Tuesday was not kind to aging, former All Pro running backs over the age of 30 as the Minnesota Vikings declined to pick up the contract option for Adrian Peterson and Kansas City Chiefs released Jamaal Charles.
The New England Patriots are considered a potential landing spot for Peterson, but Peterson hasn’t expressed interest in New England. He’s repeatedly highlighted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a landing spot, both in 2015 and again in 2016, while teams like the New York Giants and the Houston Texans are also on his list. Peterson could still return to the Vikings if not enough teams show interest on the open market.
And there’s also this graph:
Adrian Peterson's yards per carry depending on how many "games since" you go (including playoffs) pic.twitter.com/wxzziEIW9m— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) December 16, 2016
Charles is a different discussion because he’s not made his intentions known. Charles, who turned 30 in December, has played with the Kansas City Chiefs since he was a third round pick in 2008. Charles averages 5.5 yards per carry, the second-highest mark by a running back in NFL history, and the best since Marion Motley averaged 5.7 yards per carry from 1946-55. Charles is clearly a unique talent.
Charles also gained 108 yards and scored 3 touchdowns in the now-famous “they’re just not good anymore” game between the Chiefs and Patriots in 2014.
Well, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, Charles’ camp is putting out feelers to express what teams hold his interest.
“As far as Jamaal Charles goes, this is a guy right now who I am told number one on his list is going to be playing for a contender,” Garafolo said. “So I know some people have made the connections between the Eagles and [head coach, former Chiefs offensive coordinator] Doug Pederson and Charles, and also Chris Ballard now the general manager of the Colts having come over from the Chiefs, I get all that, but my impression from the people that I’ve talked to early on is he’s aiming a little higher.
“He’s aiming for teams that were in the postseason last year, that he thinks have a legitimate Super Bowl chance this upcoming season, so he’s going to start there and if the money matches up and some of these teams looking potentially for running back help, you could throw the Dallas Cowboys in there, they would be high on Jamaal Charles’ list for sure.”
Charles is looking for teams that were in the playoffs in 2016 and have a real chance at the Super Bowl in 2017? Let’s look through the options.
1. Patriots: Reigning Super Bowl champions, always a contender, incumbent running back (LeGarrette Blount) is a free agent.
2. Chiefs: Charles was released by the Chiefs.
3. Steelers: Just gave a mega-deal to RB Le’Veon Bell.
4. Texans: Signed Lamar Miller to big contract prior to 2016.
5. Raiders: Possible landing spot with cap space and Latavius Murray a free agent.
6. Dolphins: Moving forward with Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake.
1. Cowboys: Charles is a graduate of the University of Texas, but Ezekiel Elliott is the starter in Dallas.
2. Falcons: Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are in charge.
3. Seahawks: Seahawks don’t have an offensive line, which would be tough for Charles, but Seattle definitely has an opening.
4. Packers: Possible, but the Packers don’t sign free agents and might just retain Eddie Lacy.
5. Giants: Just released Rashad Jennings and could be a landing spot. Will they sign Peterson over Charles, and are they an actual contender?
6. Lions: Are they an actual contender? Could have an opening in the backfield.
So looking at the teams, there are five candidates: the Patriots, Raiders, Seahawks, and Giants are all options, and the Lions if Charles considers them to be contenders.
Will Charles want to go the revenge route and sign with the division rival Raiders? Does he want to play behind a terrible offensive line with the Seahawks? Is the 26th ranked Giants offense enticing? Are the Lions even a contender? Or will Charles be open to taking less money to play for the Patriots?
Heck, would the Patriots even be interested in Charles?
When healthy, Charles is one of the most dynamic running backs in the league, but the Patriots balked when given the same opportunity with Arian Foster last offseason. Charles has played a mere 290 snaps over the past two seasons across 8 games and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick always says that availability is more important than ability.
Charles was released by the Chiefs with the “failed physical” designation and has a long history of knee surgeries. Charles tore his left ACL in September of 2011 and his right ACL in October of 2015. He didn’t recover well from his 2015 injury and required a pair of follow-up surgeries (one in each knee) in November of 2016. That’s a lot for a 30 year old running back to deal with over the years.
And then there’s the concern about cost. What is Charles looking for? Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount is a known commodity coming off the best season in his career; Charles is a question mark that hasn’t really played since 2014. Blount has signed team-friendly deals before; how expensive will it be to sign Charles?
I don’t think the Patriots will sign Charles, even if I think there will be exploratory interest on both sides. A team like the Lions or Seahawks could be a great place for Charles to land and finish out his career.