After enduring an ACL tear late in the 2011 NFL season, Adrian Peterson went through rehab while eagerly awaiting his return to the field of play the following year. Questions swirled around how effective and healthy he would be, and how long it would take to get back his top form. While he didn’t top 100 yards in a game until Week 4, he would slowly hit a stretch that saw him break 150 yards seven times, including twice hitting 200 (and a game at 199). He would finish the year with 2,097 yards, only eight yards shy of the single season record set by Eric Dickerson in 1984.
All of this is to say that Peterson is an incredible athlete, regardless of his inexcusable actions off the field. Having a year off, assuming he has been working out and training regularly, means that he will enter the 2015 season refreshed and likely motivated to prove his worth. As we’ve come to learn in football, it’s not necessarily the age of running backs that indicate future performance, but past workload. That’s part of the reason, for example, Fred Jackson has been able to perform at a high level at what is a late age for a back.
On April 15th, 2015 the NFL will decide on reinstatement for Peterson. Considering the recent ruling on Ray Rice, it’s likely Peterson will be eligible to sign with a team and play, but what team? It seems very unlikely the Vikings will keep him, but as we know in the NFL, talent trumps almost all, and there look to be no shortage of clubs who would need or want a star running back. There are more than a handful of teams lacking a reliable power back that can also break long touchdowns, especially one who will come with a cheap price tag. Peterson though, isn’t a fit for everyone, so we’re also looking at teams that have a strong head coach, and those fan bases that may be more willing to forgive Peterson.
With that in mind, if Minnesota were to cut Peterson, these are the top ten spots for Peterson to land in 2015.
10 10. Tennessee Titans
The Titans need offensive weapons. They rank towards the bottom of the league in points and total yards, and have among the worst ground attacks, gaining less than 100 yards per game. That isdue to the fact that they are often trailing and they yet to have any threat at quarterback, but that might be changing. Rookie sixth round pick Zach Mettenberger is emerging at QB, a confident young man with a big arm.
9 9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8 8. New York Jets
7 7. Jacksonville Jaguars
6 6. Buffalo Bills
5 5. Oakland Raiders
4 4. New England Patriots
3 3. Atlanta Falcons
2 2. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks way of winning has to do with a power running game and a strong, physical defense. Right now they have both, but when the season ends, it looks like they will be without their star back. It has been publicly documented that Marshawn Lynch is unhappy with his current situation, and while the Seahawks are starting to look like Super Bowl champs again by stringing together some impressive victories, and Lynch is piling up yards and TDs, he’ll likely be gone at the end of the year.
1 1. Dallas Cowboys
A native of Texas, Peterson could return home and see perhaps the warmest welcome of anywhere he lands in the NFL. Owner Jerry Jones has even said he wants Peterson (before his suspension), and Peterson has said he wants to play for Jones when his time is done in Minnesota (which is likely now). While the Cowboys have the league’s leading rusher in DeMarco Murray, a player that the Cowboys have ridden hard this season, he is a free agent in the offseason and will demand a high price. With Dez Bryant desiring to be the highest paid wide receiver in the game, the Cowboys have some decisions to make on offense. There are reasons to keep and get rid of both of these stars, but for Murray, the concern deals with workload and injury potential. Murray has been carrying the rock a ton this year, and will only continue to lead the way as the Cowboys make a push for the playoffs. Examples of regression after such a strenuous have been noted over the last decade, and with a history of injury, Murray, for all his greatness, can’t be trusted. Peterson could easily slip into an offseason that enjoys a back who can swing outside the tackles, run hard up the middle, block, and catch passes. I'm sure Jerry Jones wouldn't mind any added attention.
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