As if the New Orleans Saints didn’t have enough holes to fill on their player roster this off-season, the position of back-up #2 RB was added to the list when former back-up running back Tim Hightower left New Orleans via Free Agency for the San Francisco 49ers.
Presumably, it means that the Saints will likely look to add another RB in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft in a little over 2 weeks from now, to provide more depth behind starting RB Mark Ingram.
With that in mind it came somewhat unexpectedly for those who follow the Saints the other day, when news broke that New Orleans would be on the receiving end of a visit from unrestricted Free Agent and former Minnesota Vikings All-Pro RB Adrian Peterson this coming Tuesday.
Saints fans are well aware that Peterson not all that long ago was THE BEST “pure” RB of the past decade, leading the NFL in rushing on 3 different occasions (2008, 2012, 2015), is a 7-time All-Pro, and was the League’s Most Valuable Player in 2012; when he finished with 2,097 rushing yards — the second-most ever for a running back in a single season in the NFL’s 96-year history.
But Peterson, who is now age 32 — which in NFL years for the running back position means that he has “a lot of tread on the tires” — has only played in a total of 20 games (out of a possible 48) in the past 3 seasons, thanks in part to a series of unfortunate circumstances that included a suspension that caused him to miss a chunk of the 2014 season; and a torn MCL in his right knee last year in the Vikings’ season opener that caused him to miss the remaining 15 games of the 2016 season.
The Vikings chose not to re-sign Peterson this off-season, making him an unrestricted Free Agent for the first time in his decade-long career. Peterson is now seeking to hopefully play an 11th season and possibly more with a new team in 2017, but his plans haven’t exactly turned out the way that he had originally hoped.
Peterson had let it be known that he wants to play for a “Super Bowl contender”, but still remains unsigned as we approach the upcoming Draft. Thus far, he only has had two visits with teams that ‘fit’ his Super Bowl contender criteria: the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots.
However, the Seahawks ended up signing former Green Bay Packers RB Eddie Lacy; and the visit that Peterson had in New England with the Patriots turned out to be an uneventful meeting for both sides; with the word throughout Social Media circles (i.e., Twitter) being that New England head coach Bill Belicheck only wanted it to appear that he and the Patriots were interested in signing Peterson as a back-handed way to “send a message” to current Patriots RB LaGarrette Blount.
So now almost a whole month into Free Agency and his plan to play for a Super Bowl contender looking more and more unlikely to come to fruition, it appears that Peterson has now decided to go with ‘Plan B’ — which is to “settle” signing with a team that might be good enough in 2017 to at least have some hope of trying to get to the Super Bowl.
But actually, it might also be safe to say that Peterson finds himself suddenly running out of options; and might have to take whatever offer that he can get at this point.
Enter into the picture, your New Orleans Saints.
As mentioned, the Saints need a back-up to starter Mark Ingram. The problem with that however is that Peterson would have to be willing to accept such a role, even though he has hoped all along that he can go to a team where he could possibly start after being the “alpha dog” in Minnesota for the past 10 years.
And unless the Saints totally go against all logic and demote Ingram from being the starter, that’s unlikely to happen.
However, assuming Peterson’s asking price isn’t too ridiculous or outlandish, chances aren’t all that far-fetched that he and the Saints could still manage to reach a deal.
In this particular case for both sides, you could consider it a “marriage of convenience”.
The dictionary defines the term ‘marriage of convenience’ as “a marriage contracted for reasons other than that of relationship, family, or love. Instead, such a marriage is orchestrated for personal gain or some other sort of strategic purpose, such as political marriage.”
In other words in this particular case, if Peterson and the Saints are together in 2017 it will be because they HAVE TO BE with each other, even though that they really might not “want” to be with each other.
Honestly, what the Saints REALLY need at the moment is a player with similar attributes to former RB’s Reggie Bush with Darren Sproles, a top-notch 3rd-down back who would be a “scatback” in Sean Payton’s offensive scheme capable of catching passes and screens out of the backfield.
Bringing in Peterson certainly wouldn’t accomplish that.
Given all of the “wear and tear” from the pounding that he has taken over the years, Peterson is nowhere near the player that he used to be.
He’s now been reduced to a 2-down runner, and there’s also the additional fact that he has notably had trouble with catching the football throughout both his All-American college career at Oklahoma and his career as a pro.
Even worse: Peterson isn’t known for being a good blocker and a pass-protector, an attribute that Sean Payton usually demands from his skill players on offense. Add to that, the thought of a 32-year old Peterson trying to block incoming blitzers from sacking a 38-year old Drew Brees, is a pretty scary one.
Nevertheless, this is why if they reach an agreement with Peterson, Saints fans’ expectations should be kept to a minimum.
So if you are expecting Adrian Peterson to come in and see both him and Ingram rush for 1,000 yards each this upcoming season, you’re only kidding yourself. There’s no way in hell that would ever happen in a Sean Payton offense, to begin with.
But Peterson does appear to have enough “gas in the tank” to still be productive, and would seem to be at the worst a capable back-up for Ingram — who we all know has shown a knack for getting hurt and missing games himself.
One can certainly envision Sean Payton using Ingram and Peterson in a rotation, with 2nd year player Daniel Lasco and veteran reserve Travaris Cadet providing further depth. And that’s not counting the RB that the Saints are likely to take with one of their picks later this month, in the upcoming Draft.
From Peterson’s perspective, visiting “The Shrine on Airline” (the Saints practice facility in suburban Metairie) on this upcoming Tuesday morning will be a sobering experience.
He’ll get to see the glass case that contains the Lombardi Trophy which the Saints won (after their victory in Super Bowl XLIV) and is displayed inside of the building’s main entrance; the very same trophy that he himself almost won if one of his two costly fumbles hadn’t caused the Vikings to eventually lose in overtime to the Saints in the 2010 NFC Championship Game.
And he’ll have to deal with the reality that unless some other team from out of the blue comes calling for a chance to “kick the tires” and see what he has to offer, that it just might end up being the very same Saints training facility where he’s at on that day — that also could eventually become the brand new place that he calls ‘home’.
Now of course if no deal between Peterson and the Saints is reached, then Peterson and his agent can simply go on about their business, and wait around hoping (and praying) for the phone to ring.
Maybe after NFL teams get to Training Camp and injuries occur throughout the League as they seem to do every single year, some desperate team in need of a veteran RB will give him a call.
Or, maybe he decides that playing with Drew Brees and being a back-up RB in the Saints’ high-powered offense isn’t such a bad gig, after all.
And maybe — just maybe — a “marriage of convenience” could actually turn out to prove beneficial, for all of the parties involved……
Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist and Lead Analyst Barry Hirstius is a 49-year old semi-retired journalist and former New Orleans area sports Editor and Columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints NFL football team. Additionally, he is a frequent guest on a variety of SportsTalk Radio programs that cover the Saints. Barry is also a New Orleans native that dating all the way back to his childhood in the early 1970's, grew up as a long-time New Orleans Saints fan who followed and now covers the team for a span of over 40 plus years. Most importantly, he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.......