Why Would the Cowboys Want Adrian Peterson?

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Why Would the Cowboys Want Adrian Peterson?
Brandon Wade/Associated Press

The segment of an ESPN the Magazine feature story on Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones that has recently sparked controversy because it indicates tampering was committed during a phone conversation between Jones and All-Planet Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson ends like this:

Jones returns the phone to its owner, who turns out to be a Morgan Stanley money manager who is a friend of Peterson's. Jones' conversation with the league's marquee running back occurs about a month after Jones decided to pass on Johnny Football.

Adrian Peterson would make one helluva consolation prize.

But would he? The author, Don Van Natta Jr., might be assuming in that inference that Peterson has some sort of chance of winding up in Dallas in the immediate future. But that's not realistic, considering that the Vikings control his destiny and that Peterson is their pride and joy, their MVP, their rock. The odds of him being dealt anywhere by the Oct. 28 trade deadline are extremely slim, if existent. 

And besides, the Cowboys can't afford him. Maybe he'd take a pay cut, but as of right now Peterson is slated to count $14.4 million against the cap in 2014, according to Spotrac. Dallas has just $9.6 million in salary-cap space, per Over the Cap.

Peterson is also 29 years old, which is geriatric in running back terms. As ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert points out, he's already two years beyond the point at which players at that position begin to decline. Seifert concludes that Jones would simply be "overpay[ing] an aging running back for entertainment value."

That's not healthy. 

Let's say they have to wait a year before having a chance to bring Peterson in. Maybe he's cut by the Vikings after the 2014 season. Still, why? You don't sign 30-year-old running backs in this league, period. And with Minnesota projected to have a healthy amount of cap space entering 2015, it's fair to assume that the team would only cut ties with Peterson if he were to keep declining in 2014. 

No reason to go there. No reason to mess with a good thing. 

Peterson is coming off another strong season, but in 2013 11 qualifying backs averaged more yards per carry and eight had more total yards from scrimmage. Both of those lists include current Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, who is three years younger and, right now, about $13 million cheaper than Peterson.

Adrian Peterson vs. DeMarco Murray, 2013
Peterson Murray
Age 28 25
Yards/attempt 4.5 5.2
Total yards 1437 1471
Touchdowns 11 10
20+ yards 8 8

Pro Football Reference

Despite continuing to underutilize their backs, the Cowboys averaged a stellar 4.5 yards per rushing attempt last season, which ranked tied for seventh in the NFL. Murray's 5.2 average was better than every back in the league with at least 200 carries. 

Then there's Lance Dunbar, who is even younger, and thus fresher. The 24-year-old is coming off a sophomore season in which he averaged an impressive 5.0 yards per carry (albeit on a tiny sample size of 30 attempts). Before suffering a season-ending knee injury last November, Dunbar was tearing it up with 102 yards on 15 carries over a two-game stretch, twice busting free for 18-plus yards. 

Is an over-the-hill Peterson really a better option than those guys, especially when you consider his price tag? This team has a bill coming due for stud wide receiver Dez Bryant, and Romo's 2015 cap hit is projected by Spotrac to be a league-high $27.8 million. 

I can understand why Jones would be tempted to bring a future Hall of Famer home to Texas, but doing so at this point in time would be a foolish venture. 

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