Hey, did you all hear the news? The Minnesota Vikings released Adrian Peterson. Not to be outdone, the Kansas City Chiefs released Jamaal Charles. Ridiculous, right? Surely nobody could have seen this coming. Well, no. Not at all, actually. Everybody could have. They’re aging. They’re breaking down. And most importantly: they’re running backs.
You don’t need great ones anymore. That’s neither no longer where this game is nor where it’s continuing to go. Now would you want efficient ones? Sure. Healthy ones? Of course. Ones that can hold their own while pass blocking? Absolutely. But both Peterson and Charles miss the mark on at least one of these boxes. And actually, one of them miss on a couple. (Spoiler: It’s Peterson.)
In fact, you know what? Turns out there’s an extra word in that title. ‘Aging’ doesn’t even need to be there. Just avoid the free agent running backs for now. I mean if Eddie Lacy doesn’t return to Green Bay, give him a look; it won’t cost you all that much. Maybe the Oakland Raiders and Latavius Murray are moving on from one another. If that’s the case, he’s another okay option. But for the most part, feel free to avoid.
Especially Peterson and Charles.
But that’s not what this is all about, right? This isn’t what you want to hear. You’re looking for Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles to get one last chance in the sun. They’re Pro-Bowlers. They’re stars.Some of you believe Peterson has another rushing title left in him. (Twitter is a magical place, friends.) Perhaps both he and Charles will be fresh after suffering season-ruining knee injuries last season. However you want to twist the logic is up to you, I suppose. But I’ll do you all a favor. I’ll indulge.
Taking on-field performance out of the equation, I do not want Adrian Peterson on my team. Putting on-field performance back into the equation, I do not want Adrian Peterson on my team. With Jamaal Charles, at least he passes the first test. The second one, not so much. But for both of these individuals, injuries play a large part as to why you should stay away.
Following a season in which he led the league with 1,485 rushing yards, ‘All Day’ would appear in only three games. And those three games would yield just 72 yards on 37 carries, good for an average of 1.9 per rush. Not ideal. Yes that’s a small sample size. Yes Minnesota’s offensive line isn’t great—but also, neither is AD. Not anymore. So please, don’t believe the hype:
“Peterson is free agency’s Rorschach test. He has played in just 20 games in the past three years, but he’s bringing fresh legs and extra motivation to his next team…”
Let me stop you right there. You could have gotten away with the “fresh legs” bit back when he was returning from suspension following the 2014 season. But it’s hard to get on board with that stance when Peterson is returning from not only a torn MCL, but a sprained LCL as well. He turns 32 in March and has suffered multiple knee injuries while being run into the ground over the years. It’s okay to look elsewhere, I promise.
I mean, what are you really expecting? He’s no longer an every-down back. He cannot pass protect. He’s just a name now. There’s no reason he should be No. 16 on anybody’s top available players list. So while we switch gears to discuss Jamaal Charles, I implore you to move on.
After five games (all starts) in 2015, Charles tore his ACL and missed the remainder of the season. After three appearances (no starts) this past season, the Chiefs placed him on injured reserve as his injury from the year prior lingered into 2016. If that’s not a red flag, then they don’t exist.
Charles has a one-year, incentive-ridden deal written all over him. He’ll be cheaper than Peterson, but his knees are in even worse shape. And since we’re still comparing the two, AD’s physique allows him to manage a few things differently. Charles is a relatively small guy as far as feature backs go; he’s taken more of a beating over the years. Peterson is not.
Regarding the Chiefs’ all-time leading rusher, this isn’t 2014 anymore. As for Peterson, his league-leading days are gone. It’s foolish to pin the bounce-back label on two worn down halfbacks going through their thirties, so we won’t. They’re names—and big ones, at that—but nothing more. Not any longer.
Both players will undoubtedly sign, and most likely on one-year deals. But if any team diving into the free agent pool’s deep end is thinking about Peterson or Charles for their No. 1 back, they’d be wise to swim the other way.