With his contract expiring this upcoming offseason, eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson isn’t counting his days in the NFL just yet.
However, his future with the Minnesota Vikings appears unclear.
The Vikings are teetering on the verge of a rebuild. Many of the franchise’s central figures’ job security is in question amid a turbulent season. And with many of the team’s veteran defenders on single-year contracts, the defense could again see a mass exodus after five starters left in the 2020 offseason.
In a press conference following Minnesota’s dramatic 36-28 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football, Peterson addressed his future in the NFL and shared his childhood dream of playing elsewhere in the NFC — a comment that some fans took as a longing to leave Minnesota.
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Dreams of Dallas Still on the Table, Peterson Says
Speaking to local media on Friday, Peterson was asked how he’s adapted to changes in his career after a decade with the Arizona Cardinals.
Peterson, 31, shared that while his chapter with the Cardinals had ended, he’s living his childhood dream — to be an NFL player. Peterson added details that he grew up wanting to play for the Dallas Cowboys, which he hasn’t counted out yet in his career.
“Growing up, I always saw myself being an NFL football player. My dreams were to be a Cowboy, but at the end of the day, that didn’t happen — still got time on the table because I still got some tread still left on the tires,” Peterson said. “But I love the game, no matter who I’m playing for, and I’m going to bring that same intensity no matter the organization.”
Many fans took Peterson’s comments to heart as a lack of interest in remaining with the Vikings.
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So basically saying he’s gone after this season?
— Daniel Martinez (@BIG_dannn) December 10, 2021
Active players talking about other teams they want to be on. Definitely the sign of a healthy franchise.
— JD (@Mori0174) December 10, 2021
Lol, sounds like he’s hoping Dallas calls
— Eric Hughes (@eric_hughes9) December 10, 2021
Vikings-Peterson Honeymoon Over
A complete rehaul of the Vikings cornerbacks group in the 2021 offseason offered promise and hope that the defense would improve after an abysmal 2020 season.
Peterson was the flashiest signing when the free-agency window opened. He spoke glowingly of joining the organization, saying playing under a cornerbacks guru like Zimmer was his biggest reason for signing.
“Looking at a couple teams [this offseason], I thought Coach Zim himself stood out to me. His reputation speaks for itself. The things he does with not only the defense but with defensive backs… Deion Sanders, Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Johnathon Joseph the list goes on, and he’s able to further got those guys’ careers,” Peterson said. “Those guys played 13-14 plus years. Coach Zim has something that he’s given those guys to help repave their career for new heights.”
“The coaching around here, the atmosphere around here, it was everything for me. It checked all the boxes,” Peterson added.” “This team has nothing but a winning pedigree. And this is the organization I want to be around… I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Many veterans followed suit with new starters signed this offseason. The Vikings were slated as TheAthletic’s top-ranked defensive unit approaching the 2021 season.
However, the honeymoon appears to be over, with the glow of the Vikings’ potential this season losing its luster due to its struggling defense.
The starting cornerbacks group has especially struggled this season with no starter inside Pro Football Focus’ top 60 cornerbacks. Peterson ranks the highest at No. 68, followed by Bashaud Breeland, ranked 114th, and Mackensie Alexander at 117th of 118-graded cornerbacks this season.
A playoff appearance could be the saving grace for the franchise to remain standing as is. That will likely require Minnesota winning at least three of their next four games — a feat Peterson believes the Vikings can still accomplish after his defense came up with a stop on the final play against the Steelers.
“We’re going to continue to build off things. We have four games left. We feel like we can play with the best of them. Just a couple mistakes that cost us those games,” Peterson said of the team’s past blunders. “Four games left in the season. It’s not too late to learn from those mistakes.”