The Saints signed the ex-Viking running back Adrian Peterson to a two-year, $7 million contract. The reality is that the deal is really a one-year gig with an option for a second. The 32-year-old Peterson extends his stellar career by joining one of the most powerful offenses in the league. The Saints ranked No. 7 in the league with 1,679 rushing yards last year. Problem is that primary rusher Mark Ingram remains and the backfield just became much tougher to forecast.
Ingram ran for 1,043 yards on 205 carries last year and added 46 receptions for 319 yards and a total of 10 touchdowns last season. He still has two years left on his current deal but only costs $3 million for 2017. He comes off his first 1,000-yard season and is only 27 years old. He’s never rushed more than 226 times in a year because he played for a team that ranked No. 1 in pass completions for the last three seasons.
Peterson has been a workhorse back for his entire career in Minnesota. He missed last year with a knee injury but was coming off 327 carries for 1,485 yards in 2015. The two issues are his health and how he will fit into this very different offense.
Peterson’s ability to come back from injury is legendary, and his 2,418 career carries only ranks 26th best in the NFL. By comparison, LaDainian Tomlinson (3,174), Curtis Martin (3,518) and Emmitt Smith (4,409) delivered a few full seasons more than what Peterson has done. His departure from the Vikings was as much about his cost as it was his health. Peterson has two major knee injuries in his past though unlike those other more prolific rushers.
His fantasy value will be hard to gauge. The Saints are a passing team and in four of the last five years, they ranked No. 1 in pass completions to their running backs. Peterson rarely accounted for more than one or two receptions per game as the featured player in Minnesota. Ingram is a lock to retain the receiving role that saw him with 50 and 46 catches the last two years. Tim Hightower is gone and accounted for 20 catches last year so Ingram’s role as a receiver may be even higher this year.
Peterson will become part of a committee for the first time in his career. His workload as a rusher will be split with Ingram. That could become very game situation sensitive as well. The bigger Peterson (6-1, 220 pounds) should at a minimum become the preferred goal line specialist, and the Saints have totaled at least 14 rushing scores in each of the last three years. He will likely be drafted too early in most fantasy leagues thanks to his Hall of Fame name.
But Peterson has made a career of being an elite player. The last time he blew out a knee he returned to post 2,097 rushing yards (2011). His workload is certain to decline and could be significantly less. But he leaves a team with poor blocking and literally no other offensive weapon than him. And he lands on a team that always has opponents on their heels trying to cover all the receivers. This may be a new team, but we should still see a productive Peterson.