The NFL’s best-known running back will become a free agent next week, and already the Raiders are being mentioned as a candidate for his services.
The Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday announced they will not exercise their contract option on Adrian Peterson for the 2017 season. That will allow him to become an unrestricted free agent on March 9.
Peterson has three times led the NFL in rushing, with his last title coming as recently as 2015 when he gained 1,485 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. In 2012, he gained 2,097 yards, a career high. Seven times he’s had 1,000 or more rushing yards in a season since coming into the league in 2007.
Some see the Raiders as a great destination for Peterson, who would be another elite playmaker on an offense with young quarterback Derek Carr and wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.
Running behind a terrific offensive line that features three Pro Bowlers from 2016 – left tackle Donald Penn, left guard Kelechi Osemele and center Rodney Hudson – Peterson could have a huge season.
But the question is, at what cost?
Peterson will want a big contract, and the Raiders already need to be careful with their salary structure, with looming long-term deals set to be awarded to Carr and defensive lineman/linebacker Khalil Mack. General manager Reggie McKenzie may be looking for a less-expensive and younger option than Peterson, who is 32. McKenzie may decide to add a running back in the draft to replace Latavius Murray, who is expected to leave in free agency (already an indication that McKenzie is looking for affordability at the position).
Plus, NFL running backs past the age of 30 can quickly go downhill, even ones as great as Peterson. Even if the Raiders were to sign him to a reasonable deal they may not get the production they might expect from his history.
As attractive as Peterson may be, adding Peterson appears to be a long shot for the Raiders. He’s more likely to re-sign with the Vikings at a lower price than his previous contract or go to the Giants or Packers, according to Michael Shapiro of Sports Illustrated. But, Shapiro admits Peterson’s availability will prompt the Raiders to think about it.
“With starting running back Latavius Murray hitting free agency, the Raiders are searching for reinforcements in the backfield,” Shapiro wrote. “Neither DeAndre Washington nor Jalen Richard looked ready for full-time work in their rookie seasons last fall.
“The Raiders are focused on extending the contracts of quarterback Derek Carr and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack in the offseason, so their offer to Peterson would be light on short-term money and heavy on incentives. Oakland’s cap restraints make a deal unlikely, but adding Peterson could greatly improve the Raiders’ standing in the AFC West heading into 2017.”