Adrian Peterson announced on Tuesday that he’s signing with the New Orleans Saints, agreeing to a two-year, $7 million contract. He’ll join Mark Ingram and Travaris Cadet in New Orleans’ backfield, attempting to make one last run at a Super Bowl with fellow future Hall of Famer Drew Brees.
Peterson struggled mightily last season before suffering a knee injury, looking like a shell of himself with the Vikings. His inability to stay healthy or run effectively gave teams pause and caused him to sit on the market for more than a month, but the Saints are taking a guarded chance on him.
Will he revive his career in New Orleans? Or will he struggle the way these eight Hall of Fame running backs did after changing teams late in their career?
Matt KartozianMatt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Franco Harris, Seahawks
Harris was a staple of the Steelers’ four Super Bowl runs, making the Pro Bowl in each of his first nine seasons. But during training camp in 1984, the Steelers released the 34-year-old back to get younger at the position. The Seahawks scooped him up in September with Harris needing just 363 yards to become the league’s all-time leading rusher.
He wound up 193 yards shy of the record, finishing the season with just 170 yards in eight games. He averaged a measly 2.5 yards per carry and was no longer an effective running back.
Focus on SportGetty Images
Emmitt Smith, Cardinals
In each of his last three seasons with the Cowboys, Smith’s rushing numbers decreased. He was still an effective back late in his career – 975 yards at age 33 – but the Cowboys realized he was past his prime and opted to get younger at running back with Bill Parcells at the helm.
Smith signed with the Cardinals, but his first season in Arizona was cut short by none other than Cowboys safety Roy Williams. He finished the 2003 season with just 256 yards before rebounding in ’04 with 937 yards and nine touchdowns.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Earl Campbell, Saints
Campbell had already put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career in Houston before the Oilers traded him to the Saints in 1984. He finished the season in New Orleans – rushing for 190 yards in eight games – before capping off his career with 643 yards in 1985, his last season in the NFL.
His production clearly fell off in his final two seasons with the Saints, considering he rushed for 1,301 yards in 1983. New Orleans gave up a first-round pick for him, which proved to be a high price to pay for a veteran back.
John BetancourtNFL via Getty Images
O.J. Simpson, 49ers
In 1978, the Bills traded their future Hall of Famer to the 49ers for draft picks after he rushed for just 557 yards in his final season in Buffalo. Simpson had very little success in San Francisco, totaling just 1,053 yards in two seasons with the 49ers.
At the time, it looked like a wise move for the 49ers. They were in need of a spark after going just 5-9 in 1977, completely revamping a backfield that was led by Delvin Williams and Wilbur Jackson that season. Unfortunately, adding Simpson never panned out.
B BennettGetty Images
Tony Dorsett, Broncos
During the 1988 offseason, Dorsett was traded from the Cowboys to the Broncos for a conditional fifth-rounder – a small price to pay for a future Hall of Famer. Despite being 34 years old, Dorsett was still in great shape and hadn’t lost much of a step. However, he clearly wasn’t the same player he was in his 20s.
Dorsett played all 16 games in 1988, rushing for 703 yards for the 8-8 Broncos. He led the team in that department, but he was essentially forced into retirement the following year after he suffered a knee injury in training camp.
Mitchell LaytonGetty Images
Thurman Thomas, Dolphins
Thomas saw his skills decline rapidly toward the end of his career, failing to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in his final three seasons with the Bills. He attempted to prolong his playing days in 2000, when he signed with the Dolphins at age 34, coming off of a season in which he played just five games.
Thomas played the first nine games of the season – at a relatively low level, albeit – before suffering a career-ending knee injury. Prior to the injury, Thomas had rushed for just 136 yards on 28 carries.
This content is subject to copyright.NFL
LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets
Tomlinson was coming off of a year in which he ran for just 730 yards – the lowest output of his career, and the first time he finished with fewer than 1,000 yards rushing. He was a free agent for the first time, and teams knew he probably wasn’t the perennial Pro Bowler he once was.
The Jets took a small chance on him (two-year, $5.2 million deal), pairing him with Shonn Greene in the backfield. Tomlinson once again failed to eclipse 1,000 yards in 2010 before ultimately being relegated to a backup role in 2011. In his final season, he put up just 280 yards in 14 games.
Getty ImagesHalf Length
Jim Taylor, Saints
Taylor spent nine years in Green Bay before leaving in 1967 for the Saints, an expansion team in its first season in the NFL. At 31 going on 32, it was clear he was nearing the end of his career. He rushed for just 390 yards – the second-lowest total of his career – with just two touchdowns.
In 1968, Taylor decided to retire after losing his job and being asked to primarily play special teams.