Back in the stone ages of 2003, before social media, I was driving back to the NFL owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore from ASU’s pro day — featuring Terrell Suggs — when I was told the Cardinals were holding a press conference to sign free-agent running back Emmitt Smith. It wasn’t a total shock. Smith had already visited the Cards and even had a press conference, which the team did for visiting free agents at the time, even if they hadn’t signed. But Smith’s arrival was going to generate big headlines. (Emmitt was at the end of his career and the Cards weren’t very good, but he had an underrated second season in 2004, more effective for a bad offense than for which people give him credit.)
In 2006, with a new stadium coming online and Matt Leinart’s splashy draft arrival a month away, I stood in the drizzle at Kurt Warner’s flag football event at the Cardinals’ facility, knowing free-agent running back Edgerrin James was in there and the Cards were trying to nail him down. As it turned out, they did, and his arrival generated big headlines. (Edge didn’t perform as he once did and fell out of favor in 2008, but if it wasn’t for his ground game — he was good in the postseason — I don’t believe the Cardinals march through the NFC playoffs en route to the Super Bowl.)
In 2015, with Andre Ellington and rookie David Johnson pulling hamstrings, the Cards brought in Chris Johnson. While Ellington was the starter to begin the year, CJ2K was in the top three in the league in rushing before he got hurt.
So now, Adrian Peterson arrives. He has not played well this season in a situation where he wasn’t really wanted in New Orleans. He comes to a team that has not been able to run, even when David Johnson got his 11 carries (for only 21 yards) prior to his injury. But he’ll be the starter — not surprisingly, he just took Chris Johnson’s spot atop the depth chart — for now, at least until/if David Johnson returns. And we’ll see if it helps the 32nd-ranked run game.
There are intangible benefits here. Regardless of where he is in his career, he likely provides a boost for the locker room that couldn’t have been feeling great. (Clearly Larry Fitzgerald, a long-time friend of Peterson, is pleased.) It’s low-risk, given the $700,000 or so he’s still owed, and even the sixth-round pick given up can be made up when compensatory choices are awarded. Tangibly, at 2.6 yards a carry running the ball, even if Peterson is an average back, he still should improve things. It’s also a move, period, showing to the roster Steve Keim isn’t throwing in any towel.
There are limitations. Peterson’s strength isn’t pass protection, and while he has caught some passes, he is not Andre Ellington out there. Defenses are looking for the run whenever Peterson is on the field. Peterson is not an offensive lineman, either, and that’s the spot where the Cardinals really need help. But it’s something, a move that combined with a potential return of linemen D.J. Humphries and Alex Boone, could provide something akin to a jump-start.
Tags: Adrian Peterson
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