Vikings position outlook: Running backs

MINNEAPOLIS -- We're continuing on with our position-by-position outlook at the Vikings' roster. Today: the running backs.


2014 free agents: Toby Gerhart.

The good: The Vikings still have Adrian Peterson. The 2012 NFL MVP was slowed this season by injuries, most notably by a groin ailment that robbed him of his top speed for much of the year, but still played through ailments that would sideline most running backs. He ran for 1,266 yards, despite carrying just 18 times for 58 yards in the Vikings' final four games. He showed he could be a good cold-weather running back, even with his groin injury, when he carried 32 times for 146 yards in a 26-26 tie on a chilly day in Green Bay in November. That was a good omen for the Vikings as they prepare to move outside for the next two seasons.

The bad: Peterson will be 29 in March, and as he gets to an age when the Vikings might want to reduce his workload, they could also be preparing to lose Gerhart via free agency. Gerhart was impressive in his moments to fill in for Peterson this year, gaining 91 yards on eight carries in Green Bay and running for a for a 41-yard touchdown on Dec. 8 in Baltimore. He's also been a reliable pass blocker when the Vikings have used him in third-down situations. All that makes it possible another team will pay Gerhart and take a look at him in a more prominent role next season. The Vikings might be able to bring Gerhart back if he doesn't find a market, or they could replace him with Matt Asiata, but with Peterson approaching the witching hour for running backs, it would behoove the Vikings to have another option.

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Peterson ($14.4 million), Jerome Felton ($2.33 million), Zach Line ($497,666), Joe Banyard ($495,000). As you'd expect, most of the Vikings' money at the position is wrapped up in Peterson. Felton, who signed a three-year, $7.5 million deal last March, is still an important part of the Vikings' offense as a fullback, but saw his role shrink somewhat in the Vikings' offense and could be fighting to maintain his relevance in 2014.

Draft priority: Low. The Vikings might want to look at another young running back if Gerhart departs in free agency, but if they're able to get by with the backups they have on their roster, they might not address the position. Peterson still runs the show here.