The Minnesota Vikings announced on Tuesday that they are not picking up Adrian Peterson’s $18 million option, thus making him a free agent on March 9. It wasn’t a surprising move for the Vikings, considering Peterson’s age and durability questions, but it was a necessary one.
As a result, Peterson will have his pick of the litter on the open market. Unfortunately, his suitors may not be as deep as he may think, mainly because the draft class at running back is as good as ever. There will be a handful of teams that come calling, looking for a veteran back to provide a spark on offense.
These seven teams should at least entertain the idea of bringing in Peterson, even if it means altering their offense a bit to suit his style.
The Seahawks are a shotgun-heavy team that is built around Russell Wilson and his ability to make plays from inside and out of the pocket. For that reason, they’re not an outstanding fit for Peterson, but we all saw how effective their offense was with Marshawn Lynch carrying it 25 times a game.
Peterson, in his current state, isn’t Lynch, but he does have the ability to tote the rock 20-plus times on a weekly basis. He would provide some insurance for the oft-injured Thomas Rawls, who was inconsistent in 2016. The other problem is that Seattle’s offensive line isn’t great, though it was improving as the year went on.
Charles LeClaireCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
New York Giants
One of the first teams Peterson named when pondering his release was the Giants. They have a clear need at running back with Rashad Jennings out of the picture and Paul Perkins uncertain as a workhorse. Peterson doesn’t fit the Giants’ blocking scheme or shotgun-heavy offense as well as he would other teams, but there’s an obvious need for New York.
Peterson would be able to take pressure off of Eli Manning similar to the way the Cowboys planned on Ezekiel Elliott prolonging Tony Romo’s career. The Giants have become one-dimensional in recent years because of their lack of a running game, so Peterson’s presence would change that fairly quickly.
Green Bay Packers
This probably won’t happen, but Ted Thompson and the Packers should at least consider it. Peterson is 31 years old and wouldn’t require a long-term commitment. While his contract demands remain to be seen, the Packers have the cap space to make the connection happen. They also have the offensive line to satisfy his desire to run behind a unit that can actually block, unlike Minnesota’s.
Eddie Lacy is inconsistent and a free agent, Ty Montgomery isn’t a three-down back, and the Packers have struggled to run the ball for two years. Peterson would be an upgrade, and if he’d take slightly less money to play for a Super Bowl contender, why shouldn’t the Packers explore it?
Kim KlementKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Martin’s future in Tampa Bay is uncertain after he was hit with a suspension in December, which will wrap around into the 2017 season. Yes, he did just sign a five-year extension, but the Bucs could cut ties with him and face no cap penalty due to a clause in his contract. Does that open the door for Peterson to head to sunny Florida? It certainly could.
The Buccaneers are a fringe playoff team in need of a player who can put them over the top. Peterson isn’t the player he once was, but he would provide a boost to the offense and provide Jameis Winston with a reliable back. The Buccaneers’ offensive line wasn’t great last season, but it wasn’t any worse than Minnesota’s.
The Browns have $106 million in cap space, so technically they can pay Peterson more than any other team can. That doesn’t mean they should, but if he were content with playing for a terrible franchise – which I don’t think he would be – the Browns should chase him down.
Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson are good backs, but they’re not franchise-altering players. Peterson may not be one anymore either, but he would bring star power and excitement to Cleveland. He would also take pressure off of their young quarterback and give them a reliable playmaker that they can turn and hand the ball to. This is an unlikely scenario, but with the Browns rebuilding, Peterson would expedite the process.
Both Rick Spielman and Peterson said it themselves: don’t rule out a return. The Vikings simply couldn’t afford to pay him $18 million at 31 going on 32 in March. Peterson has been the face of the franchise for a decade, but at some point, finances come into play.
Peterson is going to test the market and see what he can get from other teams, but after dipping his feet in the water, he could come back home. If the Vikings can get him to agree to an incentive-laden deal that’s more reasonable for a 32-year-old running back, it would be a great move. The offense was lost without him in 2016.
Latavius Murray is set to be a free agent, and it’s been reported that the Raiders will let him hit the market. Murray is a good back, but he’s only averaged 4.0 yards per carry the past two seasons as the starter. Peterson would be a perfect fit with the Raiders, who have become pass-happy with Derek Carr at the helm.
Peterson would bring more balance to the offense, and running behind that offensive line would prolong his career. It would also increase his effectiveness, which would benefit both himself and the Raiders. Oakland has the cap space to make it happen, too. This is by far the best fit for Peterson, who would join a team on the cusp of contending for a Super Bowl.