: Peterson's agent Ben Dogra was informed by Vikings brass on Wednesday that they will not cut his client, Dogra told NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.)

Most money in Minnesota: The Arizona Cardinals are interested in Peterson, but his contract is reportedly a problem for them. The Dallas Cowboys make sense as a potential destination, but they have salary cap issues of their own.

The Vikings have shown a willingness to pay Peterson well above any running back in the league. Is another team out there ready to do that? Peterson's agent surely has gauged his client's value behind the scenes, and would push to go elsewhere if the money was better. Peterson would likely have to take less money to leave town.

Limited suitors: Adrian Peterson's father mentioned the Cowboys, Colts and Cardinals as teams he heard "rumors" about back in February. Indianapolis has since signed Frank Gore. Arizona and Dallas have salary concerns.

The Buccaneers and Jaguars also make sense as potential suitors, but would Peterson want to join a rebuilding team?

When projecting Peterson's future, consider what teams would have to give up to get him: A high draft pick and a big contract. That is a heavy price tag at a time of year when everyone (over)values draft picks.

Willingness to talk: Peterson and the Vikings continue to have a dialogue. That alone is a great sign that the two sides can come to an agreement, even if Peterson has expressed misgivings about returning to the team. The running back welcomed coach Mike Zimmer and Spielman into his home for a long sitdown.

The Vikings have an intriguing young franchise quarterback and move into a new stadium in 2016. They have had one winning season since 2009 and would love to hit their new stadium as a winner in order to sell tickets. It wouldn't hurt to have their franchise legend aboard for the ride.

Most likely outcome

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported in February that the running back feels he lost around $10 million between endorsements and salary last season. If Minnesota guaranteed some of his 2016 salary, that would go a long way toward mending the relationship. And that's the most likely outcome here: A restructured contract in Minnesota that gives Peterson more security. The Vikings don't want this situation to drag out all offseason, and would love to get Peterson back on the field before workouts.

Peterson's father has said publicly that his son has not requested a trade. There have been no reports of the Vikings shopping Peterson because they want him on the roster.

Back in September, we never would have guessed that Peterson could have enough leverage to get more money out of the Vikings for a possible return to Minnesota. But the Vikings want him back, and they want to win in 2015. They know that keeping Peterson gives them the best shot to do so.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast is joined by Lindsay Rhodes and analyzes every free-agent move. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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