Here's Why Adrian Peterson is a Bad Fit in Green Bay
Revenge is a dish best served cold. Almost ten years ago, the Minnesota Vikings pulled off a masterful coup by signing former Packers quarterback Brett Favre. Now, Minnesota is likely this offseason to part ways with their superstar running back Adrian Peterson.
The Packers have work to do at the running back position between now and the start of next season. Only Ty Montgomery is under contract next season for the Packers, and he’s had a half season of experience as a running back and only one game with more than nine carries.
One week ago, we highlighted a rumor circling Twitter about Adrian Peterson joining the Packers. Now, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell and Rob Demovsky have each dipped their toes into the analysis.
Adrian Peterson could be an attractive option for Green Bay because he fits the mold of a potential free agent target: he won’t affect the Packers compensatory picks, he’s likely to be value-priced and plays a position of need. On top of that, he’s been the best player on one of Green Bay’s rivals.
To give context to this growing trend, let’s break down what we know about the Packers and Adrian Peterson.
Ted Thompson’s taste for free agents is unique
The Packers recent splashes in free agency, Julius Peppers and Jared Cook, were attractive options because of how the NFL operates. Green Bay has feasted on compensatory draft picks, gifted to the team when their players leave for other teams.
The NFL hands out compensatory draft picks based on a secret formula. The formula factors the value of the players a team has lost in free agency against the value of the players a team has acquired via free agency.
For example, the Jacksonville Jaguars signed former Packers cornerback Davon House in free agency after House’s rookie contract with Green Bay expired. The NFL awarded the Packers a fourth round compensatory pick for House’s departure, which Green Bay used to select linebacker Blake Martinez.
Had the Packers signed a free agent in the same offseason House left for the Jaguars, the formula would have recalibrated and Green Bay would have gotten a worse compensatory selection or none at all.
Because both Peppers and Cook were cut by their previous teams and were not on expiring contracts, Green Bay could continue to receive compensatory draft picks without having to factor in their free agent signings.
Peterson, who is scheduled to make $18 million next season from the Vikings, will most likely be cut. If the Packers were to sign him, it would not change Green Bay’s ability to collect compensatory picks for the potential departures of Nick Perry, Micah Hyde, T.J. Lang, JC Tretter, and others.
Running backs are important to the Packers
A common misconception about Ted Thompson’s player acquisition strategy is that the Packers ignore the running back position. During his tenure with Green Bay, the evidence doesn’t support this line of thinking. Thompson has used quite a few resources to acquire running back talent over the duration of his time in Green Bay.
In 2007, Thompson overhauled the running back position, investing a second-round pick in Nebraska’s Brandon Jackson and acquiring Ryan Grant from Giants via trade in training camp. Grant burst onto the scene as a big part of Green Bay’s offense in Brett Favre’s final season with the Packers. Grant signed a four-year, $20 million contract the following offseason after a holdout.
Super Bowl XLV was possible thanks to the postseason contributions of James Starks, who was drafted by the Packers in the sixth round. The following offseason, Thompson drafted Hawaii’s Alex Green in the third round in the hopes of pairing him with Starks.
Three years later, Green’s short tenure with the team ended and Starks needed additional reinforcements. The Packers selected Eddie Lacy in the second round and Johnathan Franklin in the fourth round.
Thompson’s been strategic about the wide receivers he’s selected, too, as Randall Cobb had experience in college lining up in the backfield.
This season, when Lacy and Starks were injured, Thompson made a rare midseason trade for a running back. The acquisition of Knile Davis from the Chiefs did not go as smoothly as the trade for Ryan Grant, but it showed Thompson’s willingness to give Rodgers a high quality running back. He also made a rare waiver claim and signed Christine Michael after his release in Seattle.
Clearly, Thompson is not shy about using whatever means necessary to bring ball carriers to Green Bay.
Peterson’s personal baggage is a big obstacle
Though Peterson may fit the profile of a Packers’ free agent signing, that’s not the entire story.
Bringing Peterson to Green Bay could be seen as a conscious decision by the Packers to ignore his history of child abuse.
In September 2014, Peterson was indicted on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child after hitting his four year old son with a switch during a visit to Texas in May, reportedly as a form of discipline.
The child’s injuries were serious, to the point that he had to be treated by a doctor upon his return to Minnesota.
Peterson was quickly deactivated by the Vikings, but was thought to be on track to return later in the season until pictures of Peterson’s son emerged, showing the extent of the damage. The NFL, still stinging from the fallout of its inaction on Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s domestic violence case, moved to shelve Peterson for the remainder of the 2014 season.
For his part, Peterson doesn’t fully seem to grasp the severity of his situation. He attributed his decision to discipline his son with a switch as the result of his own upbringing, and after his suspension he vowed simply to “never use a switch again,” as though the implement itself was the source of the problem.
The Packers certainly are no strangers to bringing in troubled cases. Andre Rison helped the team win Super Bowl XXXI, and recently the team has stuck with Andrew Quarless, Johnny Jolly, and Najeh Davenport when legal issues arose.
But in most of those cases, legal trouble arose while those players were already members of the Packers. Standing by a player during a difficult time is one thing. Bringing aboard a player whose legal history contains problems to the extent of Peterson’s would be a serious misstep.
Peterson’s skill set is not a good fit
On top of his personal problems, Peterson generally isn’t a good fit for how the Packers like to utilize running backs.
In Green Bay running backs need to do three things on the field: pass protect, catch passes, and create mismatches with a variety of skillsets.
Though his long term development at the position is still a mystery, Ty Montgomery is on track to do all of these things well. Pass blocking remains an issue, but he’s already an above average player in the two other areas. He’s a good pass catcher and his ability to line up anywhere on the field creates mismatches for every other Packers skill player.
Peterson, on the other hand, is more or less just a classic running back. He just runs. He’s bad in pass protection to the point that the Vikings turned to Toby Gerhart to pass protect on key passing downs.
Peterson has also never been a good receiver, despite his terrific athleticism. Think about the athletic profile of Eddie Lacy compared to Adrian Peterson, then consider that Lacy’s career yards per reception average is almost a full yard higher than Peterson’s.
From a pure utilization perspective, Peterson might as well be considered Christine Michael from a running perspective at this point in his career. Since he was so slow to pick up the playbook, any time Michael was on the field it was basically a given that the Packers were going to run the ball.
That’s more or less what the Packers would be signalling with Peterson on the field, too. Teams know that he doesn’t catch or pass protect well, so rolling out a formation with Peterson in the backfield might as well be a giant Bat Signal to the defense that a run is coming.
There’s also the simple fact that Peterson is ancient by running back standards. Unless the team is overwhelmingly convinced that Peterson is going to be dramatically better than most other 32-year old running backs, it’s going to be hard to justify signing him for that reason alone.
The Power Sweep's opinion
You didn't ask for it, but you did click on the article. So, here we are.
Bringing Adrian Peterson to Green Bay requires the Packers to overcome these significant hurdles:
- The Packers organization has to decide if they’re willing to sign a player who has been indicted on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child.
- Adrian Peterson’s asking price has to be very low, considering his age and skill set.
- The Packers have to be convinced that Peterson’s value as a runner is greater than a younger, cheaper alternative that’s likely to be available in the draft or free agency.
Peterson needs to be a slam dunk on all three of those counts for him to end up in Green Bay. There’s more than enough evidence available to consider him anything but.