One of the more surprising cuts from training camp this year came Friday morning when the Washington Football team released running back Adrian Peterson. This news broke first from NFL Networks Tom Pelissero. Leonard Fournette sparked interest in the running back market before he landed in Tampa Bay. But now that there is another potential starting running back available, the teams who lost out on Fournette could take a flier on Peterson.
At age 35, Peterson may not be able to be the workhorse back he was in his prime. However, there is very little argument against him being a Hall of Famer. He is a seven-time Pro Bowler, four-time First-Team All-Pro, three-time Second-Team All-Pro, and was the MVP in 2012. Throughout his career, he has earned such honors as Offensive Player of the Year (2012), Offensive Rookie of the Year, NFL Rushing leader (three times), and NFL Rushing touchdown leader (two times). On top of all of that Peterson holds the record for most rushing yards in a single game in NFL History with 296 and the fifth most rushing yards all-time in 14,216. This impressive resume earned Peterson a spot on the 2010s All-Decade team.
Here are the teams who could potentially invest in Peterson this season and possibly be the last destination of his career.
Link up with another former MVP and future Hall of Fame Head Coach
Team: New England Patriots
Contract 1 year $1 Million ($2.5 Million Max Value)
When a veteran and future Hall of Famer hits the market, the New England Patriots are always a contender to have him join their team. On top of that fact, Peterson is a candidate to join the Patriots because of the uncertainty in the team’s backfield. After the team signed former Pro Bowler Lamar Miller, it became clear that the Patriots will be running a backfield by committee this season.
So far in training camp, the two running backs that have been taking first-team snaps are former first-round pick Sony Michel and second-year player Damien Harris. Harris has turned a lot of heads in training camp and could potentially overtake Michel as the team’s starter. But now after a hand injury, Harris may not be available for their Week 1 game against the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots have many veteran running backs on their roster, but with none other than Harris really emerging as the team’s starter Peterson may fill that role in New England.
Their backfield may be crowded, and Peterson may ultimately not get the carries that he could get with other teams. But he might not be able to pass up the opportunity play for Bill Belichick. Besides Mike Zimmer and Sean Payton (only four games) Peterson has not had the opportunity to get coached by an elite football mind. At age 35 he might want to land in a situation with a great organization and potentially make the playoffs.
Belichick would love to have Peterson in the locker room to help mentor the young players. In New England, he would join a backfield made up for Michel, Harris, Miller, James White and Rex Burkhead. Each could have their own individual role with the team, but there would likely be one odd man out that doesn’t make the final roster.
Take command of the leagues most unproven committee
Team: Buffalo Bills
Contract: 1 year $2 Million
Peterson: "Keep it up… keep grinding. You got some talent."
Singletary: "I'm just trying to ball like you!"
Peterson: "You're doing it man. Just keep working hard." pic.twitter.com/c5FcFMsNZ8
— Dan Fetes (@danfetes) November 4, 2019
Similarly to how Peterson was cut this offseason, the Bills had a similar transaction involving multiple years starter LeSean McCoy last season. Before Week 1 the Bills appeared content with the backfield of Frank Gore and rookie third-round pick Devin Singletary. McCoy joined a committee in Kansas City while Gore and Singletary basically split carries down the middle for the entire season.
This offseason the team drafted Zack Moss in the third round out of Utah to split carries with Singletary now that Gore has moved on. But after a weak training camp question marks have come up about Singletary. Due to some fumbling issues, Moss may take control of this backfield very early. But do the Bills want to put the fate of their potential second straight playoff birth in the hands of a rookie running back? The team may want to bring in a veteran to at least split carries with Singletary and Moss until they feel comfortable with one of them taking over as the teams lead back.
Signing Peterson may be the difference between the Bills offense staying the same or making a huge leap from last season. Though Peterson will not be the focal point of the offense, he can help the Bills ground and pound opponents giving them a strong running game to go with their defense. His veteran leadership could also be huge for the Bills considering they are a fairly young team on the offensive side of the ball. Buffalo is the best situation for Peterson to join a winning team and become a team’s starter this season.
