The day after the season ended for the Cardinals, Patrick Peterson insisted even while he headed toward free agency without much in negotiations with the team, his return was possible.
"I feel good there's a chance," Peterson said.
The chance disappeared Wednesday night, when news leaked the eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback would be playing for the Minnesota Vikings in 2021 on a one-year deal worth a reported $10 million.
Once Peterson reached free agency, the odds of him returning dropped and it seemed even more unlikely once the Cards spent on wide receiver A.J. Green and center Rodney Hudson Wednesday. Peterson's price was always a potential hurdle, and now, the Cardinals need to build out a cornerback corps that has only Byron Murphy and Robert Alford -- who last played a regular-season game in 2018 -- as experience on the roster.
There are still plenty of veteran cornerbacks still on the free agent market, however, and the Cards also figure to address the position in the draft.
Peterson will have a chance to return to State Farm Stadium in 2021, because the Vikings visit the Cardinals (the schedule is usually released in April.)
Peterson wasn't the only player who left the Cards Wednesday. Linebacker Haason Reddick is headed to play for his former college coach, Matt Rhule, in Carolina with the Panthers. Like Peterson, Reddick had hoped to find a lucrative multi-year contract but in this COVID-crunched cap offseason, Reddick also went with a one-year contract (worth a reported $6 million up to $8M with incentives.)
Reddick too will play at State Farm Stadium in 2021 when the Panthers visit.
Peterson, by his own admission, did not have his best season in 2020. He had also struggled for parts of 2019 in the 10 games he played, after missing the first six games of the year after a suspension for violating the rules for performance enhancing drugs. But there is no arguing he was one of the best defensive backs in franchise history -- no small feat for an organization that has featured Hall of Famers Dick "Night Train" Lane, Roger Wehrli, Larry Wilson and Aeneas Williams.
Peterson was the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft, and immediately made an impact. He had four punt returns for touchdowns as a rookie, tying the NFL record (and twice had near-TD returns in the closing weeks). He was named to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro as a return man. His second year, he made the Pro Bowl for the first time as a cornerback, and he reached the Pro Bowl every one of his first eight seasons.
Peterson was also named All-Pro as a cornerback two times, in 2013 and 2015.
After his second season in 2012, when Peterson had a career-best seven interceptions and five fumble recoveries, teams started throwing away from him, keeping his interception totals lower. He has 28 picks in his career, and started all 154 games in which he played, never missing a game with injury.
After the season, Peterson said on the "All Things Covered" podcast he shares with cousin and former NFL cornerback Bryant McFadden that he still wants to play six more seasons. He is confident he can reach the Hall of Fame one day.
But, Peterson said then, "I feel like I have a lot left out there that I need to take care of."