If we’ve learned anything in the NFL, it’s that the last thing teams want is distractions – unless it means drafting/signing/keeping a superstar.
Not to say Tim Tebow was a great quarterback, but he went 8-6 as a starter with 29 combined touchdowns, nine interceptions, 6.7 Yards Per Attempt and a 75.3 quarterback rating. You can bet he would have a job as a backup somewhere if he didn’t bring along Justin Timberlake-level coverage. There have been much worse backups. Jimmy Clausen had a job in the NFL longer than Tebow and he went 1-13 with a 61.9 rating.
Someone would have taken a shot at Johnny Manziel. Michael Sam would have been a special teamer. Ray Rice would be in somebody’s backfield.
The fact that Geno Smith now has a job is all the proof anyone should need that Colin Kaepernick is being shunned.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 17, 2017
But they weren’t all that good. You can find other backup quarterbacks or long-shots or special teamers or past-their-prime running backs.
Teams are only willing to risk an overload of press for the Greg Hardys, Ben Roethlisbergers or Ezekiel Elliotts. We’ll soon see Joe Mixon get drafted high despite a video of him punching a woman in 2014 because there’s a good chance he’s a star. If he wasn’t the top running back in the draft, he’d be a late-round pick at best.
At one time, Adrian Peterson fell into that stars-with-different-rules category. The Vikings brought him back after an ugly 2014 suspension and he won the rushing title. But the distraction doesn’t match the production now. It certainly didn’t for the Minnesota Vikings, who announced Thursday that Peterson would not be returning after the signing of running back Latavius Murray.
Peterson might be shutout of a job altogether.
And if any team doubted the level of drama he’s capable of bringing, only a few days into free agency, his father told the Pioneer Press that he didn’t feel respected by the Vikings because they hadn’t given him an offer. Apparently being the highest paid running back in the league in 2016 wasn’t respect enough for past performance.
That’s the tip of the iceberg. Last season, there was a report that some players in the Vikings’ locker room were unhappy with the fact that he chose a surgery that would keep him out longer after a torn meniscus because he was thinking of his future rather than the team’s Super Bowl chances. When he did come back, Peterson informed a DJ on a radio station he invests in that he’d be returning. That had to drive head coach Mike Zimmer up the wall. Then after playing one game and fumbling, he hung ’em up for the final two games, once again, appearing to think only of his own wellbeing.
As much sense as it makes to be selfish in a league that doesn’t generally care much about its players, other Vikings free agents like Zach Line or Captain Munnerlyn played the last two weeks, risking injury.
It would all be brushed aside if Peterson had the chance to rush for 2,000 yards. But every team in the NFL knows that his yards per carry has been fading since the second half of 2015 and he’s coming off an injury and that he barely saw the field last season and averaged just 1.9 Yards Per Attempt when he did.
A few teams have sniffed around. The Seahawks quickly went a different direction, signing Eddie Lacy. Peterson linked himself to the Patriots, who showed no interest and signed Rex Burkhead.
The Oakland Raiders have been a rumored destination. Maybe they could see Peterson having a big year behind their beastly offensive line. Or maybe they could see just about anyone having a big year behind them, like backs DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard, who averaged 5.4 and 5.9 Yards Per Carry, respectively.
It doesn’t help Peterson’s case that this year’s draft is stocked full of great running backs. Vikings GM Rick Spielman called it the deepest group he’s ever seen. And those rookies come cheap, unlike AD.
And rookies are unlikely to make a peep. Peterson still seems to believe he’s a 300-carry, No. 1 bell-cow running back, despite his age and the fact that his pass blocking and receiving are well below average.
We can never underestimate NFL teams’ ability to convince themselves something will work out, but it’s hard to make a good case for anyone to sign him – at least any argument that isn’t based on the long-ago past.