We’re about three weeks into free agency, and yet Adrian Peterson hasn’t garnered so much as a whiff from any NFL team.
It’s hard to believe we’re talking about the same guy who rushed for 2,000 just a few years ago. A couple of years ago he would have been the most sought-after superstar on the market, but now…crickets.
Peterson is certainly the biggest name left on the market. But does he have anything left in the tank?
John: Adrian Peterson is one of the best running backs I’ve ever watched play, and he’ll surely have a spot in Canton someday. So, as a Vikings fan, I felt lucky to be able to watch his unique combination of speed and power every Sunday.
But every star eventually fades, and the question now is whether AP has enough tread on the tires for a late-career encore with a different team. Honestly, it’s really hard to say at this point. After all, we’ve only seen him play 20 games in the last 3 years. And when we last watched him play, early in the 2016 season (disregard those few December carries), he was running behind one of the sorriest excuses for an offensive line I’ve ever seen.
Still, it’s hard to get excited about Adrian Peterson when he hasn’t really looked like Adrian Peterson since mid-2015. I certainly wouldn’t put it past him to rebound with another strong year or two in the right system, but I wouldn’t bet on it either (especially if the price is $8 million as some reports have indicated).
Perhaps the biggest issue for AP, however, is that the game has seemingly passed him by. In today’s NLF he’s a dinosaur—a mere relic of years past. Not many teams are looking for two-down, workhorse backs. Even Minnesota, where he was the face of the franchise for the better part of a decade, chose to move on. And let’s be real here — they chose Latavius Murray over him. That can’t be a good sign.
Andy: I *think* Adrian Peterson will get a job for the 2017 season. He’s been too good for too long to just completely fall off the map. But I don’t feel as confident saying that now as I did a month ago.
We’ve heard reports that his asking price is too high, that he wants too much of a guaranteed role, etc. I’m going to guess those aren’t the biggest problem he’s facing.
I think he’s got a couple things working against him. In addition to his age, he’s got the domestic issue related to his son from a couple years ago. While he served his penalty, look at Ray Rice. He was also an aging back – who performed poorly the last couple years he did play – and he never got another shot. Peterson’s injuries have started mounting. His performance issue, he could argue, was a figment of the bad line he was running behind. I believe that’s at least part of the issue.
The second thing is the draft. A.P. plays a position where teams are going young and cheap – and he happens to be hitting free agency during a year in which the count of draftable and playable RBs stretches well into at least the teens. And if you are going to take on a potential PR headache at RB this season, would you rather spend on an aging, potentially expensive, potentially injury prone Adrian Peterson? Or would you rather take on a Joe Mixon, who has the same kind of running skills, better blocking and receiving skills and a lower risk payroll number? Not to mention that there are plenty of prospects just below Mixon’s talent level with a much lower collection of red flags.
Peterson will land somewhere, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he is still looking for a job until after the draft plays out.
John: Yeah, I think the draft is going to be a huge factor for Peterson. This is the deepest class in years, and some teams would rather leave that door open than rush to sign an aging two-down back. Then, if they whiff on the early-round studs — Leonard Fournette, Joe Mixon, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey–maybe they’ll double back to AP.
There are still plenty of NFL teams without a lead RB, and several of them could be solid options for AP. The Raiders would make a lot of sense if they don’t land Marshawn Lynch, and I could definitely see him landing in Tampa. The Bucs have some solid, young pieces with Jameis Winston and Mike Evans, but Doug Martin’s status is uncertain. And with Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers on the roster, they don’t really need a three-down back.
The Packers could use a big back to pair with Ty Montgomery following the departure of Eddie Lacy, and the Lions could bring in a veteran power back to run behind their strong O-line. Either of those situations would give AP two shots a year at revenge against the Vikings in the NFC North.
And I wouldn’t write off the Patriots just yet. Yeah, I know they already signed Rex Burkhead (who I like quite a bit), but he’s probably a bit closer to Dion Lewis and James White than LaGarrette Blount. AP could fill that clock-killing role, and perhaps he’d even take a discount for the shot to win a ring alongside Tom Brady.
Andy: Yeah, if this guy can swallow his ego a bit, that Patriots match is the one I like. They’re reportedly meeting Monday. New England already has guys who can handle the third-down role. They have enough other weapons where he’s not going to be keyed on every play. The offensive line may not win awards or get enshrined as a group in Canton, but it’s far better than the unit that he ran behind in Minnesota the last couple years.
If Peterson is smart, he keeps his mouth shut, let’s his agent get on the phone with the Pats and helps that team eke out a couple more Super Bowl rings before Brady and Belichick ride off into the sunset together.