The plot thickens…
I wrote an article about two weeks ago stating that I believed that the two teams that would end up as the final teams in the running (or really, vice versa, that Adrian Peterson would be coveting) for AP would be the New England Patriots (Who hosted Peterson for a work-out a couple weeks ago) and the Minnesota Vikings. It’s a long story, but the long and short of it is that there are few teams in the NFL that run the i-formation (enough) that Peterson really relies on (As he’s terrible out of the shotgun), and that most of those teams have already figured out their running back situation. That leaves the Patriots, who are still waiting to see if Legarrette Blount will re-sign (and by some accounts, are ready to “Move on”) and the Vikings, who still have a need for the type of bell-cow running back that Peterson still is (In my opinion).
There were reports a few weeks ago that stated that Peterson was looking for around $8 million dollars a year. Peterson angrily denied those rumors and outside of a visit to the New Orleans Saints (A team that really couldn’t sign him) there’s been very little news from Peterson or his best friend, that Camel, as we’ve gotten closer to the draft.
To understand what’s going on, first you have to see a Tweet by Ian Rapoport from April 13th:
Barring a dramatic shift, Adrian Peterson is not expected to have a deal with prior to the draft. Teams involved will continue to monitor.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 13, 2017
I believe that because of that news, Peterson and company decided to at least attempt to change the news cycle surrounding his free agency in a last ditch effort. They essentially leaked , to the excellent Peter King of MMQB.com, that Peterson was “willing” to play for $5 million dollars. With some caveats, which are that he’s willing to play for that amount with a team that meets his (two-part, mainly) check-list. A contender (1) with an “Established” quarterback (2). Again, by “leaking” this news to Peter King, the hope is that the conversation will change and that teams may consider signing Peterson before the draft. The question is, will it work?
Speaking from personal experience, last ditch efforts rarely work. The draft is too close and Peterson is too far removed from his glory days (To everyone but me, apparently). Really, if it was about money I’m sure that teams would’ve at least sat down with Peterson and his agent and attempted to hash out a deal. That hasn’t happened (As far as we know). So far, it’s been a lot of courtesy meetings and tire kicking, but nothing beyond that. So, slashing one’s asking price won’t really change much, especially with teams being knee deep in draft analysis. Beyond that, even five million dollars is a lot of money to ask when younger, good to great running backs are getting half of that, or especially when you can find an even younger, cheaper back in next week’s draft (One that’s been called the deepest running back class ever).
However, there are teams that could afford that, but considering everything I am willing to change my original conclusion that there are two teams that could end up signing Peterson. If you think that a Patriots team that won’t pay a running back (Blount), who helped carry their offense last season (Especially when Brady was serving his suspension), who had 299 carries and fit their scheme to a T, far less than what Peterson is now saying he’ll play for… Why would they pay Peterson that much? So, that eliminates the Patriots from the running (Pun!), until or unless Peterson slashes his price even further in an attempt to win a ring.
That leaves the Vikings. Now, I will admit some of this comes from my personal desire to see Peterson come back and play for the purple and gold. He’s not my favorite player ever, but he’s in the top five (Randy Moss). But, if you read Luke’s article (Linked above, and HERE, for convenience), you’ll see that the Vikings have a need for a player with Peterson’s abilities. Where I deviate from Luke is in my belief that Peterson can still (more than just) contribute. When you look at running backs, according to ‘The Bus’ himself, Jerome Bettis, you should look more at the amount of carries than the age of the back (Especially in 2017, with all of our fancy plyometrics and nutrition). I’ll share Bettis’ quote in it’s entirety, as he states things better than I ever could:
“Oh, he definitely still has it,” Bettis said in an interview on NFL Network’s Up To The Minute on Monday. “We gotta look at a running back in a little different light. People look at in terms of age. You gotta look at running backs in terms of carries. I think when a running back gets to around 3,000 carries, that’s when you’ve got to be worried about their longevity in terms of being able to produce. He’s a lot under that. He’s in the 2,600, 2,700 range. So he’s got another two or three really good seasons left in him. But I think it’s gonna be the right team because if he goes to a team and they want Adrian Peterson of four years ago, you’re not gonna get that same football player. But he can still come out and give you some great effort, so I think the right team has to want Adrian Peterson.”
So, the question then becomes can the Vikings afford to spend $5 million dollars on Peterson? I think that answer is yes. This year, at least. The Vikings started the free agency period with around $36-$38 million dollars. They were conservative in their shopping/spending and added some mid-level players in Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers. They spent some money on Latavius Murray, but nothing that could be considered bank breaking. Considering the fact that the team was due to owe Peterson a whopping $18 million dollars in 2017, $5 million seems like a pretty good deal for a back that lead the league in rushing the last time he was healthy. Combine that with the surprisingly great play from Sam Bradford, and the fact that the Vikings need to win now (Hence the Bradford move) and this move begins to make more sense.
While they could obviously draft that bell-cow next week, the fact is that the Vikings have more than a few needs to fill before the 2017 season begins. Especially with the recent news that Sharrif Floyd may never play again thanks to nerve damage in his lower leg, it could make sense to bring Peterson in so the team can focus on the other needs they have right now (While also perhaps drafting a running back later in the draft, to learn behind Peterson (It is the “deepest running back draft class ever”)) in next week’s draft as opposed to spending their top pick on a back like Joe Mixon.
The Vikings were conservative in free agency as they have multiple contracts to deal with next off-season (Teddy Bridgewater, Xavier Rhodes, Eric Kendricks) as well, hence the extension of Brian Robison. So, sign Peterson to a one-year, $5 million dollar deal that’s heavy on incentives and finally give fans what they’ve been pining for since Bradford emerged as a true franchise quarterback last season. That’s something that Peterson has rarely had in his illustrious career. If Peterson’s looking for an established quarterback and contender, by joining the Vikings and Bradford he really could help them become exactly what he’s looking for and give us fans what we’ve deserved since at least the 70’s.