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Felton undecided about returning to Vikings after season

When the Minnesota Vikings came to fullback Jerome Felton last March about taking a $500,000 pay cut, he agreed. But Felton also received something out of the deal.

When the Minnesota Vikings came to fullback Jerome Felton last March about taking a $500,000 pay cut, he agreed. But Felton also received something out of the deal.
Felton, whose salary was reduced from $1.95 million to
$1.45 million, received the right to opt out of the $2.45 million left on his contract for 2015. It’s an option he said he might end up taking.
Felton is ranked by Pro Football Focus as the NFL’s second-best fullback, but that hasn’t translated into much playing time under first-year coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Felton has been in for just 122 of Minnesota’s 743 snaps, including a meager five in last Sunday’s 24-21 loss to Green Bay at TCF Bank Stadium.
Felton is not issuing any ultimatums, but he said his lack of playing time could end up playing a role in a decision to opt out. He is averaging less than half the snaps per game he did last season.
“Of course, that will be a factor,” Felton said. “But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time this year because I like our coaching staff and I really think this team is heading in the right direction. All of that is going to be in play.”
It remains be seen, though, if the Vikings even will want to bring Felton back next season. They came to him about the pay cut and now have an offense that doesn’t utilize a fullback much.
When Felton agreed to restructure, he also received the chance to earn back the $500,000 if he made the Pro Bowl for the second time in three years.
That looked like a good proposition for Felton.
“I do think I’m the best fullback in the NFL,” he said.
However, Minnesota being just 4-7 and Felton’s lack of snaps could hurt him in earning a trip to Arizona for the Jan. 25 game.
“I’m not thrilled by it by any means,” Felton said of his decreased playing time. “I know I’ve been playing at a really high level. But that’s a coaches’ decision and all I can do is play to the best of my ability and put it on film when I get an opportunity. ... Honestly, I think I’m playing better this year than I was in my Pro Bowl year.”
When Felton made the Pro Bowl, it was primarily for his role in helping block for Adrian Peterson on his way to a 2,097-yard rushing season in 2012. But Peterson has been suspended for the rest of the season because of a child-abuse incident, and will miss the final 15 games.
Felton, 28, said Peterson being out “could be one of the reasons” for his decreased playing time. Zimmer was asked about Felton’s inactivity, including being in for just five snaps against the Packers.
“Some of the personnel groupings that we get into, some of them are dictated by what the defense is doing and what we feel like are good plays at that time,” Zimmer said. “It’s really no indication of Jerome and what he’s done. Defensively, there were some guys I wanted to get in the (Sunday’s) game that I didn’t get in, just because of the way the game is going, things are happening. It’s just a week-to-week proposition, maybe he will get 28 (snaps) next week, who knows?”
Felton has averaged 11.1 snaps this season and hasn’t taken more than 18 in any game. That’s in stark contrast to 2012, when he averaged 25.1 plays per game, and 2013, when he averaged 23.4.
It remains be seen what Felton could earn if he becomes a free agent. There are only two NFL fullbacks making more this season in Oakland’s Marcel Reece ($2.95 million) and Carolina’s Mike Tolbert ($2.3 million). However, Reece is ranked by Pro Football Focus as just 17th among fullbacks and Tolbert is just 19th.

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