Stay in the NFC East
Team: Philadelphia Eagles
Contract: 1 year $2 Million ($3.5 Million Max Value)
Since becoming the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Doug Pederson has run a backfield by committee on offense. The Eagles have had stars like Ryan Matthews, Darren Sproles, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, and Jordan Howard in committee situations within recent years. Their running back depth chart right now reads that last year’s second-round pick, Miles Sanders, as the starter and Boston Scott is more of a change of pace back rather than a member of a committee. But now that a veteran like Peterson is available the Eagles may want to lean back towards a backfield by committee.
Peterson can slide into the role that Howard had last season as the goal line/short distance running back. If that were the case Sanders would still be the starter and remain the teams lead back while Scott would be the teams scatback and take the role Sproles had over the years. It is also a bonus that Peterson has experience playing against NFC East opponents during the past two seasons in Washington and has played well against them. He may never become the league back in Philadelphia, but he could have a few good games next season if he lands with them.
Boost the Stats
Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
Contract: 1 year $1.5 Million ($2.5 Million Max Value)
Peterson landing in Jacksonville may be a head-scratcher because they just released their 1,000-yard rusher from last season Leonard Fournette, especially the reason why they released Fournette is that they didn’t view him as a part of the team’s long term future. But this might be a perfect marriage for just this season.
At this point in his career it is uncertain what Peterson’s value is. Does he want to be a part of one last long playoff run or does he want to pad is stats and further confirm that he goes down as one of the all-time great running backs. Jacksonville seems like the only backfield in the league that could promise Peterson 20 touches a game at this point. Currently, the Jaguars backfield is a committee made up of Ryquell Armstead, former Washington scatback Chris Thompson and Devine Ozigbo. The Jaguars could go into this year with that committee or bring in Peterson to be a leader in a locker room without high expectations much like his role in Washington.
What makes Peterson a better fit for this offense this year than Fournette is the fact that there is no expectation for the Jaguars to commit to Peterson going forward. While if the Jaguars never extended Fournette, their plan for him going forward would be a distraction throughout the season. Jacksonville may be the best location for Peterson if he wants to get as much production as he possibly can this season.
Return to the NFC North
Team: Chicago Bears
Contract: 1 year $1 Million ($2 Million Max Value)
This isn’t the NFC North reunion that football fans may want to see Peterson have. It actually seems like a part of a meme one would see on twitter labeled ‘stars wearing the wrong jerseys’ or ‘Remember when these NFL Stars played for these teams’. But if Peterson were to sign with Chicago he could be very valuable to them this season as they try to return to the dominant team they were two seasons ago.
The Chicago Bears backfield is made up of two talented players David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen. Both have shown promise of becoming stars, but neither has reached or come close to their potential. After a hamstring injury concern arises about Montgomery being able to carry the offense early in the season. If the Bears were to lose faith that Montgomery can do such, Peterson could be the perfect signing to fill the void until Montgomery was to become 100%.
Peterson would be a great mentor for Montgomery who is entering his second NFL season. He could also be the spark the Bears need to have a dominant season. It may seem crazy to say that Nick Foles and Adrian Peterson can make the Chicago Bears contenders. Crazier things have happened in the NFL than this happening. Five years ago Carson Palmer and Chris Johnson almost brought the Arizona Cardinals to a Super Bowl. What the current Chicago Bears and the 2015 Arizona Cardinals team have in common are experienced smart quarterbacks, veteran proven weapons, say offensive coaches, and young offensive players who are beginning to develop, and high-end defenses.
Worst case scenario Peterson helps fill the void left by Jordan Howard as the teams lead back as they implement a ground and pound approach headlined by Peterson and Montgomery with their defense shutting down opponents the way they did a few seasons ago. Peterson doesn’t automatically make the Bears a Super Bowl contender, but he may be enough to possibly get the Bears into the playoffs again.