The 2017 NFL Free Agency period has long been through it’s first wave. We are now into April and teams are starting to think about the draft and their first minicamps. Pretty soon everyone will be on to training camp, preseason and before we know it, the 2017 NFL season will be here.
Could it come with an iconic running back like Adrian Peterson being jobless? As crazy as it sounds, the knee-jerk reaction is “absolutely”. Peterson has officially been cast aside by the Minnesota Vikings, the only franchise he has ever called home. The Vikings permanently moved on from the aging back by bringing in former Oakland Raiders rusher Latavius Murray, signing him to a three-year deal even though they knew he had to undergo ankle surgery.
The risk of Murray, combined with the lethargic play out of Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata a year ago, tell us Minnesota doesn’t think much of Peterson. The fact that the 32-year old Peterson still has yet to change teams suggests Minnesota isn’t alone in doubting he can still be an effective rusher, either. But there’s a lot that goes into this thinking and ultimately, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest Peterson’s days in the NFL are already over. Here’s five reasons why that could be the case:
Peterson Still Thinks He’s a Star
Problem number one is Adrian Peterson, like most pro athletes, seems to think he’s indestructible and that nothing will keep him from getting back to his previously elite level. That’s been proven to simply not be the case, judging by his awful production in three appearances in 2016.
Peterson obviously got hurt last year (torn meniscus), but on top of that simply wasn’t an effective runner for the Vikings even when healthy. Peterson’s 1.9 yards per carry average tells us that, while he also couldn’t punch in a single touchdown on 40 touches.
That wasn’t all necessarily his fault and it’s not impossible for Peterson to bounce back and prove us all wrong, but at 32 it’s increasingly less likely. Most NFL teams see that logic and naturally don’t want to just hand they keys of their offense to a guy they have no loyalty to. Why trust an aging running back that you have zero ties to, simply because he used to dominate the league? The correct answer is you probably don’t.
Even if we were to believe Peterson was still the same back that put up 2,000+ rushing yards in 2012 (which he isn’t) or even the one that enjoyed a solid 2015 campaign (also probably not), Peterson clearly isn’t aware of his situation and the value of aged running backs – or running backs in general. Peterson is still demanding far too high of an asking price and probably wants more than a one-year “prove it” deal.
If Peterson were more receptive to deals prospective teams wanted to offer, he’d probably be signed by now. His history, physicality, past production and the sheer upside of Peterson not being washed up has to be appealing to a lot of playoff contenders. But it also has to come at the right price. There is a lot of risk involved with paying big bucks to any NFL player, let alone an aging running back who just missed 13 games due to injury.
Peterson’s asking price is too high and it needs to come way down. On top of realizing he’s probably not the star he once was, he needs to admit that he also doesn’t deserve boatloads of money at this stage of his career. If he realizes that, perhaps he’ll find a taker. If he doesn’t, that will undoubtedly be the top reason he never plays again.
Contenders Might Not Want Him
There’s also the very real possibility that even if Peterson drops his asking price, legit playoff contenders won’t care to add him to their roster. For one, most playoff contenders already have solid options in their offensive backfield, recently upgraded the positions or have concrete plans of adding young talent in the 2017 NFL Draft. Considering how deep running back is this year, that remains a distinct possibility.
Peterson’s ego and asking price are two huge obstacles, but whatever the reasons, teams simply may not need or want him. That could end up being a key reason why Peterson himself opts to call it a career. If not, he’d then be settling for less money, potentially a lesser role and working his butt off for a bad team that probably isn’t going anywhere. At 32, Peterson is one way or another on his last NFL legs and if he has any pride, he surely wants to go out a winner. The problem is most contending teams aren’t likely to help fulfill that desire.
Retiring a Viking
It’s unclear how much this means to Peterson, who very easily could love to deliver the Brett Favre treatment by staying in the NFC North and beating the Vikings to death twice a year. Green Bay and Detroit both have holes at running back, so at least for now that makes some sense. Peterson has even been attached to the Packers in rumors and Lions GM Bob Quinn said recently he believes Peterson still has something left to offer:
Quinn said he thinks Adrian Peterson still has game left in the tanks, but declined to say whether Detroit is pursuing him
— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) March 28, 2017
The flip side of that, though, is Peterson could decide that he’s not seeing the money, role, respect or winning opportunity he’d ideally prefer out on the open market. That could lead him to some self reflection and admitting to himself that retiring as a Viking and avoiding wasted years on bad teams simply isn’t worth the time and effort.
Skill-set is Obsolete?
Peterson’s age, asking price, pride and actual options all come into play, but one huge factor Peterson probably wouldn’t like to admit is that the game might be passing him by. Peterson has always been a big and explosive runner, but he’s never been an elite receiver out of the backfield, he’s had issues with pass protection, he certainly has had fumbling problems and we learned recently in Minnesota he can’t adapt to more pass-happy approaches that require him to take hand-offs out of the shotgun.
That’s all pretty damning evidence. As great as he was and possibly could still be, the 32-year old Peterson lacks the general skill-set you really want from your star runner. James White’s epic Super Bowl 51 performance showed us how the old running back mold has officially been shattered, too, and Peterson is really just an old, expensive early down rusher who might fumble away games in clutch moments. On top of that, he just might not be able to get the job done at a high level anymore.
Adrian Peterson could still very well find himself the perfection situation in 2017. His asking price could drop, he could be open to not being “the guy”, injuries could open up a big need for contending teams or maybe someone out there is waiting for the perfect moment to add him. Then again, we see big NFL stars drift away from the league all the time. Injuries, ego, money, roles and so much more can add up quickly and keep prospective teams away. If Adrian Peterson isn’t careful, he might just become another retirement statistic.