So it looks like Adrian Peterson is about to end his 2017 NFL free agency and sign with the Saints. That's good for them, but the Patriots were the ones who made the much bigger, better move for a running back on Monday.
While New Orleans is about to reportedly spend more than $3 million on Peterson in 2017, New England knows it will have Mike Gillislee on a two-year, $6.4 million deal after his former team, Buffalo, declined to match that offer.
The Saints will get undue praise for bringing in Peterson, especially considering they already have a younger, simliar power runner in Mark Ingram, who averaged 5.1 yards per carry last season. The Patriots won't get enough credit, however, for adding Gillislee, who led the NFL with 5.7 yards per carry in 2016 and also scored nine TDs — in a part-time role behind Bills workhorse LeSean McCoy.
While New Orleans goes old (Peterson is 32) and redundant for a name everyone knows, New England went for its latest ideal situational back. LeGarrette Blount scored 18 TDs for the Patriots last season, but he remained overrated in power sets and averaged only 3.9 yards per carry. Gillislee, along with fellow free-agent addition Rex Burkhead, meshes well with what they already have with oft-injured scatback Dion Lewis and Super Bowl 51 hero James White, both more third-down options.
What the Saints needed more was a versatile back to make them more dynamic in the passing game and help make up for some of the production lost in the trade of wideout Brandin Cooks to the Patriots. Remember that Cooks was drafted in 2014 to help offset the loss of Darren Sproles as a receiver.
Adrian Peterson-Mike Gillislee
In that respect, former Chiefs feature back Jamaal Charles should have been the preferred aging option over Peterson. It's true that Ingram was in and out of coach Sean Payton's doghouse last season, but he still ended up with his most impressive season in a more comfortable complementary role.
That included 46 catches for 319 yards and four receiving TDs for Ingram. Then you remember that Peterson's career receiving highs are 43 catches and 436 yards, and those came eight long seasons ago.
Payton pushed the right buttons with Ingram by pushing him more with veteran journeyman Tim Hightower. Hightower, in his 30-year-old season with much less wear than Peterson, contributed 548 yards at 4.1 per carry. The theory is that Peterson might be preferred over Ingram, but the practice says he's more of a replacement for Hightower, who signed with the 49ers earlier this month.
While the Saints made a reportedly pricier lateral move, the Patriots got their easy upgrade over Blount. Gillislee is a heavy favorite to lead New England in rushing yards and TDs this upcoming season. In contrast, it is a stretch to think Peterson will hold up to outproduce Ingram.
At one point, the Patriots were attached to Peterson, but in the end, they made the smarter, shrewder move that Bill Belichick tends to make every single offseason. Unfortunately, the Saints, who crashed on Peterson late, are tied to the much shakier backfield fate.