The Oakland Raiders were expected to let Latavius Murray walk in free agency, opting to move on from the 6-foot-3 back. That’s exactly what happened on Thursday as he signed with the Vikings on a three-year deal.
That single signing will have a ripple effect for a few parties in the NFL. Adrian Peterson is almost certainly not going back to Minnesota, the Raiders have a gaping hole at running back, and the Vikings are now set at the position for a few years.
It eliminated one of the top potential suitors for Peterson, leaving his market even thinner – especially after the Seahawks picked Eddie Lacy over him. With Murray in Minnesota, one particular team has emerged as a perfect fit for Peterson: the Raiders.
Oakland has the cap space
Teams with the most cap space are often the worst in the NFL, but that’s not the case with Oakland. They have $35 million to spend this offseason, which is the fifth most of any team.
It’s unclear how much Peterson is asking for on the open market, but it’s fairly clear he’s not looking to play for $4 million per year. The Raiders can make a deal with him work, especially if they give him one that’s chock-full of incentives and bonuses for staying healthy.
It would protect Oakland in the event that he gets hurt once again, while also rewarding Peterson should he succeed. The Raiders can offer Peterson more than just about any contender in the NFL, which could be the difference in him getting $8 million or $6 million per year.
They have two capable third-down backs
Peterson isn’t a pass-catching back. He never has been. Fortunately for the Raiders, they don’t need one. That’s because they have two third-down backs in Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington – neither of whom are between-the-tackles runners or physical guys.
Peterson would be able to come in and play on first and second down before giving way to Washington and Richard on third down. Heck, even if it’s third-and-2, there probably aren’t many backs in the NFL you’d rather have than Peterson.
His next team has to realize he’s not going to be an every-down player with his inability to pass protect and struggles catching the ball. The Raiders have players to fill that role, which would allow Peterson to thrive on early downs.
They’re legitimate Super Bowl contenders
Peterson made it clear right from the get-go: He wants to play for a contender. That rules out teams like the Browns, 49ers and Jets, but the Raiders are certainly among the best teams in football.
Had Carr not gotten hurt last season, the Raiders would have challenged the Patriots in the AFC. They had a high-powered offense led by an elite passing attack, and a ground game that complemented it perfectly. This offseason, they haven’t lost any key pieces, and with the draft upcoming, they’re only going to improve further.
Peterson is at the tail end of his career and probably only has a few good years left in him. His window to win a Super Bowl is closing, which is why he’s focused on joining a team that can win it all right away. The Raiders can do that.
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He fits Latavius Murray’s role perfectly
It’d be unfair to Peterson to say Murray is the same player as him, seeing as Peterson is one of the most athletic and greatest running backs in NFL history. However, Peterson does fit the void Murray left fairly well. They’re both downhill runners who can run over defenders on the second level and shed tacklers in the open field.
There isn’t a lot of dancing behind the line of scrimmage from either player. They both get their pads squared up, make one cut and go. That’s how the Raiders used Murray, getting him running downhill more often than not. Unlike Peterson, Murray was actually better out of the shotgun (4.2 yards per carry) than he was under center (3.8 yards per carry), but the Raiders were more shotgun-heavy after Week 12 due to Carr’s finger injury.
The Raiders can get back to more single-back and two-back sets with Peterson, putting Carr under center more. He’s the perfect replacement for Murray’s role.
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Their offensive line is great
When Peterson’s dad came out and said he and his son liked the Raiders’ offensive line, taking a shot at the Vikings’ unit, it ruffled a few feathers in Minnesota. The only problem is, he’s not wrong. Oakland’s offensive line is far superior to the mess the Vikings have.
In fact, the Raiders’ line is one of the best in the league, not far behind that of Dallas’. They have three Pro Bowlers up front in Donald Penn, Kelechi Osemele and Rodney Hudson, which is three more than the Vikings had last season. It’s part of the reason no Vikings running back had success last season – not even Peterson.
Holes were hardly ever open, and when they did find them, they were tiny. That’s not the case in Oakland, where Murray had alleys to run through. Peterson running behind that line is exactly what he needs to prolong his career and eclipse the 1,000-yard mark once again.