Jesse Pantuosco

Bump and Run

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Saint Peterson

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Some of my more astute Twitter followers may have noticed that I’m a fan of Kendrick Lamar’s new single Humble (though for my money, DNA is still the best song on his new album). Humbled is exactly how Adrian Peterson must have felt when he signed with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday.

 

A number of factors led to Peterson’s lengthy unemployment (he spent 56 days on the open market). Many of them were outside of Peterson’s control, but some weren’t. The 32-year-old greatly overestimated his value, at one point seeking a salary in excess of $8 million annually. Most teams were already on the fence about Peterson due to his age, injury history and character concerns stemming from a highly publicized arrest for child abuse in 2014. All Peterson’s ludicrous salary demands did was make it easier for teams to wash their hands of him.

 

Despite his Hall of Fame pedigree, only three of the league’s 32 teams offered Peterson so much as a visit. The first of those visits came in early March when Peterson broke bread with the Seahawks. Seattle also kicked the tires on Jamaal Charles before eventually landing on power back Eddie Lacy. It’s hard to tell if the Seahawks were genuinely interested in Peterson or if they were simply using him as leverage to knock down Lacy’s price.

 

The Patriots were the next team to host Peterson, though the legitimacy of this visit remains up for debate. Prominent beat writer Tom Curran of CSN New England suspected Peterson’s visit was arranged merely as a favor to agent Ben Dogra while others hypothesized that super sleuth Bill Belichick was just doing a little recon work. At one time, Peterson would have been a good fit for the Patriots but that was before New England went all-in on running backs by signing both Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee.

 

Peterson’s third visit would be his last. A contract didn’t materialize right away—the Saints let two weeks pass before putting pen to paper. But the two sides kept in touch and eventually hammered out a two-year, $7 million pact just two days prior to the NFL Draft. Like most contracts, Peterson’s deal with the Saints isn’t quite what it seems. Only $3.5 million of Peterson’s contract is guaranteed, which essentially makes it a one-year deal.

 

Entering the last chapter of his storied career, this probably isn’t the glamorous end Peterson had hoped for. The Saints are miles away from winning a title and already have a No. 1 running back in Mark Ingram. The Saints weren’t Peterson’s first choice—they were his only choice. He needed a job and the Saints were the only team that offered him one.

 

We’ve never seen Peterson perform as a backup before and frankly the concept is a little jarring. AP is a total wild card at this point but if he’s willing to buy into Sean Payton’s vision, this crazy experiment might just work. The Saints gave 155 touches to Tim Hightower last year and Peterson should see at least that many if he manages to stay healthy. He figures to play sparingly on passing downs (that’s never been his strong suit) but could fill a role as a short-yardage bulldozer while vulturing the occasional goal-line carry.

 

In New Orleans, the most Peterson can probably hope for is about 10-12 touches per game, far less than the 21.7 he’s averaged throughout his 10-year career. The workhorse life is the only one that Peterson has ever known, so this will be quite an adjustment. But even if that opportunity still existed, could the current incarnation of AP really handle a workload of that magnitude? Not likely. And maybe that’s a good thing. Not only will a lighter workload limit his exposure to injuries, but playing a complementary role should also keep Peterson fresh while helping him to be a more explosive runner.

 

That’s not to say there isn’t risk involved in throwing Peterson into an unfamiliar situation. Bell cows gain momentum from game flow and that could be something Peterson loses by coming off the bench. We also have to consider the possibility that Peterson may not have much left. He looked like he was hanging on for dear life in his three games last season (career-worst 1.9 yards per carry).

 

But remember who we’re talking about here. This is a man who rushed for 2,000 yards a year after tearing his ACL and led the league in rushing a season after being suspended for all but one game. Nobody pulls more rabbits out of their hat than Adrian Peterson. Can he pull it out one more? The Saints are about to find out.

 

Martavis Returns

 

Martavis Bryant is back and he’s coming to a football stadium near you.

 

The Steelers wideout was officially reinstated on Tuesday following a year-long suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The punishment was so severe because Bryant had been suspended once before for a drug violation. Now he’s walking the straight and narrow and ready to wreak havoc on opposing secondaries.

 

Bryant considered quitting during his year away from football, at one point telling his agent he didn’t want to play anymore. But Bryant fell in love with football again while working as a volunteer high school coach in Nevada. And soon fantasy owners will fall in love again too.

 

Bryant has made his living as a touchdown machine, gracing the end zone with his presence 14 times in only 21 career games. Like most big-play threats, Bryant is prone to the occasional disappearance. But he’ll also turn in games like the one he had against Cleveland in Week 10 of 2015. That week Bryant embarrassed the Browns by corralling six catches for a career-high 178 yards and one touchdown. That’s called bringing the thunder.

