Adrian Peterson might return just in time for Vikings to let him go

Adrian Peterson (Getty Images)

There are only a few weeks left in the 2016 NFL regular season, which means it’s time to start looking to 2017.

The NFL estimates the salary cap in 2017 will be between $166 million and $170 million, but despite that big number, there still will be a bunch of teams that might struggle with the cap.

Using a $168 million salary cap limit, we look at the teams that project to have less than $21 million in cap space before they start cutting players and/or restructuring contracts to prepare for free agency.

Here are those teams and how much cap space they project to have.

Vikings: $21 million

Minnesota likely will have to make the difficult decision to walk away from running back Adrian Peterson, which would free up $18 million in cap room and bring the Vikings closer to the league average. They also will need to make a decision based on the health of Teddy Bridgewater and decide whether they want to keep Sam Bradford at $17 million or free up another $13 million-plus in cap space.

The Vikings need as much room as they can in order to fix their offensive line. Minnesota already showed it was willing to give up the farm to compete in 2016, so it will find ways to maximize roster potential in 2017 and probably make good use out of whatever cap room it winds up with in March.

FANTASY: When will Peterson play again?

Chargers: $20.8 million

The Chargers will look to re-up pass rusher Melvin Ingram, who likely will cost upwards of $10 million to keep. Luckily for San Diego, he is their only big-name free agent.

The Chargers can slice and dice the roster a bit to create a few more million in cap room, but there doesn’t seem to be a path for the Chargers to be big spenders in 2017. They were probably one of the unluckiest and underperforming teams of 2016 and mainly will hope their fortunes change in 2017 with basically the same group, plus another $4 million in rookie contracts.

Falcons: $20.4 million

The Falcons got great mileage out of their roster in 2016 and were able to get their biggest immediate contract extensions out of the way. They can create a few more dollars by releasing players such as Tyson Jackson, but likely not enough to compete for any big-name talent.

It would make more sense for the Falcons to use their room to extend Desmond Trufant and…