The Case FOR: When all is said and done and Peterson retires, he will go down as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. He has close to 12,000 career rushing yards (11,747) with 97 rushing touchdowns and 4.9 yards per carry average in 10 seasons (with two of those seasons only playing one game in). He was the 2013 NFL MVP while also being named to the first-team All-Pro four times & to the second-team All-Pro three times. Despite all of that, he recently just turned 32 years old and is only two years removed from a season where he had 1,485 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
Outside of 2014 & 2016 where he only played in one and three games respectively, Peterson has played in at least 14 games for seven of the remaining seasons. He has hit rushed for at least 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns in seven of his ten seasons. Peterson has also put up decent numbers in the receiving game with 1,945 yards and five touchdowns through the air during his career. He is known for his bruising style of football with the ability to not only hit a hole with power but be able to break tackles in stride.
He is a veteran running back with a Hall of Fame pedigree that could prove to be an upgrade over LeGarrette Blount (even though he led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns). There is also an argument to be made that Peterson would have the chance to run behind the best offensive line he has seen in some time. And with the Patriots still known for the aerial attack rather than their ground game, Peterson wouldn’t necessarily need to be a “bell-cow” back but more of an early down bruiser. That would fit more of what Peterson could be able to do considering his age and the fact that he has over 2,500 carries in his NFL career between the regular season and postseason.
Peterson likely wouldn’t command more than a one-year contract (perhaps with a team option for a second year), meaning he would be more of an experiment than a long-term commitment. That gives the team to get a good look at him in their offense and be able to take their time with how he could fit into their plans beyond 2017 (much like they did with Blount in 2015). Peterson could ask for anywhere between $3 to $7 million dollars, depending on who you ask. And with the Patriots still having about $22 million dollars in cap space (according to Miguel Benzen [@PatsCap]), the team has cap space to take on that type of contract.
While Peterson is coming off of surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee that cost him the final 13 games of the 2016 season, he will have had plenty of time to recover and hopefully be ready for organized team activities (OTAs). And as we saw with Peterson when he came back from his torn ACL in 2015 (1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing), he is more than capable of bouncing back from a serious injury.
The Case AGAINST: On the surface, this potential pairing makes a lot of sense. Peterson is a veteran running back who is looking for a Super Bowl title. The Patriots are in need of a running back with Peterson’s sort of skillset (physical runner who can play in-between and outside the tackles). But beyond that, there isn’t much more that would make signing Peterson a great move. Whether it’s his age, injury history, contract demands (reported), or off-field issue(s), this may not be the best move for the Patriots.
Peterson recently turned 32 years old, which makes him the second oldest active running back in the NFL behind Frank Gore (33). He has had two knee surgeries in the past three seasons. As mentioned above, he had knee surgery last season that limited him to only three games played in 2016. It’s fair to wonder how much Peterson has left as he wasn’t exactly performing well before his knee injury (72 yards on 37 carries) either.
And while Peterson will likely need to settle for a one-year contract, there was a report as recent as 10 days ago by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that Peterson was looking for as much as “eight million dollars in the first year of his contract.” If that is the case, that seems to be a bit much for a running back who may be past his prime and and coming off another surgery on his lower body. For reference, Eddie Lacy (26 years old) signed a contract with the Seahawks this off-season for $5.5 million dollars. While Peterson has since refuted that report, anywhere close to eight million or perhaps more than four million may still seem to be too much for someone with Peterson’s circumstances.
When talking about money, what Peterson might be asking for should be much higher than what someone like LeGarrette Blount would get to re-sign with the Patriots. Blount, who finished with the most rushing touchdowns in the NFL (18) this past season, is still a free agent. He is younger (30) and has obviously experience with the Patriots after playing with them for the better part of the last two seasons. Blount re-signed with the Patriots last off-season (following hip surgery) for only one million dollars. While he rightfully deserves a raise after the season he had, it would likely still be cheaper than what Peterson is asking for.
That’s not to mention the loaded draft class coming into the NFL with the running back position one of the deepest this year. Even with the Patriots not slated to draft until round three as of right now, there is still plenty of solid running back options to choose from in the later rounds as well. Any running back drafted by the Patriots would not only be much younger but be under contract control for four seasons (and at a very cheap cap hit too). It might serve New England better to focus on bringing in a draft pick in such a loaded class rather than invest a lot of cap space in someone like Peterson, who is much older and coming off injury.
Of course, Peterson also carries somewhat of a negative reputation because of his child abuse conviction from a few years ago. Peterson was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list during the 2014 season after he was indicted on child abuse charges. He would eventually plead guilty to misdemeanor reckless assault, which is a reduced charge of his original felony child abuse charge. Peterson was ordered to pay fines & court costs exceeding $4,000 and had to serve 80 hours of community service. He was forced to sit out the final 15 games of the season on the exempt list before it being lifted during the following off-season.
Recently, Patriots owner Robert Kraft came out and spoke against players getting second chances for any violence against women, saying “While I believe in second chances and giving players an opportunity for redemption, I also believe that playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right. For me, personally, I believe that privilege is lost for men who have a history of abusing women.” While Peterson was convicted of a crime stemming from child abuse, it is not necessarily the same stance as Kraft’s against domestic violence. Regardless, Peterson’s high-profile arrest and conviction still resonates in peoples’ minds to this day and would surely bring some bad PR to the team if signed.