Is Adrian Peterson a good fit for the Raiders?

Is Adrian Peterson a good fit for the Raiders?

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.

McKenzie focuses Raiders' 2017 draft on defense, beefs up secondary

McKenzie focuses Raiders' 2017 draft on defense, beefs up secondary

ALAMEDA – Raiders general manger Reggie McKenzie made nine selections in this weekend’s NFL draft. That was a requirement given the state of his roster, featuring a stacked offense and a Swiss-cheese defense. It has holes.

He spent significant draft capital trying to upgrade the middle of his defense especially, adding three defensive backs, two defensive tackles and a fifth-round pick in Marquel Lee who will compete to start at middle linebacker.

He needs a few immediate impact players on the defensive group headlined by first-round cornerback Gareon Conley and second-round safety Obi Melifonwu.

“How much do I think I can get out of this group? I hope a lot,” McKenzie said Saturday after the NFL draft was complete. “They’re all going to come in and compete. We’re signing guys post-draft also. We’re going to give them all the opportunity to compete with the veterans that we already have on board. We hope that out of it all, the competition part of it, the cream rises and we have a very good 53-man roster.”

McKenzie follows a draft board thoroughly constructed through hundreds of scouting reports and cross checks, and extensive evaluation at combines and pro days. He trusts it. It has certainly treated him well before, which productive hauls in 2014 and 2015 especially.

While he lost out on some likable players taken before his slot, McKenzie believes the Raiders added quality and depth in previously lacking position groups. He stuck with size and athleticism at times over college production and, as always, beefed up both the offensive and defensive lines.

“I think the way it fell, we got a lot of players, at the end of the day, it looks like we needed,” he said. “We felt like we got a lot of good players with high talent levels from top to bottom. Some are going to be more raw than others. We’re going to have to see down the line, more so. I think talking to the board, you said, ‘Job well done.’”

McKenzie also focused on fixing a lackluster pass defense with speed. Conley can be a shutdown cornerback outside or in the slot. Melifonwu is a heavy hitter who can play both safety spots and is expected to contribute as a rookie. The secondary must improve to prevent big plays and help Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin get after the quarterback.

“You have to have speed to play the game the way it’s going now,” McKenzie said. “You have to be able to play in space. You have to be able to match up. We took all of that into consideration when we brought these players in. To the players that you mentioned, Obi and Conley, both of those guys have great range, speed, very athletic. So, they make tackles in space. That’s one of the things that we looked at. Make sure short to medium plays don’t turn into big plays. I think they will help in that scenario.”

Here’s a full list of Raiders draft picks:

Round 1 (No. 24 overall): CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State
Round 2 (No. 56 overall): S Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut
Round 3 (No. 88 overall): DT Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA
Round 4 (No. 129 overall): OT David Sharpe, Florida
Round 5 (No. 168 overall): LB Marquel Lee, Wake Forest
Round 7 (No. 221 overall): S Shalom Luani, Washington State
Round 7 (No. 231 overall): OT Jylan Ware, Alabama State
Round 7 (No. 242 overall): RB Elijah Hood, North Carolina
Round 7 (No. 244 overall): DT Treyvon Hester, Toledo

 

Raiders 2017 UDFA tracker: McKenzie adds safeties, mining for more gold

Raiders 2017 UDFA tracker: McKenzie adds safeties, mining for more gold

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have had great success mining gold from undrafted free agency. Jalen Richard and Darius Latham were kings of last year’s crop, which was six strong by season’s end. with Seth Roberts and Denico Autry other examples of undrafted free agents done good in recent years.

Can Raiders scouts find more helpful pieces from those left out of the NFL draft? Time will tell on that one, but finding the right undrafted players is something the team takes seriously. Scouts revel in undrafted players who make it in the league.

“It’s very rewarding,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “If we sign him as a free agent, we may have had him on the board as draftable, but getting guys post draft, that helps you down the road. To maintain a consistent winner, you have to hit on some of those guys. You have to. The way that the contracts are these days, you have to have some of those type players to help you win football games year in and year out.”

The Raiders will search for those players into Saturday evening to fill the 90-man roster. McKenzie secured some of his top targets with four seventh-round picks, though several more have signed with the club. Here’s a list of those who have signed with the team thus far:

-- OL Jordan Simmons, USC: The hulking offensive lineman signed with the Raiders, he announced on social media. Simmons stands 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, and will turn pro after being denied a sixth year of college eligibility. The talented guard had an injury-riddled career.

-- WR Isaac Whitney, USC: Whitney is yet another undrafted Trojan to join the Raiders roster. He announced the signing on social media. He didn’t have many college stats, but is fast with the size the Raiders prefer in outside receivers.

-- WR Keon Hatcher, Arkansas: Hatcher will reportedly join the offseason receiver group in hopes of taking a roster spot. He had 44 catches for 743 yards and eight touchdowns in his final college season. (Houston Chronicle)

-- WR Ishmael Zamora, Baylor: The Bears official website reported that Zamora will sign with the Silver and Black. He had63 catches for 809 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016. He was suspended three games for abusing a dog in an incident that was caught on video. 

-- S Ahmad Thomas, Oklahoma: The Raiders need safety depth, so it was smart of Thomas to sign in Oakland. He was a three-year starter and a team captain. (Houston Chronicle)

-- S Anthony Cioffi, Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights’ official Twitter account reported a four-year starter in college will give the pros a try in Oakland.

-- DT Jordan Wade, Oklahoma: The 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive tackle will join the Raiders. (SoonerScoop.com)

-- TE Pharaoh Brown, Oregon: The Ducks didn’t have a single player drafted, but Brown will join the Silver and Black. The tight end announced a signing on Twitter. He had 33 catches for 426 yards and five touchdown.

Check back for further updates...