Now, I know what you’re thinking. The Vikings went out and added Peterson’s replacement a few weeks ago in Latavius Murray, so why would they need to add a 32-year-old Peterson? To answer that question first requires an understanding of the types of running backs employed by NFL teams these days, purplePTSD.com Senior Writer Luke Braun wrote a great piece about this last week that will serve as the main logic behind this post so I definitely recommend that you click HERE to read that first. Assuming you did that, we can now carry on to my theory regarding Peterson’s return to the Vikings. If you’re lazy, like me, I’ll just share Luke’s findings from 2015 (Peterson’s last full season)…
Now, a breakdown of Murray’s role in Oakland’s 2016 offense:
As Luke’s piece points out, the Vikings still need a “Thumper” back, as they have a better version of Asiata in Murray and a version of Jerick McKinnon in… Jerick McKinnon. So, that leaves the draft or Peterson himself to fill that role. Now, as was widely reported over the weekend, Peterson was in Foxborough yesterday for a tire kicking (On both sides) meeting with the reigning champion New England Patriots. While there was reportedly no offer made by the Pats, essentially the way I read it was that the Pats may show some interest should Peterson’s asking price lower to bargain basement levels and should Lagarrette Blount somehow end up on another team. That very well could happen as Peterson realizes that he doesn’t really have many landing spots left, especially as the draft creeps up. However, I do believe that the Vikings would end up offering more money to Peterson than the Patriots will, so it boils down to whether Peterson values money or a great chance at a championship more. Not to say that he couldn’t win a ‘Ship in Minnesota this season and be a big part of it.
The question then becomes, why would the Vikings want Peterson back? He’s old! Sure, he is (By running back standards), but Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis explained it best over the weekend on NFL Network, saying that you really shouldn’t look at a running back by their age, especially in the day and age of training and nutrition that we live in. Instead, look at a running back by the amount of carries they’ve had across their career, once they reach around 3,000 carries, Bettis posits, they begin to breakdown. Peterson only has 2,418 career carries thanks to his child abuse suspension and two injury shortened seasons, which means he’s really got the body of a 28-29 year old BEFORE you take into account the fact that he seems to heal faster than other players (Supposedly). So, the Vikings do have the need for a Peterson level back and Peterson may still have two to three more good to great seasons left, which makes his return a lot more intriguing than I think some people realize.
Now Murray would definitely command more touches than Asiata did (When Peterson was healthy) which would allow Peterson to lower his touches from the 20-25 that he’s become accustomed to to the 10-20 range that would make more sense for a 32 year old back. It would also help the Vikings offense deal with some of the short-comings they’ve had when Peterson is in the backfield, while keeping defenses on their toes and opening up the passing game. Also, as things stand right now, the Vikings offense is in drastic need of playmakers, especially with Cordarrelle Patterson leaving for the soon to be Las Vegas Raiders, so bringing back Peterson would provide that play-making ability and instantly make the receiving corps look a lot more dangerous than they do right now. Not to say that I’m not a huge fan of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, I just believe that they’re not down the field threats.
Considering the deals that the Vikings also got in free agency, by not overspending, they have the cap space to re-sign Peterson as well. So, when Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said that they’d like to have Peterson back after it was announced that they didn’t pick up his $18 million dollar option, perhaps he really did mean it. Either way it’d allow the Vikings to still draft Peterson’s replacement at the end of the month, but the fact that they wouldn’t necessarily have to this season would open up the possibilities for moves in the draft, something that it seems the Vikings have been attempting to do more and more over the past week or so (By adding players in the Veteran Combine, free agency, etc.).
I, for one, would love to have Peterson back this season if the price was right, perhaps just to see what he and Bradford could do together. I believe that this season will be the make or break year for Vikes management (Spielman, especially), as the stars are aligning for the team to make a run at the first championship in my life time. Namely due to the lack of competition in the NFC or really, the league as a whole (At least compared to other seasons). So, bringing back Peterson would help the offense and allow the Vikings to focus on other areas in the draft (Perhaps another wide receiver?) and could also bolster the defense as well (By controlling the time of possession, field position). As day after day goes by without Peterson signing with another team, it’s becoming more and more of a possibility that he’ll end up back in purple and gold and I think, if done correctly, it could be a huge boon for this Vikings team.