Adrian Peterson, the once-elite running back who hasn’t been good since 2015 and has been unwilling to accept a part-time role, has signed with Washington, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo.
Peterson joins “Fit Rob” Kelley and Samaje Perine (a former Oklahoma running back who once again will live in Peterson’s shadow) to compete for carries after rookie Derrius Guice tore his ACL two weeks ago against New England. This seems like a classic Dan Snyder move: bring in a past-his-prime name, especially at a position where undrafted free agents who would cost a tenth of the money are shining around the league. Peterson is 33 years old, which in running back years is old enough to join AARP. While he’s 37 rushing yards from passing Jim Brown for 10th all time, he also averaged 3.4 yards per carry with New Orleans and Arizona last year, which is a career worst for a season in which he played more than three games. According to the Football Outsiders metric DYAR, which measures total value across a season, Peterson was second to last among the 47 running backs who had at least 100 carries. The only person he was ahead of was Perine. So that technically makes Peterson an upgrade.
Even if Peterson is marginally better than Kelley or Perine, the question is whether bringing him in will cause some behind-the-scenes drama. As former offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, who played for the Vikings during Peterson’s famed 2012 season, wrote on Twitter, Peterson prefers a specific running style:
I know in Minnesota (and other places) we run what the back and line do best. AP loved two back runs like lead draw and G lead. I never ran those plays as much anywhere else. We became good at them… however, you’re adding AP to an already established run game in Washington. They shouldn’t change everything they do for him.
Washington has a flexible zone-based scheme, which may be challenging for Peterson’s power style, and the team used two running backs on the field just 24 times in 2017. Adapting to a new system did not work out for Peterson in New Orleans. He said he knew what he was getting into with the Saints, as he told Fox’s Jay Glazer. But the moment the season started and Peterson was usurped by Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, he was caught on camera jawing at head coach Sean Payton.
Adrian Peterson calling Sean Payton tonight and telling him all about his 100+ yard game with the Cards today. pic.twitter.com/ny1UZPI8CI— Beezy (@SirTweets_Alot) October 15, 2017
Peterson said after the game that he was asking Payton to run inside zone, but the implication was clear: He wasn’t happy with his volume or usage. A month later he was traded to Arizona. As one of the best running backs ever, Peterson will make Washington more relevant. But at this point, it’s unlikely he’ll make them much better. For a team that was finally having a quiet offseason, that may not be what they wanted.