By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Every year, the local sports media landscape revives the age-old “Patriots should sign [insert big-name free agent here]” narrative. Adrian Peterson is the newest subject of that speculation.
The future Hall-of-Fame (probably?) running back is going to the open market as an unrestricted free agent, and it looks like the Patriots will be in the market for a power back with the likely departure of LeGarrette Blount. The Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian got the ball rolling when she dropped an intriguing nugget about Peterson in her Sunday column, saying the super-talented but aging back would be willing to consider a team-friendly deal with the Patriots for a chance to win a Super Bowl ring.
The question, now, is whether the two sides would agree on the definition of “team-friendly.”
If by team-friendly Peterson means “Sure, I’d be willing to take under $5 million,” then the Patriots would not return his calls. But if Peterson is willing to take $2 million or less – Blount earned about $1.45 million in 2016 – then maybe there’s a discussion to be had.
But with Peterson, it’s still not that simple. The Patriots would also need to convince him to take a role that’s significantly reduced from what he’s used to having. He would need to accept the Blount role, doing little more than running the ball on early downs, punching it in at the goal line, and picking up first downs in short-yardage situations. And maybe he’ll get some extra carries late in games when the Patriots need to bleed the clock. There’s no guarantee that Peterson would accept such a role and deal with the inconsistency that comes with Bill Belichick’s offensive game plans.
SEE ALSO- Patriots Free Agency: A LeGarrette Blount Breakdown
Then, of course, there’s Peterson’s off-field baggage. Though his legal issues are largely in the rearview mirror, Peterson would still carry the same public stigma that ultimately killed any chance that Ray Rice had at redemption in the NFL. The big difference is that Peterson looks like he can still be a very good back at age 31. But if Robert Kraft were to sign off on the Patriots bringing Peterson into their locker room and letting him don the “Flying Elvis,” it would be a shocking departure from the time the owner said that Rice would never play in the NFL again.
As tantalizing as Peterson’s talent is and as good as he could probably be as the Patriots’ early-down back, it’s not likely that the Patriots would consider him worth risking the potential PR damage he could to for a very image-conscious franchise. If the Patriots were in the business of signing running backs over 30 for under $2 million, they’d probably just bring Blount back – without all the headaches.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.