Exit, Adrian Peterson?

Running backs aren’t as valuable in the pass-happy National Football League anymore, even if they’re Hall of Fame worthy.

The Minnesota Vikings may be looking to dump Adrian Peterson, Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman is reporting.

Hard as it is to believe, Peterson is 29 years old already, entering the decrepit years for running backs.

Next season, Peterson will make close to $13 million.

That is simply an impossible salary structure to pay a player in today’s game, where the running back position has been greatly devalued.

“My person opinion,” said one AFC general manager, “is this (coming) season will be Peterson’s last with the Vikings. Despite the cap hit, they’ll make some sort of move to get him off the roster.”

ESPN’s Ben Goessling notes it’s the “cruel reality of the NFL.”

When the Vikings signed Peterson to his $100 million contract extension in 2011, they structured it for precisely the scenario we’re discussing here. What’s striking, though, is how quickly the NFL landscape has shifted away from running backs, to the point where Peterson is the only back in the league with a cap hit of more than $10 million.

He’s still the franchise player, and even with a set of nagging injuries that limited him to 18 carries in the team’s last four games, he finished fifth in the league with 1,266 yards last season. But Peterson’s had three surgeries in the last three years, and even if the Vikings’ offense is still structured around him now, they’re clearly (and rightly) planning for a day where it won’t be.

It’s worth remembering what the Vikings did with cornerback Antoine Winfield in 2012, planning to reduce his number of snaps in the base defense and lean more on young cornerbacks like Chris Cook and Josh Robinson.

That didn’t work, and Winfield wound up having one of his best years while playing 90 percent of the Vikings’ defensive snaps, but the team released Winfield at age 35 last spring instead of restructuring his contract.

A 29- (or 30-) year-old running back isn’t that much more of an outlier than a 35-year-old cornerback, and while Peterson certainly could continue to be one of the NFL’s best running backs for a few more years, he’s playing with a contract that makes him an outlier in the NFL’s salary spectrum, and the league usually deals with such anomalies harshly.