O’Boyle: Where does Adrian Peterson fit?
Daniel O'Boyle | Friday, April 17, 2015
Since taking the torch from LaDainian Tomlinson with his famous 296-yard performance against the Chargers in Week 9 of the 2007 season, Adrian Peterson has been virtually undisputed as the best running back in the NFL. After a year’s suspension amid child abuse allegations, the NFL announced his reinstatement yesterday, immediately giving him back the figurative crown.
There’s still some debate over whether he should return, but the NFL is a league of second chances, and Michael Vick before him has shown that a player can change, show remorse and be welcomed back.
When Peterson does step back onto the field though, there’s no guarantee it will be for the Vikings. With a huge contract and rumors he wants out, where Peterson plays the 2015 season is still up in the air.
Signing Peterson might seem like a huge risk. Sure, there are downsides, but remember just who we’re talking about. Peterson’s been the top running back in the game for years: in 2012, he rushed for over 2,000 yards, despite opponents setting out to do nothing but stop him. And he did it coming off an ACL tear. That season, he dragged the Vikings to the playoffs despite a terrible secondary, an injury to their only useful receiver and the atrocious Christian Ponder starting at quarterback. No other non-QB in the league right now, not even J.J. Watt, can single-handedly have that kind of impact on a team. He might be 30 years old, usually over the hill for a running back, but Peterson’s body defies all rules. There’s no doubt he has more elite seasons left in the tank. Yes, there’s a strong 2015 draft class of running backs, but none of them can provide Peterson’s level of instant impact. If there’s any chance of getting Adrian Peterson, teams need to try.
So what teams should make a move for the best running back in the league? Here are three of the best fits.
The Cowboys surely make the most sense as a landing spot for Peterson. Losing DeMarco Murray, the league’s leading rusher last year, to the divisional rival Philadelphia Eagles opens up a spot in Dallas’s backfield. The Cowboys did sign Darren McFadden, but he’s not a player you can count on to stay healthy.
Tony Romo proved last year he can play at an elite level, but he will be 35 years old when the 2015 season starts, and he doesn’t have long at the top. A major win-now piece could be just what Jerry Jones’s franchise needs. The Cowboys’ offensive line is almost certainly the best in the NFL, and behind the likes of Tyron Smith and Zach Martin — while Romo and Dez Bryant keep some attention away from him — Peterson would be perfectly set up to succeed. Sure, Cowboys fans can claim they don’t make flashy moves any more, but this move makes sense.
The Cardinals have one of the best defenses in the league, and if Carson Palmer can stay healthy, they could be a genuine Super Bowl contender. An elite running back though, especially one who can run hard between the tackles like Peterson, would be a game-changer. Keeping attention away from Palmer would turn the Cardinals offense from pedestrian to electric, while Andre Ellington would provide the perfect complement. Even if Palmer goes down again, Peterson can be depended upon to keep Arizona in games without great quarterback play and turn a quietly strong team into an elite one.
New England Patriots
It might be a bit of a long shot to see Tom Brady handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson, but it might just make sense. The Patriots definitely need a running back, Bill Belichick doesn’t seem to have much confidence in any of his options, and it would take a bit more heat off Brady, letting him perform at his best a little longer.
The Patriots have regularly gone for big-name trades and free agents before to complete the team, and Peterson would instantly make the Patriots look like an unstoppable force for 2015. Just one year of Adrian Peterson in New England would be enough to make a fifth ring for Tom Brady look like a near-certainty.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.