Adrian Peterson has been the face of the Minnesota Vikings for the past decade, putting himself up there with some of the all-time great running backs in league history. However, the past few years were rocky for him, from a lengthy 2014 suspension to his knee injury in 2016.
As a result, the Vikings opted not to pick up his $18 million option for next season. The decision made Peterson a free agent, able to sign with whichever team he likes.
So why hasn’t it happened yet? He’s visited only with the Seahawks , who just signed Eddie Lacy to a one-year, $5.5 million deal on Tuesday. Peterson no longer will be heading to the Pacific Northwest now, so where else could he land? No other teams have expressed interest in the veteran back, despite Peterson rattling off a list of franchises he’d like to play for.
Here’s what Lacy’s deal with the Seahawks means for Peterson.
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Teams don’t believe he’s still elite
In his last full season (2015), Peterson rushed for 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns. He looked every bit like the player he was in his prime, but that was two years ago. Even though he played only three games last season, he looked like a different player – and not in a good way.
He wasn’t as explosive, he wasn’t breaking many tackles, and his agility wasn’t what it once was. Peterson averaged 1.9 yards per carry on 37 attempts, while coughing it up once.
The fact that the Seahawks opted to sign Lacy – who reportedly weighed 267 pounds at one of his visits – over Peterson is telling of what teams think about the former Vikings back. Not to mention, Lacy has only 1,118 yards since the start of 2015.
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He’s probably asking for a lot more than he’s worth
Peterson was making $14 million a year with the Vikings on his three-year, $42 million deal. It made him the highest-paid back in the league by a wide margin, a title he’ll never come close to sniffing again.
He may think otherwise, though.
It’s entirely possible that Peterson is asking for far more money than teams believe he’s worth. Lacy’s deal was for one year and $5.5 million with $3 million guaranteed. That’s not a huge contract, but it does make him the ninth-highest-paid running back in the NFL in terms of average money per year.
If the Seahawks were willing to give Lacy that sort of money, why wouldn’t they do the same for Peterson – a former All-Pro? Because he probably was asking for much more than $5.5 million per year. At this point in his career, he may not be better than Lacy.
Free-agent RBs aren’t valued the way they once were
On paper, this running back class looked to be stacked. Peterson, Lacy, Jamaal Charles, Latavius Murray. When you dive deeper, though, it’s not all that great. Peterson has injury questions, as do Lacy and Charles. Murray is a one-dimensional back, as is Peterson.
You can tell that those big-name backs aren’t as revered as they once were, seeing as they went untouched for nearly a week. Lacy finally signed on Tuesday, but he had to wait his turn.
Teams just aren’t making free-agent running backs a priority due to recent flops. Doug Martin didn’t play well in 2016 and is now suspended four games, DeMarco Murray was terrible in 2015, and Chris Ivory saw his production fall off a cliff in Jacksonville.
Lacy having to wait almost a week to sign means Peterson probably will be sitting around much, much longer.
USA TODAY SportsBrace Hemmelgarn
Lacy is 26 years old and won’t be 27 until June. While he’s certainly not the youngest back in the league, he’s far from the oldest. If healthy, Lacy has at least four decent years left in him, at which point he’d be 31 years old.
By comparison, Peterson will be 32 in exactly a week – a number that should terrify running backs. It’s believed that 30 is the cutoff for a running back’s prime, which Peterson hit two years ago. In the NFL, where running backs are chewed up and spit out like a piece of gum, age matters. Teams are looking to get younger at every position, particularly at running back.
There’s a reason all of the 10 highest-paid backs in the NFL are under the age of 30. Teams don’t pay veterans at that position significant money. It’s not a smart move, which is why Lacy signed before Peterson.
He’s a two-down back
Peterson is a two-down back at this point in his career. Whichever team signs him better have a good third-down guy who can catch passes out of the backfield and block on third down. Peterson can’t do that, and never could.
While Lacy isn’t categorized as a receiving back or an elite pass blocker, he’s far better than Peterson in those departments. Lacy actually graded out positively by Pro Football Focus’ standards, ranking him 18th in limited action last season and third in 2014.
Peterson needs to find a perfect situation, which there aren’t many of in the NFL. Teams will be reluctant to give him $10 million a year to play first and second downs, especially if they don’t believe he’s an elite back anymore.