Our old friend Heath Evans reported on Thursday afternoon via the NFL Network that the Saints are meeting with former Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson next week. The exceptional yet polarizing rusher has already met with the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots, but neither meetings ended with Peterson signing on the dotted line.
Peterson has alluded to the fact that he is being patient in searching for the best fit. Some have speculated that Peterson’s asking price is too high for a 32-year-old running back, but another report directly contradicted that and even implied that he would be willing to take a pay cut in order to play for a Super Bowl contender.
That leaves the door open for the Saints to try their hand at luring the future Hall of Famer after losing Tim Hightower to the 49ers in free agency. The Saints run their offense through Drew Brees, which plays to Peterson’s strength. He functions better receiving the ball from the QB rather than straight out of the shotgun. It’s unclear why a player with such a distinguished resume has remained unsigned this far into free agency, but I can point to a couple theories.
Some evaluators cite his injury history, which includes a torn LCL, ACL, and meniscus; all occurring in different seasons. In total, Peterson has missed 20 games in his career due to injury and another 15 due to his child abuse scandal. Injuries aside, the Saints have made a concerted effort to avoid players with troubled pasts, and Peterson’s treatment of his own child was terrible to say the least.
I’m not going to judge Peterson as a man or father. He suffered some consequences for his actions and though I’m against corporal punishment, I understand everyone has their own personal opinions and experiences of it. The Saints will probably look at him the same way and focus only on his ability to contribute to the offense today.
Even though last year was Peterson’s worst compared to his annual lofty statistical standards, he is only one season removed from leading the league in rushing yards. Plus, the Vikings had maybe one of the absolute worst offensive lines in the game last year.
The Saints, on the other hand, boast several linemen who can blaze a trail for Peterson, even at age 32. Terron Armstead, Zach Strief, Max Unger, Andrus Peat, and new-comer Larry Warford (2016 PFF run-block grade 81.8) are all capable of helping Peterson return to his previous form.
Don’t get me wrong, the days of Peterson being the one-man workhorse are probably over, but coupled with Mark Ingram, the Saints could field one of the strongest and most dynamic tandems in the league. Both Ingram and Peterson can catch the ball in the backfield and make defensive players miss. And personally, I’d rather have a 70% Peterson catching the ball than a 100% Travaris Cadet.
The main question mark for me, of course, is the injury history. Even though Peterson is still far from the dreaded 3,000 career carry mark, there’s a lot of wear on his tires. In physical therapy circles, a torn meniscus is known to take longer to fully recover from than a completely torn ACL.
But let’s not forget that Peterson returned from a high ankle sprain and torn ACL the very next year, only to play in all 16 games and rush for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging a staggering 6 yards per carry.
But that was 5 years ago, which is an eternity in the NFL. Still, Peterson has posted over 1,000 yards twice since that 2012 MVP season. The other two seasons he didn’t reach 1,000 yards were marred by the child abuse scandal and last year’s torn meniscus.
Lastly, when I think of Adrian Peterson I think of the 2009 NFC Championship game where I hoped he would fumble every time he caught the ball. It wasn’t TOTALLY unrealistic because fumbling has been Adrian’s dark secret from the beginning of his 11-year career. Well, that and the child beating.
In fact, over 123 career games played, Peterson has fumbled 34 times (equivalent to 1 fumble per every 3.6 games played) while losing possession 21 times. He coughed the ball up as many as 9 times in a single season, and his only season without a fumble is the season he was placed on the commissioner’s exemption list for 15 out of 16 games.
Then, following that suspension-filled season, Peterson played all 16 games, rushed for a league-leading 1,485 yards over 327 attempts, averaged 4.5 yards per carry, and scored 11 touchdowns. For the second time in his storied career, he surprised us all. Maybe he can surprise us again.
All of these elements will come into play next week as Saints brass meets with the first time free agent. If Peterson can show some of his old burst, Sean Payton could weigh the risks versus rewards and take a flyer…at the right price. Perhaps no other NFL player has proven doubters wrong more than the king of comebacks from Palestine, Texas.
Should the Saints be interested in Adrian Peterson?
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