Adrian Peterson — seven-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro, three-time NFL rushing leader, 2012 MVP, and anchor of countless fantasy football teams — signed with the Saints on Tuesday. His deal is worth $3.5 million guaranteed in the 2017 season, with a team option for 2018.
The 32-year-old’s signing ends a prolonged offseason saga. Since the Vikings declined to pick up his contract option in February, he was linked to the Patriots, Cowboys, and Broncos, among others. The move also officially shuts the door on his tenure in Minnesota, where he served as the face of the franchise from the moment he was drafted out of Oklahoma with the seventh overall pick in the 2007 draft. He ran for 5,782 yards over his first four seasons; he tore his ACL and MCL in December 2011, recovered in a superhuman eight months, and went on to break the 2,000-yard rushing plateau in leading the Vikings to a 10–6 record in 2012; he was suspended for almost all of the 2015 campaign after being indicted for child abuse. That scandal sparked a national conversation about corporal punishment, with Peterson talking about his past and parenting at length during a 2016 interview with Sports Illustrated.
For the past decade, Peterson has been the running back in the NFL and has made headlines for virtually everything he’s done. And perhaps that’s what’s so striking about Tuesday’s news: It feels significant since it involves Peterson, but that may be the only reason why.
From an X’s-and-O’s standpoint, he appears to be a poor fit in New Orleans. The Saints feature a notoriously pass-happy offense, attempting 674 pass attempts last season (second in the league) compared with 404 rush attempts (19th). The big shortcomings in Peterson’s game are his receiving and pass blocking. And New Orleans’s roster boasts another running back, Mark Ingram, who is 27, versatile, and coming off a 1,362-total-yard effort (1,043 rushing, 319 receiving) in 2016. He’ll assuredly remain the starter.
For all the buzz surrounding Peterson’s potential destination, he landed in a spot where he’ll likely be deployed as a third-down and goal-line back. He’ll be utilized as a change-of-pace option — a bizarre reality for the unquestioned running back of his generation. In 2012, the idea of Peterson lining up in the same backfield with Drew Brees would have seemed like a cheat code. In 2017, AD is set to become the new Tim Hightower.
Peterson has thrived on silencing critics for his entire life, but that’s harder at 32, especially on the heels of two major knee surgeries. (He tore the meniscus in his right knee last September.) He won’t lack for motivation, though: The Saints play at Minnesota on Monday Night Football in Week 1.