The Saints made big waves yesterday with the signing of future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson. Plenty of articles will be written about Peterson’s potential impact on the offense. Several outlets have already pointed out the now apparent significance of the Saints’ first game of the season, which just happens to be against the Vikings in Minnesota.
Peterson’s value to the Saints will be tested in Week 1, as his current team plays his former team. But he can create value far beyond that game. After serving as the Vikings’ lead back since 2007, no recent Saints’ signing may be able to help more in divulging the secrets of the “Black and Blue Division.” This upcoming season, the Saints will play the oldest division in professional football, the NFC North. Its members’ (Bears, Packers, Lions, Vikings) franchises are 336 years old combined!
Peterson knows the NFC North well. Probably inside and out. Excluding games he missed from injury or being placed on the commissioner’s exemption list, Peterson prepared for and played against the Bears, Packers, and Lions at least two times a year for over a decade. That film study and experience will directly help four times this season. If the Saints win all four games against the NFC North, I’d say Peterson’s salary will have already paid for itself.
But after scanning the rest of the Saints current roster, I realized it’s littered with players whose former teams are on the Saints 2017 season schedule. Even though there is admittedly between 30-50% turnover on NFL rosters from year to year, signing players from teams you are going to play can still pay off.
As they arrive with a deeper knowledge and understanding of their past systems, they can help their current team do the same as they prepare to play the former. I’ll never forget the throttling the Browns gave the Saints in 2010 after Scott Fujita parlayed his Super Bowl season performance into a three-year contract with Cleveland.
As difficult as the Saints’ 2017 season appears on the surface, they have plenty of impact players on their roster who can help game plan in this way. Saints fullback John Kuhn played for the Packers from 2007-2015. In fact, outside of the Bears, the Saints have players from the North on lockdown. They have four former players from the Lions alone in safety Rafael Bush, DTs Nick Fairley and Darryl Tapp, and new addition offensive lineman Larry Warford.
Back in 2013, Tapp even made a stop on the Redskins, who the Saints also play this year. But if that experience is too far removed, the Saints just signed backup quarterback Chase Daniel, who played for NFC East division rival the Eagles just last season. All he does is study on the bench, so he should have some sweet nuggets of info to offer on Washington, right?
Another informational outlier could be Dannell Ellerbe who played, sparingly I know, for the Dolphins from 2013-2014. Plus, Dan Campbell is quite familiar with Miami and the rest of the AFC East. But any extra tips could help as the Saints have to travel across the Atlantic Ocean to play for the first time since 2008.
Another division the Saints have on lockdown throughout their roster is their very own NFC South. Just this offseason, the Saints raided the Panthers offensive and defensive cupboards with the signings of wideout Ted Ginn Jr. and linebacker A.J. Klein. Cornerback Sterling Moore played for the Buccaneers in 2015 and linebacker Nate Stupar played for the Falcons from 2014-2015. All of these players will have two games this season where they can make their voices heard in the film room and positively impact game planning.
Maybe I’m overblowing the input and possible impact from former players of opposition teams, but it certainly can’t hurt. And on the other hand, having former players from 10 of the 12 teams the Saints play this year could help finally sway their stagnant pendulum away from 7-9 and towards a winning season.