Peterson to Visit the Saints

No one can say the New Orleans Saints are standing pat after three straight 7-9 seasons. This offseason, the Saints have been busy exploring options, making deals and bringing in players for meetings.

New Orleans will be hosting another high-profile player on Monday, April 10, when former Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson comes for a visit. Peterson hit the free-agent market when the Vikings decided not to pick up his $18-million option in February.

The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks have already met with the running back. At this late stage of free agency, it doesn’t hurt to kick the tires on the 32-year-old future Hall of Famer.

Peterson missed most of last season with injuries and most of the 2014 season suspended due to legal issues. Sandwiched in between those years, the 2015 season saw him rush for 1,485 yards, leading the league in rushing.

Peterson has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in seven of his 10 seasons in the NFL and rushed for double-digit touchdowns in eight of those. He failed to reach the end zone in 2014 and 2016, however, and rushed for a grand total of 149 yards those two seasons. New Orleans will have to decide if they would be getting the 2015 version of Peterson or the injury-prone 2016 version.

It is no secret that running backs begin to decline after reaching age 30 in the NFL. Peterson is known to keep himself in great shape and once recovered from an ACL tear during the 2011 season to rush for 2,097 yards in 2012, winning league MVP honors. It isn’t out of the question for the running back to produce another bounce-back year for whichever team he signs with in 2017.

New Orleans currently features Mark Ingram as its No. 1 running back. The 27 year old rushed for more than 1,000 yards for the first time in his career last season. It was just the second time in his career that he played in all 16 games, and he is still under contract for two more years.

If the Saints are going to sign Peterson, the team might have to change its offense. Both running backs are better when they get 20 or more carries in a game. That means that New Orleans must not rely on quarterback Drew Brees to carry the whole offense.

New Orleans will have to become a “run first” team if it signs the former Viking. Otherwise, the team is just wasting money on a big-name player when it still has a slight opening for a deep playoff run.

Ingram and Peterson would be a great one-two punch at the running-back position, but neither has been a major part of the passing game. New Orleans would have to make sure that it has a third-down-pass catching back. Peterson has also never been good at pass blocking during his career.

There are plenty of good running backs in this April’s draft, and New Orleans doesn’t have to sign Peterson to add depth to the position. One thing in his favor is that he is a known quantity, whereas any drafted running back is an unknown in the NFL.

If New Orleans can get Peterson at a good price and if they want to run the ball more in 2017, his signing would make sense. It doesn’t make sense to sign Peterson if the Saints aren’t going to feed him the ball, though.

The Saints love carrying several running backs on their roster. They could sign Peterson and still draft a young running back to add to the mix.

If New Orleans can get both Ingram and Peterson going, it would take pressure off the defense. The Saints could play a similar style to the Dallas Cowboys, who rode a strong running game to hide a weak defense.

Dallas used rookie quarterback Dak Prescott to win 13 games with rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott. Just think how many games New Orleans could win using Ingram, Peterson and Brees as the core of its offense.

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