 

Nobody is more excited about Bryant’s return than Antonio Brown. When Brown shared the field with Bryant in 2015, he averaged over 119 yards per game. That average tumbled to 85.6 without Bryant last year. Brown will still draw the tougher defensive assignment most weeks, but the threat of Bryant on the outside should give AB a little more breathing room, and that’s never a bad thing. Batman needed Robin. Jordan needed Pippen. Chris Farley needed David Spade. And now Brown needs Bryant. At 6’4” and 211 pounds, Bryant also makes for an ideal red zone target for gunslinger Ben Roethlisberger.

 

Aside from Brown’s usual heroics, Pittsburgh’s top-heavy receiving corps disappointed in Bryant’s absence last year. Let’s recap: former practice-squadder Cobi Hamilton drew a start in the AFC Championship, Sammie Coates spun off the planet after breaking his finger, Markus Wheaton managed just four catches in three games (in a contract year, no less) and running back Le’Veon Bell finished second on the team in receiving yards despite missing four of the Steelers’ 16 contests. It all seemed like a cry for help. No wonder Ben Roethlisberger threatened retirement though nobody, including coach Mike Tomlin, believed him.

 

Maybe Martavis isn’t the all-powerful football savior I’m portraying him as, but he’s an emerging talent who’s been given a second chance. And if that wasn’t enough to sell you on Bryant’s comeback, feast your eyes on this between-the-legs touchdown he scored against Cincinnati during the 2015 playoffs. There’s nothing humble about that.

 

Quick Hits: Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie set the draft as the deadline for acquiring Marshawn Lynch from the Seahawks. He pulled it off with a day to spare. Lynch’s two-year deal with Oakland will become official as soon as he passes his physical. The five-time Pro Bowler turned 31 last week … Martavis Bryant wasn’t the only player to be reinstated on Tuesday. In a rather shocking development, Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington was given the green light from commissioner Roger Goodell after three years away from the game. Washington had been suspended for repeated violations of the league’s substance abuse policy and also faced charges stemming from a domestic violence incident in 2013 … Dontrelle Inman signed his one-year, $2.746 million restricted free agent tender on Tuesday. Inman set career-highs with 58 catches and 810 receiving yards last season, though his numbers were propped up by the absence of star wideout Keenan Allen, who missed most of the year with a torn ACL … The Vikings have yet to offer a firm timetable on Teddy Bridgewater as he recovers from a catastrophic knee injury he suffered during last year’s training camp. Even if Bridgewater is healthy by Week 1, which seems unlikely, Sam Bradford is expected to hold onto the starting quarterback job in Minnesota … Stefon Diggs said he’s “taking steps” to improve his conditioning after showing fatigue down the stretch in 2016. The star receiver averaged a paltry 38.6 yards per game over his last five outings … Latavius Murray is still in a walking boot one month after his ankle surgery but expects to be ready by training camp. He’ll have big shoes to fill replacing Adrian Peterson as the Vikings’ lead back in 2017 … Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Giants and LeGarrette Blount share a mutual interest. The Giants are looking to replace Rashad Jennings while any shot Blount had of returning to New England disappeared when the Patriots outbid Buffalo for restricted free agent Mike Gillislee earlier this week … It’s smokescreen season in the NFL, which means all draft rumors need to be taken with a grain of salt. However, the latest rumblings suggest LSU running back Leonard Fournette could be an option for the 49ers at second overall. Even if it’s not Fournette, San Francisco will have to address running back at some point with injury-prone Carlos Hyde entering the last year of his rookie deal … The Browns have touched base with at least three teams about moving into the top eight in their pursuit of North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. With the 49ers, Bears, Jets and Bills all looking at quarterbacks, it’s a near certainty that Trubisky will be gone by the time Cleveland picks at 12th overall. The Browns also have the No. 1 pick but it would be a mistake if they used it on anyone other than Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett … The Falcons exercised their fifth-year option on left tackle Jake Matthews. The former No. 6 overall pick has started all but one game through his first three seasons … Despite trade rumors, Rams CB Trumaine Johnson remains open to a contract extension. Johnson will earn $16.7 million under the franchise tag in 2017, which makes him the league’s highest-paid corner … Jay Cutler has only visited one team (the Jets) since getting released by the Bears, but the 33-year-old is not considering retirement. Perhaps he’d be a fit for the Texans, who were hung out to dry when Tony Romo announced his retirement earlier this month … The Bengals have made backup quarterback A.J. McCarron available in a trade, but their asking price is through the roof. According to Ian Rapoport, the Bengals won’t consider moving McCarron for anything less than a first-round pick … Florida State running back Dalvin Cook hurt his chances of being drafted in the first round with a poor showing at last month’s Combine but ESPN’s Todd McShay still considers him an option for the Bucs at No. 19. Adding Cook in the draft would likely end Doug Martin’s tenure with Tampa Bay … Controversial Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon is drawing interest from a number of teams including the Eagles. Philadelphia is also high on Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey but multiple reports have suggested he won’t make it past Carolina at No. 8. That’s six spots before the Eagles are scheduled to pick.  



Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.
Email :Jesse Pantuosco


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