Which team makes the most sense for Adrian Peterson?
Right now it feels like Adrian Peterson is toxic, as the former superstar hasn’t been able to land a gig with a new team yet.
While some off-the-field distractions that may scare away teams, I personally believe that his inability to land a new contract has less to do with the PR and more to do with an on-field decline.
Transitioning from a star to a role player isn’t easy, and requires a different skill set.
For an aging running back like Peterson, a similar transition needs to be made. If you’re not young enough to be the lead back, you need to contribute in other ways. Pass catching has never been Peterson’s strong suit, making him a 1st/2nd down back in a league that doesn’t care much about the running game, to begin with. The older runners who last tend to be the ones who can contribute in other areas like Darren Sproles (still kicking around at 33).
Peterson still has a future in the league, in my mind, if he can accept a reduced role and a reduced salary, and find the best fit for his current skill set.
Here would be my top picks for Peterson:
(3) Indianapolis Colts
Even in a best case scenario, we should only count on Adrian Peterson to be a 1st/2nd down power back who would play as part of a rotation. The days of 25 carries a game may be over, but he could still contribute around 10/15 a game.
The Colts already have someone like that on the roster in Frank Gore. In fact, Gore played that role surprisingly well last season, chugging for 1025 rushing yards. After durability concerns plagued his early career, Gore’s actually played 16 games for six seasons in a row.
But Gore is 33 and will turn 34 in May. There’s only so much tread left on those tires. Presumably, and ideally, the team will draft a young back to take the pressure off him and ultimately replace him. The draft’s strong this year for runners, so it could be a perfect fit. Leonard Fournette, in particular, could be a beast in Indy.
However, the Colts have plenty of other needs on their roster and may decide to utilize those picks to fill holes on the defense instead. Adrian Peterson may come cheaply and would pair with Gore to give the team a two-headed power back combination that should allow both to stay fresh and get through the season intact. It’s not a long-term solution, but it could be a stopgap.
(2) Detroit Lions
The Lions drafted Ameer Abdullah in 2015, hoping to catch lightning in a (little) bottle. Abdullah absolutely flashes that magic every now and then, but he’s struggled with injuries and fumbles.
In his place, the Lions have resorted to playing Zach Zenner as their early-down back. I actually like Zenner (and Lions fans may love him even more), but it’s hard to argue that he’s better than Adrian Peterson, even now. Zenner simply doesn’t have that same type of long speed. Defenses aren’t afraid of him, and won’t adjust their game plan to defend him.
If the Lions decide to sign Peterson, they could use him to fill that Zenner role, and turn to Theo Riddick on passing downs. Best yet, they could keep all their draft picks to spend on their own defense, which has plenty of holes as well.
(1) Oakland Raiders
It’d be strange fate indeed if Latavius Murray and Adrian Peterson switched places in 2017, but it’s a landing spot that makes too much sense to ignore.
Without Murray, the Raiders have a few young runner backs in DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard that have flashed some explosiveness but haven’t shown that they can hold up for 16 games in the NFL. They’re both smaller guys (5’8″ each) who may be complemented by a bigger power back like Peterson.
And like the Colts and Lions, I’m including the Raiders on this list because they have holes on defense, and may want to utilize all their draft picks to fill those needs. A veteran like Peterson could come in and help out on early downs. He could be their version of the Colts/Frank Gore, chugging along close to 1000 yards to help take some pressure off their young QB and passing game.
Signing Adrian Peterson at this stage of his career would amount to a gamble, but what else would you want from a franchise about to set up shop in Las Vegas?
Now it’s worth mentioning that another older running back, Marshawn Lynch, could mess things up for Peterson with the Raiders.