PHOENIX – A day after learning his team will be moving to Las Vegas in three years, Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was asked if he’d take a gamble on a certain former Vikings running back who missed 13 games last year, turned 32 years old last week and now ranks 26th in NFL history with 2,418 carries.
“I’m neither confirming nor denying anything you say about that particular player,” the former Vikings linebacker said with a smile during Tuesday’s AFC coaches breakfast at the annual league meetings. “I think as you get later in your career there are different questions that have to be answered, whether it’s health, expense, how much you have left, how you fit with a team. He’s obviously been a great player in this league, and I’m sure something will work out for him at some point.”
Yeah, but when?
Peterson, the 2012 league MVP, became a free agent for the first time when the Vikings released him rather than commit to paying him $18 million this season. But as free agency opened with a frenzy and then slowed to a crawl, interest in Peterson remained minimal.
The Patriots needed a running back. They signed Cincinnati’s Rex Burkhead. The Seahawks needed a running back and chose Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy over Peterson after both visited Seattle. The Vikings needed a running back and they signed Oakland’s leading rusher, Latavius Murray, who’s five years younger than Peterson and has 1,875 fewer carries.
Burkhead got a one-year, $3.15 million deal. Lacy also signed for one year at $4.25 million. And Murray got $15 million over three years with $8.5 million guaranteed.
Last week, national reports said Peterson was holding out for $8 million a year. Peterson disputed that on Twitter.
He wrote: “You can’t believe everything you read or hear people. The last thing I’m worried about is playing ball this coming season. That will happen! It’s not all about the money as everyone is speculating here lately.”
Peterson’s name has been mentioned here a few times since the league meetings opened Sunday night at the Arizona Biltmore. The two teams being mentioned the most — Green Bay and Detroit — are fellow NFC North participants.
Packers General Manager Ted Thompson admitted to reporters that he needs more bodies at running back. When asked if Peterson was a possibility, Thompson said, “We don’t talk about players that are not on our team.”
Meanwhile, Lions General Manager Bob Quinn was asked if his aggressive run through this year’s free agency period might include signing Peterson to help a rushing attack that ranked 30th last season.
“I think AP still has plenty left in the tank,” Quinn said, per the Detroit News. “We’ll see how it goes.”
With 11,747 career yards rushing, Peterson ranks 16th in NFL history. He’s only 566 from passing Jim Brown for 10th place, but is coming off a season in which knee surgery and a groin injury limited him to 72 yards on 37 carries (1.9) in three games.
Of course, the year before that, Peterson led the league in rushing (1,485 yards) at age 30.
“Adrian is like our guy Frank Gore,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “He’s a 30-plus back with a lot of carries on his back. But he’s not finished. He’ll find a home. No doubt.”
Gore turns 34 in May. He also has 547 more carries than Peterson and ranks eighth in career rushing yards with 13,065. But there are fewer durability questions about Gore after he ran for 1,025 yards at age 33.
Del Rio said the Raiders wanted to keep Murray, but couldn’t for financial reasons. It left the Raiders’ stable of running backs in need of a big body with power and sparked reports that Oakland has been trying to lure retired Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch out of retirement to play for his hometown team.
“I can only tell you that [Lynch] is still the property of [the Seahawks],” Del Rio said, “and that forbids me from talking about him.”
As Del Rio noted, there’s a long time until final rosters are set. With a deep class of running backs coming out of college, teams such as the Raiders, Lions and Packers might be waiting until after the draft to make decisions on veterans such as Peterson.
“I think when it’s all said and done, there’s a strong likelihood that we’ll have a big back who can give us some of that power running that you’re talking about,” Del Rio said. “Somehow, things will work out.”
Later in the day, Giants coach Ben McAdoo was asked about the possibility of signing Peterson, who has expressed interest in playing for the Giants.
“Never say never,” McAdoo said. “He’s a very talented player, and he has a chip on his shoulder. If he can stay healthy, he has a lot to offer.”