ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported late Thursday night that Peterson will be put on injured reserve because of the neck injury that has kept him sidelined since Week 12, when he hurt it against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Peterson has not practiced or played since.
At age 32 and having been injured in each of the past two seasons, Peterson’s future will become closely scrutinized, and hotly debated.
Here are three possible outcomes for Peterson’s short-term outlook:
Retirement: Should Peterson decide to hang up his cleats, the countdown clock for his gold-jacket fitting will begin ticking instantly. He has turned in a Hall of Fame résumé, despite missing most of the 2014 season for a child-abuse scandal and having seven injuries that have cost him valuable on-field time since he was drafted in 2007. He missed 11 games in 2016 with the Minnesota Vikings because of a knee injury and will miss the final five games of 2017 with the neck injury. A tumultuous season in which he started with the New Orleans Saints, playing four games, and finished with six games for Arizona resulted in the fewest yards — 529 — of his career in which he has played at least 10 games.
Returns in 2018: If he can fully recover from the neck injury, Peterson will still have one year left on his contract with the Cardinals, if they decide to keep him. Peterson is due a $750,000 roster bonus on the third day of the league year, which is March 16, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He’ll also earn another roster bonus of $78,125 per game that he’s on the 53-man roster and an additional $25,000 for every game he’s active. The maximum value of the additional roster bonuses is $1.65 million. Should Peterson return to the Cardinals next season, he’ll be paired with David Johnson, who’s coming off a fractured wrist that kept him out of the final 15 games this season, in either a backup or complementary role. It’s difficult to believe Peterson will leapfrog Johnson on the depth chart in any role, but the idea of having Johnson and Peterson sharing a backfield might be intriguing enough for the Cardinals to keep the aging veteran around.
Traded around the draft: While Peterson’s value after four healthy games with the Saints in October equaled a conditional sixth-round pick, his value has likely either stayed the same, dropped to a seventh-round pick … or he isn’t tradable after a rocky six games with the Cardinals. However, the flashes he showed with games of 134 and 159 rushing yards could be enough for Arizona to package Peterson in a possible trade around the draft, with picks that could help the Cardinals move up to select the quarterback they need for 2018 and beyond.