Adrian Peterson is a free agent once again as the Washington Football Team released the future Hall of Fame running back Friday. Peterson’s time with Washington appeared to be coming to a close once the emergence of Bryce Love and Antonio Gibson was evident in training camp, leading to a diminished role for the 35-year-old running back.
Peterson still has plenty of game left and has shown no indication of hanging up his cleats. One of the greatest running backs ever, Peterson is fifth on the NFL‘s all-time rushing yards list with 14,216 yards, just 784 away from 15,000 for his career. He’s 1,053 yards away from tying Barry Sanders for fourth all-time and 1,131 yards away from tying Frank Gore for third. Peterson has 111 career rushing touchdowns, good for fourth on the all-time list, and needs just 12 to tie Marcus Allen (123) for third. Peterson rushed for 898 yards and five touchdowns last season in 15 games (4.3 yards per carry), one year after rushing for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns (4.2 yards per carry).
There’s still room in the NFL for Adrian Peterson, even if a starting running back spot appears out of reach with just over a week until the season opener. Quite a few teams could use Peterson’s services. Here are the candidates that should seriously consider signing him:
The Patriots have been a fit for every free agent running back that has been available this offseason, but there is a reason behind the madness. Truth is, New England can use all the help it can get. The Patriots do have a starting running back in Sony Michel, but how reliable is he? Injuries have hindered Michel’s ability to make an impact as he is averaging 4.04 yards per carry in his two seasons — just 31st of the 41 running backs that eclipsed over 200 carries over the last two years — including 3.7 last season. James White still has a role in this offense as the top pass-catching option while Damien Harris seems primed for more carries as he’s battling Michel for the lead back role.
This is where Peterson comes in. New England could use a veteran back to mentor this young group, especially while the Patriots wait for Lamar Miller to round into form (Miller was activated off the PUP list Monday). The Patriots also could use another power back, even though Michel has proven he can carry that mantle. If the Patriots add Peterson, it’s simply to add some spice to their already full running back cabinet. Bill Belichick has signed his fair share of veterans before.
Could Peterson in the “Windy City” actually make sense? Given the state of the Bears running back situation, they certainly could use him. This all depends on the severity of David Montgomery’s groin injury and whether he’ll actually miss the start of the season (Montgomery is expected to return by Week 1). Chicago has a nice running back tandem with Montgomery and Tarik Cohen (with Cordarrelle Patterson earning some reps), so there’s no need for Peterson unless the Bears want a power back due to Montgomery missing more time than expected.
Peterson could receive a good volume of carries in Chicago, even if his stint with the Bears could last only a few weeks. Of those 41 running backs that had over 200 carries mentioned earlier, Montgomery was just 37th at 3.67 while Peterson was 28th at 4.20. It wouldn’t hurt Chicago to add some more depth at running back and give Montgomery extra time to properly heal that groin injury.
Peterson’s Hall of Fame career is nearing its end, so why shouldn’t he finish his career where he made the biggest impact? Peterson is the Vikings’ all-time leader in rushing yards (11,747) and rushing touchdowns (92), winning the 2012 NFL MVP award in his 10 seasons there. This could be Peterson’s last season and a reunion with Minnesota could certainly be popular among the fanbase, even if there isn’t much room for the future Hall of Famer to actually earn carries.
Minnesota has Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison to share the workload, so Peterson’s snaps would be very limited. Having Peterson for depth in case one of those two go down would be the reason he would return to the Vikings. Peterson likely wants a bigger role, but perhaps a final opportunity to win a Super Bowl with the team that drafted him would be enticing enough.
As unlikely as this seems, the Eagles’ interest in Peterson actually makes some sense. Philadelphia has made it a priority to get younger and faster on both sides of the ball this offseason, but a recent series of roster moves implies the Eagles may actually look to sign a veteran running back before the season starts. The Eagles released undrafted free agent signings Michael Warren and Adrian Killins Thursday, going with three running backs (Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Corey Clement) to open the season. Head coach Doug Pederson typically goes with four backs on his opening week roster, so adding another back may be incoming.
Peterson is 35 and doesn’t seem to fit this “new look” Eagles offense, but Philadelphia could certainly use a veteran power back for short-yardage situations that could take some volume off Sanders — even though the team has said Sanders is the clear-cut No. 1 back. Having Peterson receive five carries a game couldn’t hurt, especially since the starting jobs around the league are few and far between. Philadelphia may be a good place for Peterson this season.