The Minnesota Vikings said Tuesday they will not exercise its $18 million option on Peterson's contract, which makes him an unrestricted free agent on March 9 and opens the door to him signing elsewhere.
The team said it would continue discussions with Peterson's agents. But it could mean the end of an era for the Vikings' longtime Pro Bowl and NFL MVP running back.
"Adrian is an important part of the Minnesota Vikings organization," Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said in a statement announcing the team wouldn't pick up the contract option. "We will continue to have conversations with his representatives and leave our future options open while determining what is best for both parties moving forward."
Peterson, a Vikings top draft pick who's played 10 seasons with the team, was a team and NFL star for years. In recent years, however, he's been beset by injuries and controversy. He was suspended without pay for part of the 2014-15 NFL season over ongoing concerns about domestic abuse related to the physical discipline he administered to one of his children.
The league reinstated him on the condition he fulfill his remaining legal obligations as well as commitments made to the NFL to an ongoing program of counseling and treatment. He did that and was welcomed back by the team.
The question now, though, was whether it was worth $18 million to pick up Peterson's option given that he'll soon turn 32 years old and that NFL teams in recent years have shifted away from running backs as the center of the offense. The team answered that on Tuesday.
The Vikings could try to resign Peterson at a lower cost, or Peterson may test his value with other teams.