Adrian Peterson has been running past people his entire life. Now the greatest running back in Vikings history is getting passed by lesser players as if he were standing still.
It’s as if Peterson is conducting his career segue on a Segway.
The New England Patriots? Instead of turning Peterson into a latter-day Randy Moss, they opted for Bengals utility player Rex Burkhead.
The Oakland Raiders? They seem more interested in bringing Marshawn Lynch out of retirement.
The Seattle Seahawks and former Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell? They preferred Eddie Lacy, an unreliable player who can’t stay in shape.
The Tampa Bay Bucs, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and the Vikings themselves have expressed somewhere between little and no interest in Peterson.
When the Vikings signed Latavius Murray to be their lead back last week, they admitted they were moving on from Peterson. Because Murray will never be the player Peterson was in his prime, the move may look odd to casual observers.
So, perhaps, will many of the key moves the Vikings made in free agency.
You could summarize their efforts this way:
They signed a running back whose team didn’t want him any more, a 39-year-old cornerback, an undrafted wide receiver, a disappointing pass rusher and two average offensive linemen while failing to sign Alshon Jeffrey, a spectacular receiver.
They signed zero stars and the best players they signed — cornerback Terence Newman and receiver Adam Thielen — were with them last year.
This is still a winning hand for the Vikings if you accept that NFL free agency is rarely a vehicle for greatness and more like a tub of caulk you grab at the local hardware store.
You don’t build a house with it. You repair the one you have.
Murray is not a great player, but he can run between the tackles, pass block and catch the ball reasonably well. He also runs with power in short-yardage situations, meaning the Vikings can move on from relying on Matt Asiata.
Newman had one of the best seasons ever by a 38-year-old cornerback. While few players have ever succeeded at 39 at his position, his intelligence gives him a fighting chance.
Thielen was worthy of the second-round tender placed on him by the Vikings. He is the second-best receiver in a shallow positional group, and they couldn’t afford to lose him.
Datone Jones was a disappointment in Green Bay, but one of the reasons Rick Spielman hired Mike Zimmer was to get maximum production out of hybrid defenders such as Jones.
Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff are not great players, but the Vikings demonstrated last year the importance of merely competent offensive linemen by trying to play with too few.
This is an easy time to bash Spielman. His team collapsed last year and too many of his recent first-round draft picks were or could be busts. He has done well in free agency of late, though, in terms of acquiring useful talent and productive personalities.
Linval Joseph, Newman and the departed Captain Munnerlyn in particular are or were ideal teammates as well as quality players.
There is a secondary benefit to Newman re-signing with the Vikings, and it has nothing to do with experience or knowledge.
When tight end Rhett Ellison left the team in free agency, his father, Riki, blasted the leadership of Spielman, Zimmer and the Vikings’ locker room. Combined with the team’s meltdown and the cornerbacks’ disobedience in Green Bay last winter, Zimmer was facing a problem of perception.
Was he losing the locker room?
Newman’s signing calms that story line. Newman chose to sign with Minnesota because of Zimmer, and he re-signed because, he said, he believes he has a chance to win a title with the Vikings.
Newman’s presence was also important because of the loss of Munnerlyn. It’s difficult to try to win big while breaking in two young cornerbacks to new roles.
Peterson’s departure is of historical importance. For the 2017 Vikings, Newman’s return was more important.