Where Will Peterson Play in 2021?
By: Caleb Holfoth (@cmhfilm)
Adrian Peterson has had one of the best running back careers in NFL history. The 4-time First-Team All-Pro, 7-time Pro-Bowler, and future first-ballot Hall of Famer is looking for a new team after spending his 2020 season with the Detroit Lions. Peterson has already stated that he is not only looking to return but he is chasing his 1st ever Championship and going after Emmitt Smith’s Rushing Yards Record which he is 3,535 yards away from.
Peterson is still a low-end starter/high-end backup in the NFL and his veteran presence would be valued in an NFL locker room. Peterson has slowed down throughout the past three seasons.
- 251 attempts, 1042 yards, 20 receptions, 208 yards, 8 total TD’s, 4.2 YP (with WFT)
- 211 attempts, 898 yards, 17 receptions, 142 yards, 5 total TD’s, 4.3 YPC (with WFT)
- 156 attempts, 604 yards, 12 receptions, 101 yards, 7 total TD’s, 3.9 YPC (with DET)
Adrian Peterson still has juice in the tank. Peterson averaged more yards per carry and notable NFL running backs Todd Gurley (FA), Joe Mixon (CIN), and had the same as Josh Jacobs (LVR). Teams that need an option and are limited by the lowered Salary Cap this offseason should look at Peterson alongside teams who want a veteran option to be a backup for a season.
Boasting the worst rushing offense in the NFL averaging a sad 3.6 yards per carry and 84.4 yards per game (7 yards less than 2nd worst in the NFL). The Pittsburgh Steelers desperately need an upgrade at running back. The only problem is that the Steelers are already above the cap. Signs point to Ben Roethlisberger returning with a contract restructure saving the Steelers some money.
However, that money will have to be used to resign notable players who are becoming free agents such as Bud Dupree (OLB), Alejandro Villanueva (LT), JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR), and Mike Hilton (DB). Pittsburgh likely cannot afford many of the large running back names on the market.
Peterson is an underrated option that they could pair with a back from the 2021 NFL draft. Peterson is too late in his career to change the trajectory of a franchise however he could impact the team more than many running backs on the market with his experience. There is much more wrong with the Steelers on offense than the running back position but there is no doubt that having a strong veteran player in the backfield would benefit the Steelers next season.
The Atlanta Falcons have a mediocre offense since there is little to no balance. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Russell Gage continue to be one of the most explosive passing groups in the NFL. The running game led by Todd Gurley and Brian Hill was miles behind the passing game. Averaging only 95.8 yards per game the Falcons rushing offense was led by Todd Gurley who finished averaging 3.5 yards per carry and with less than 700 yards on the season. Atlanta is in a similar position to Pittsburgh due to the massive $40 million cap hit that Matt Ryan has. The Falcons are currently $12 million over the cap before free agency and the draft. In addition to that, both Todd Gurley and Brian Hill are free agents.
The Falcons will likely draft a running back because of how strapped for cash they are. Adrian Peterson would be a good fit to be a veteran leader in the new-look Falcons running back room while also being able to handle starting duties for several weeks at a time if new coach Arthur Smith needs him too. Arthur Smith comes from Tennessee where he called plays for All-Pro running back Derrick Henry. There is not a running back that is similar to Henry in the NFL however if there is a style of running that emulates what Henry does it is Adrian Peterson.
New York Giants
The New York Giants may be a surprise to some on this list. However, after Saquon Barkley was put on Injured Reserve after suffering ACL and Meniscus injuries in a Week 2 contest against the Bears the New York Giants ran through several different running backs. Wayne Gallman, Alfred Morris, and Devonta Freeman were all underwhelmed for the Giants during weeks 3-17. All three players averaged less than 46 yards per game and led to the Giants being 2nd last in yards per game.
While Barkley returning gives the Giants a massive boost there still should be a concern with the backup role. Peterson could come in as a one-year fix and give the Giants a reliable back behind their star. In addition to the need the Giants have, Peterson and Barkley already have a strong relationship. Barkley leaned on Peterson and his advice before and after he had surgery. Peterson could be an asset as a backup for Barkley and he would cost the veteran minimum which makes Peterson a better value than most of the running backs on the market who have unproven careers.
I would not expect Adrian Peterson to have tons of suitors at the Beginning of free agency. However, because of his potential contract, there are not many teams that would turn down his veteran presence in their locker room. Peterson may wait to sign with a team until training camp to wait and see where other backs land this offseason through the NFL Draft and Free agency. By the time training camp comes around there will be several teams in contact with Peterson in an attempt to sign the future Hall-of-Famer.
Contract Projection: 1-year, Veteran Minimum ($1,050,000)
Honorable Mentions: Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Chargers