Peterson still wants to play next season.
Adrian Peterson had an up-and-down six game stint with the Arizona Cardinals in 2017, but still ended up leading the team in rushing. It just wasn’t enough for them to keep the veteran running back around. The Cardinals are expected to release Peterson this week, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Cardinals want to avoid paying Peterson a bonus that will be due Friday, but it’s still possible they’ll re-sign him at a later date.
If not, Peterson will have to hope he can continue to outrun Father Time in 2018 with a new team — unless the soon-to-be 33-year-old decides to call it a career instead.
What does this mean for the Cardinals?
Peterson was never going to be more than a stopgap solution for an Arizona team ravaged by injury last fall. The Cardinals lost 2016 leading rusher David Johnson to a dislocated wrist in Week 1, forcing them to turn to Chris Johnson and Kerwynn Williams in relief. Eventually, that led to an emergency trade of Peterson, who didn’t hide his unhappiness in his short stint with the Saints.
It ended up working out for the Cardinals — just not consistently. In his first game in Arizona, Peterson hit the 100-yard mark for the first time in two years, rushing for 134 yards and two touchdowns. The following week, he totaled just 21 yards on 11 carries.
Peterson put up a season-high 159 yards in his next game, but never reached triple digits again. He went on injured reserve in December due to a neck injury.
Johnson will be healthy for 2018, and the team will likely restock its running back rotation behind him. Peterson was a helpful ally last fall, but if he wants to return to Arizona, it’ll have to be as a backup.
What does this mean for Peterson?
Peterson’s days as a starting running back are probably over. It’s also possible he may have played his final down in the NFL, although Peterson told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that his neck is fully healed and he does want to play next season.
The record-setting tailback averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in 2017 and turns 33 years old in March — that’s ancient for an NFL running back. His last two seasons have ended early due to injury, and while he had a pair of 100-plus yard performances last year, he also had six games in which he gained fewer than 30 yards.
He’s also not much of a receiver, a skill NFL teams covet in their running backs now.
“There’s no doubt Adrian still has some juice left in the tank, particularly from a run-skill standpoint — he still runs with a lot of anger and aggressiveness and has the type of contact balance you look for in that position — but in today’s day and age, we all know you have to be able to catch the ball out of the backfield and do a lot of different things. Versatility is a key,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said in February.
If anyone can still be effective in his mid-30s, however, it’s Peterson. He’s been a physical specimen throughout his career, even returning early from a torn ACL to rush for 2,097 yards and claim MVP honors in 2012. He’s just two years removed from leading the league in rushing — something he did three times in his 10 years with the Vikings — was still useful in spurts for Arizona, which is why he may end up back there next season.
Executives with other teams will be carefully studying his game tape to determine if he can be the missing piece in their backfield this season.
If not, Peterson’s next stop could be the Hall of Fame.
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