Five days before the Saints signed future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson to a two-year deal, the team’s top back issued a word—or hashtag—of caution to anyone possibly questioning his skills and/or value.
“#StaySleep,” Ingram posted with a sleep emoji as he retweeted a Nola.com article teased online as “Saints enter this year’s NFL draft with a clear hole at running back.”
Teammate Cam Jordan had Ingram’s back on social media. So, too, did Jahri Evans. Even the Saints’ official Twitter account basically said, “Hey, that’s not the way we feel about you, Mark,” though that’s not exactly the same as hearing it from general manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton.
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The fact is, the Saints did have a clear hole at running back, with or without Ingram. Backup Tim Hightower signed with the 49ers earlier this off-season, and Ingram had missed 12 games over the three seasons before a healthy 2016 season.
Now Peterson, who has been on the market since the Vikings decided against picking up his 2017 option in February, gets to breathe down the neck of Ingram on the depth chart for at least one season.
According to ESPN, Peterson signed a two-year deal with a base value of $7 million—the contract is essentially a one-year, $3.5 million deal, since there is no guaranteed money for 2018. Ingram, 27, has two years left on his deal and is coming off the first 1,000-yard rushing season of his career.
Peterson’s fit in New Orleans seems clear, at least on paper, in April. With Ingram shouldering the load last season, Hightower rushed 8.3 times a game and caught fewer than two passes per game, so that’s roughly the usage you’d expect for Peterson. At 32 and coming off a torn meniscus, he may not be able to handle much more than that, anyway.
Peterson didn’t work out of the shotgun much in Minnesota during his 10 years there and shouldn’t in New Orleans since Drew Brees prefers working under center. On Day One of this marriage, both parties should still be smiling.
“On offense, it goes without saying that the Saints are really solid behind Drew Brees,” Peterson told ESPN in a statement. “I feel like my skill set can make them even more dominant as a unit. They have a great offensive line, which is something that stood out to me as well. I could tell from talking to head coach Sean Payton over the last two weeks that he did his due diligence in evaluating how I could contribute.”
The Patriots and Seahawks had Peterson in for visits, though it was never clear exactly how serious those visits even were. Peterson was wise to sign with a team before the draft, when a crop of fresh-legged 22-year-olds would enter the market and impact both his price and destination.
(And with just more than two days before prospects like Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook hear their names called in Philadelphia, big-named running backs remain. Jamaal Charles is still available after taking a visit to Seattle. LeGarrette Blount, he of the 1,161 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns last season, is unsigned. The Raiders and Marshawn Lynch are reportedly working against the draft deadline.)
The Saints are looking to be rescued from the 7–9 hell they endured the past three seasons, but they still have the NFC South’s fourth-best roster, and this signing only marginally improves it. Peterson and Brees will make a Hall of Fame backfield, but only for 20 or so snaps per game. When the Saints face the Vikings on Monday Night Football in Week 1, the game will no doubt get the billing of Peterson facing his old team, even if it may feature more shots of him on the sideline waiting to be sent in than of him toting the ball.
Peterson only mustered 72 yards on 37 carries last year between two separate injuries, and he was only averaging 1.6 yards per carry before his first injury. No one is asleep, Mark. This is still your job.