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2021 Detroit Lions free agent profile: Let Adrian Peterson go chase his ring

It would be easy to bring the veteran back, but does it really benefit the Lions to do so?

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

You have to look at the Detroit Lions 2020 season and ask yourself just one question: Did the Lions establish the run game?

Clearly, the answer, yet once more was: No. As much as former head coach Matt Patricia and former offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell staked their reputations and philosophies on running the dang football, they fell ill to the same trenchant curse that has plagued the Lions since Barry Sanders faxed in his resignation. Nobody in this town can actually accomplish the running of said dang ball to appropriate levels. Jahvid Best may have had a chance before he suffered brain injuries; Reggie Bush did not do as good of a job as others might want you to believe.

But did Adrian Peterson help alleviate this problem? It will shock you to know, dear reader, that no, he did not.

Previous free agent profiles: Oday Aboushi, Danny Amendola, Matt Prater, Jamal Agnew, Everson Griffen, Duron Harmon, Kenny Golladay, Don Muhlbach, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Darryl Roberts, Marvin Jones Jr.

Adrian Peterson

Expectations heading into 2020

I’m genuinely perplexed by this concept. What was Adrian Peterson? It felt like a strange concoction birthed from minds who were lagged on their football by about five years, who had happily squirreled away memories of Peterson instead of paying attention to how bad this guy was doing in Washington and New Orleans.

I suppose you could say “veteran presence?” Yeah, that has a nice ring to it. Let’s try this again.

Peterson was brought in to the Detroit Lions for veteran presence in the backfield, a hoary star of yesteryear who could help to inspire newly drafted running back D’Andre Swift and third-year Kerryon Johnson. At just a little more than $1 million in salary, Peterson was a cheap option to bring in a third member of the backfield, one who could take the ball and punch it up the middle.

Actual role in 2020

16 games (10 starts): 156 carries, 604 yards (3.9 YPC), 7 TDs; 12 catches, 101 yards

PFF grade: 59.6 (62nd out of 70 qualifying half backs)

Whenever the ball was placed in Peterson’s hands, it was a good bet to assume that said down was just wasted.

Whatever magic you held out for on Peterson, it didn’t happen. You don’t need to sugar coat it. Whatever hope you had, whatever optimism, whatever kind of positivity you’d like to bring to the table, I’m more than happy to slap it straight out of your hands. You were a fool to pound the table for Peterson in the first place; there was no gas in the tank, there was no magic waiting to be happen. All Day stopped being 24/7 a long time ago.

Peterson averaged just 3.9 yards per carry; broken down by contact, 2.2 of those average yards came before contact, and 1.7 average yards after that. Every other game you could count on a Peterson to break through the defensive line and pick up about eight yards or so in order to bolster these averages; most of the other times, he charged right into the opposing tackles, and he did so with veteran vigor.

Where Peterson did shine was putting through touchdowns on goal line opportunities, but given that this is a skill more attributed to the offensive line then it’s really not much to write about; so we shall not.

Veteran leadership is hard to measure, but in an attempt to do so, I offer this analysis: it didn’t happen.

Outlook for 2021

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent

As the Lions season headed inexorably towards its pitiful end, Peterson stated that he would like to return to Detroit; a sentiment shared by his fellow back D’Andre Swift.

On the other hand, Peterson also seems eager for new ventures: speaking with TMZ after the Super Bowl, he stated he was in favor of trying to join a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in order to secure a ring:

“If they want me to be a part of it, I’ll be a part of it for sure. Because I’m definitely trying to add a trophy to my resume.”

Heartily, I suggest this course of action. Peterson has had a long and storied career, and he’s probably bound for Canton already. Nevertheless, players still want to have that feeling of a Super Bowl ring resting snuggly on a finger, and such a thing won’t hurt his Hall of Fame bonafides.

For the Lions, retaining Peterson would probably come cheap, again in the $1 million range. Given the cap situation for the Lions, this would be of some benefit to secure your backfield roster with at least two of your three athletes, and then you can start to wonder if Kerryon Johnson becomes a cap casualty.

All in all though, what use Peterson has for the Detroit backfield is probably expended. Maybe you could make an argument that he returns to continue to mentor Swift and any new backs, but at this point he is an utterly replaceable veteran whose role can be easily filled by alternatives.

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