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How many of Adrian Peterson’s incentives will he actually hit?

Sep 11, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) rushes against the Tennessee Titans during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

You have heard of “incentive-laden” contracts. Well Adrian Peterson’s agreement with the New Orleans Saints defines the term.

ESPN’s Ben Goessling reports the former Minnesota Vikings running back can earn up to $15.25 million if he hits all the marks in his deal. But what are the chances he actually reaches those goals? Well, let’s have a look…

Roster bonuses

Goessling writes:

“He has a weekly roster bonus that can be worth as much as $1.25 million in 2017, depending on how many games Peterson is on the active roster. 

Odds: A full slate of games would be surprising

After appearing in just three games in 2016, the biggest question surrounding Peterson is whether his body will hold up. At 32 years old, he has already bucked the age curve by about four years, so playing 16 games seems like a long shot, even if he’s playing in a reduced role.


Peterson’s marks are staggered, meaning he’ll get a bonus for hitting different yard goals. Here’s how it’s spread out:

750 yards = $150,000

1,000 yards = $250,000

1,250 yards = $750,000

1,500 yards = $1 million

Odds: Nothing above 1,000 is reasonable 

The surprising thing about Peterson signing in New Orleans is that they already have a terrific running back in Mark Ingram. He averaged 5.1 Yards Per Carry last season and caught 46 passes out of the backfield. They also drafted Tennessee’s athletically-gifted running back Alvin Kamara, who projects as a versatile player. That could leave Peterson with a very specified role as a grinder. New Orleans still has an unreliable defense and needs to improve a clock killing when they get up in games. Peterson may act as their closer. Going over 750 yards is realistic if he’s relatively healthy, but anything more than 1,000 yards is a stretch.


Peterson gets a raise by punching the ball in the end zone, too.

6 TDs = $250,000

8 TDs = $500,000

10 TDs = $750,000

Odds: Six is a good bet

When the Saints signed Peterson, they probably envisioned the 6-foot-1, 230-pound future Hall of Famer plowing through bodies into the end zone. With an offense that has an explosive passing game, New Orleans is a lock to put up points and get themselves in the red zone often. Six seems like a lock barring catastrophic injury and it would not be shocking if Peterson cleared 10 touchdowns.

Team performance

If Peterson gains 750 yards and plays in the wild-card or divisional game, he gets $250,000. If he gains over 750 and the Saints reach the conference title game, he receives $500,000. Over 750 yards and a Super Bowl win nets Peterson $1 million. And what a story that would be with the Super Bowl being held in Minnesota.

Odds: Playoffs are possible

So long as the Saints have Drew Brees under center, the Super Bowl doesn’t seem like a crazy notion. But the NFC South is a nightmare. Carolina is likely to bounce back, the Falcons should still be strong and Tampa Bay is expected to improve. It will be a tough road to the postseason for the Saints.


Goessling wrote:

“If he hits any of his incentives in 2017, his weekly roster bonuses in 2018 will go up by the same amount as his 2017 incentives. For example, if Peterson earns $750,000 in incentives this season, he’d be able to get up to $2 million in roster bonuses in 2018.”

Odds: Extreme long shot

Running backs rarely end on a good note. If Peterson has a strong 2017, he will certainly believe he can play another season (in fact, Peterson said he expects to play until he’s 40).  But it would be truly amazing if he were to continue being valuable through 2018.


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