The Minnesota Vikings announced Tuesday they would not exercise Adrian Peterson’s contract option for the 2017 season.
He’ll be an unrestricted free agent on March 9, giving several fan bases more than a week to salivate over the prospect of Peterson playing in their teams colors.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported later Tuesday morning that, according to someone close to Peterson, the Raiders could be strong a landing spot for the veteran rusher. The aforementioned newspaper spoke to Peterson’s father, who said it would be fair to throw Oakland into the mix along with several other teams.
That brings up a key question: Are the Raiders and Peterson a good match? The answer is complicated by several factors.
The home team could certainly use Peterson’s talent, but…
Peterson will be 32 years old when the 2017 season starts, an age where rushing production typically wanes. Peterson is also coming off a 2016 season ruined by injury. He played just three games due to a knee injury. He has also been hurt in recent seasons.
Even when healthy, Peterson isn't a good pass protector. That's a vital trait for Raiders running backs in an offense frequently operating from shotgun and clear passing formations, and could be an issue in the system.
Peterson is also used to premium dollars, and it’s hard to imagine his asking price will drop near the end of a storied career. There should be plenty of suitors for Peterson, and competition could keep the price high.
The Raiders have the salary cap space to pay Peterson’s freight. Is that the best use of significant funds during an offseason where extending quarterback Derek Carr’s contract is a top priority?
There’s certainly a need for Peterson or another physical, productive running back in the Raiders rotation with DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. Latavius Murray occupied that spot in recent seasons, but he’s set to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent. That has always been expected, even with the prospect Murray could return to the club that drafted him in 2013.
Peterson has been incredible at times, combining speed, physicality and football smarts into his rushing style. The future Hall of Fame runner would be attractive addition to a dynamic Raiders air attack, especially running behind a hulking offensive line.
There are, however, a few more issues to consider. The first is his link to a child abuse, which prompted a season-long suspension under the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Peterson reached a plea deal on the case that mandated probation. Raiders owner Mark Davis has no tolerance for domestic violence, and has been against the league employing people with those issues. It’s uncertain how Davis would view the Peterson case.
While Peterson is set for unrestricted free agency, he’ll headline an incredibly deep class.
The Kansas City Chiefs released Jamaal Charles also later Tuesday morning, putting another productive, yet aging rusher out there. Eddie Lacy, LeGarrette Blount, Isaiah Crowell – he’s a restricted free agent – and Murray were already set to hit the open market.
They’ll do so just before a deep class of young running backs become available in the NFL Draft. The Raiders have a history of mining talent from lower rounds – Murray was a sixth round pick, Washington was taken in the fifth and Richard was an unrestricted free agent.
The Raiders have cheaper, younger options when it comes to their backfield. Peterson is a big name and an intriguing talent who will be followed closely as he navigates free agency.