The Adrian Peterson fans will say that Latavius Murray never will be able to replace the excitement that Peterson brought for many of his 10 seasons in Minnesota.
They are right.
The Vikings’ decision to sign Murray, yet another indication that Peterson will have to continue his career elsewhere, means they have decided to go in a very different direction when it comes to the running back position.
And as much as that might upset those who bought purple No. 28 jerseys and hoped Peterson would end his career in Minnesota, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer did what was best for their team.
We can go through all the reasons why this is the case. Murray turned 27 in January and has played only three NFL seasons. Peterson will turn 32 – ancient for a running back by NFL standards – on March 21. Murray isn’t close to being the runner that Peterson was in his prime, few are, but Murray is a better receiver than Peterson and he is superior when it comes to pass protection.
Peterson’s salary-cap hit was $15.4 million in 2015, $12 million last season and would have been $18 million for 2017 had the Vikings not decided to release him. Those are astronomical numbers reserved for star players at premium positions, not running backs. Murray reportedly received a three-year, $15 million contract that includes $8.5 million in guarantees and has a $1.8 million signing bonus.
But, according to ESPN’s Ben Goessling, Murray received $3.4 million at signing and the remaining $5.15 million in guarantees would only hit if he remains with the Vikings for the 2018 season. Murray’s cap hit for 2017 will be a modest $2.956 million.
This will free up salary-cap room for the Vikings to retain star cornerback Xavier Rhodes or potentially do a contract extension with quarterback Sam Bradford. Those are positions at which spending significant money makes sense.
Murray will step into a situation where he likely will be part of a rotation that will include Jerick McKinnon and likely a player who will be added in this spring’s draft from what’s consider a deep pool of running back talent.
Murray will be counted on to provide a veteran presence and savvy, but he won’t be counted on to carry the offense as Peterson often ended up trying to do. The good news is Murray will have no issue working out of the shotgun formation or having his carries limited in certain games or splitting time with others.
The focal point of the offense – one that has new left (Riley Reiff) and right (Mike Remmers) tackles – will be Bradford. Everything the Vikings do offensively will be done to make Bradford as successful as possible because that’s what will give the offense its best chance of being good enough to help the Vikings rebound from an 8-8 season in which a knee injury limited Peterson to only three games.
Murray took to Instagram on Thursday morning to make it clear he had no intention of asking for the No. 28 he had worn in Oakland. His classy hello to Minnesota fans also sounded like a guy who expected some push back from Peterson fans who wouldn’t be happy to see him join the Vikings.
“There wasn’t a thought in my mind to try and wear or ask for the #28. I have too much respect for AP and so much respect for what he’s done and what he means to this organization. Many people don’t know, but I wore the #28 as a kid because of Fred Taylor who played for the Jaguars at the time. When AP came onto the scene and Fred retired, he was my reason for keeping #28. I want to say to Vikings fans: I’m not here to replace #28, he’s irreplaceable. I’m not here to be #28, there’s no one like him. I ask that you accept me for the player I am and know that I’m here to give you all I got and to win #skol.”
What Murray might not realize is that for every remaining Peterson fan, there are many more Vikings fans who realize it was time to move on. Peterson was a phenomenal talent and in his prime provided some great moments.
But for a variety of reasons, Peterson also ended up being part of a franchise that won only one playoff game during his time in purple and that came during a season (2009) in which quarterback Brett Favre was the centerpiece of the offense.
Peterson had his faults, but as a player he literally had a great run in Minnesota. But the NFL is a different game and what makes an offense successful has changed since he arrived. It was time for the Vikings to move on and that’s exactly what they have done.