With LeGarrette Blount facing free agency after an inefficient year, the Detroit Lions are likely in the market for a complementary back alongside 2018 second-round draft pick Kerryon Johnson. While some are advocating for another draft pick this year, many believe the Lions will look to free agency to help round out their backfield.
NFL Network analyst and Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson is amongst the latter group, and he suggested the Lions go after one of the bigger names in free agency. Tomlinson believes the Detroit Lions are the best fit for four-time All Pro Adrian Peterson.
“I just think they have a young kid in Kerryon Johnson, who I really like. Kerryon is going to be a stud in this league,” Tomlinson said on NFL Network’s “Total Access” this week. “But I think he can learn a lot from Adrian Peterson. Just the approach of how to be a pro, how to handle being a full-time running back.”
Mentoring Johnson obviously has some intangible value to it. We saw veteran players like Ricky Jean Francois help develop defensive line talent that was struggling with a new system. However, Tomlinson suggests that Peterson will bring real value to the field, as well.
“So I can see Adrian going to Detroit, mentoring that young kid, but also having a chance to continue to do his own thing and possibly pass yours truly (in the record books)” he said.
Signing a 33-year-old running back is going to be a hard sell for most Lions fans, especially after last year’s plan to sign 31-year-old Blount failed so spectacularly.
However, Peterson’s career has been a lot more successful than Blount’s, and he showed plenty of signs of life last year with Washington. Not only did Peterson hit the 1,000-yard mark for the first time since 2015, but he was quite efficient with his runs. He hit 4.2 yards per carry for the season, but, more importantly, he was an excellent short-yardage runner for Washington.
On third-and-short, Peterson earned first down on 10 of 12 carries, the third best first-down percentage among running backs with at least 10 attempts.
That is something the Lions—and Blount specifically—struggled with in 2018. Detroit converted just 61.9 percent (12 of 21) of such situations last year.
Additionally appealing would be Peterson’s price. Last year, Washington was able to sign him for just a one-year, $1.05 million contract. That price may go up after an efficient year in Washington but probably not by a lot considering he will be 34 before the season starts.
It’s an interesting idea from Tomlinson, and one at least worth some consideration. However, at some point, Peterson is going to hit that wall, if he hasn’t already. And considering the Lions swung and missed last year with an aging back, they may be more inclined to take a different strategy into 2019.