The NFL off-season gets fans in a frenzy and for good reason. It’s in the off-season where the draft happens and free-agency happens, and it’s because of these tools that fan-bases are given new hope. Whether the hope is fabricated optimism or reality is to be revealed as the actual season unfolds, but until then it’s all open for debate. This season, the Raiders went and acquired running back Marshawn Lynch and the New Orleans Saints signed free agent running back Adrian Peterson.
They are both products of the 2007 NFL draft, Lynch going number 12 to the Buffalo Bills, while Peterson went number 7 to the Vikings. Comparing the numbers side by side, Peterson is clearly the better running back. In some discussions, Peterson is looked upon as the best back to emerge out of college in the last decade. His production, when healthy, is always league-best or close to it. His last three seasons have been a sea-saw of consistency though. In 2014, he played one game and was suspended because of child-abuse charges and in 2016 he tore his meniscus (right knee) and was limited to three games of action where he didn’t average over two yards a carry. . . 2015 though he led the NFL in rushing yards, yards per game, carries and rushing touchdowns. . .
Peterson found himself a free agent in this off-season and the only team he’s ever played for, the Minnesota Vikings were ready to let him go. The New Orleans Saints signed Peterson to a two year, $7 million contract, with a signing bonus of two and a half million dollars. It was an interesting move for the Saints, whose running back Mark Ingram had a career high in rushing yards with 1043 and averaged over five yards a carry. Considering the Saints, who led the NFL in passing yards last year, are team who’s offensive attack is concentrated around Drew Brees and the passing game – it was an interesting signing to say the least. Maybe, the Saints will focus on a more “ball-control” oriented offense, to help preserve the health and stamina of their veteran quarterback?
Marshawn Lynch’s story is a bit different from Peterson’s. Actually it’s a vastly different scenario. After 2015, Lynch retired from the NFL altogether, sitting out the 2016 season but when the Oakland Raiders showed interest in the Oakland native, he was all about “the comeback.” A year off might’ve been what “Beast Mode” needed as he had an injury plagued 2015 season, that saw him finish the season with a little over 400 yards at less then 4 yards a carry. After Seattle traded his rights to the Raiders, Lynch was signed to a two-year contract worth $9 million with a $2 million signing bonus. Lynch joins an Oakland Raiders team that some feel may be the only team to challenge the New England Patriots in the AFC. Last season the Raiders had a very balanced offensive attack, finishing ninth in passing yards and fifth in rushing yards. The rushing yardage total was more because of the offensive line than the actual ball-carriers though. The Raiders worked with a running back by committee system, and it’s leading rusher was Latavius Murray who finished with less than 800 yards on the season (in a twist of irony, Murray signed with the Vikings this off-season).
So who got more bang for their buck?
Of course this is all built off of assumption, but everything points to Marshawn Lynch having more of a positive impact with the Raiders this season than Adrian Peterson will with the Saints. Peterson, looked bad the last time we saw him – before he got hurt and he’ll be definitely splitting carries with Ingram in the backfield. Drew Brees, might like the insurance policy that is Adrian Peterson, but the way this offense moves, and the language it uses, his comfort-level with Ingram will be hard to dethrone. Lynch on the other hand, is on a team that truly believes with this offensive line, a well rested and newly motivated Marshawn Lynch will give them the consistency they need in the backfield. Lynch retired from Seattle, because he wasn’t happy there anymore – let’s not get that twisted. Lynch is looking forward to representing his hometown, especially on a team that is so focused on winning a championship like the Raiders.
For Peterson, it might be a season that we’ve seen once too many times for sports-greats. Peterson is a lock to get into the hall of fame one day, but this might be a season that leaves his fans remembering him NOT as the dominant back he once was, but as a veteran hanging on to his glory days – and cashing out while he can.