Adrian Peterson is a worthy risk for the Denver Broncos.
Yes, he might remain the broken-down runner we glimpsed in 2016, when he rushed for 72 yards and 1.9 yards per carry while struggling with knee trouble.
He might return to the Peterson of 2015, when he rushed for 1,485 yards, averaged 4.5 yards per carry and looked ready to punish NFL defenses until he was 35.
The Vikings have announced they will not pick up the option on Peterson’s massive contract, one that would have required the Vikes to pay him $18 million for 2017. He’s expected to become a free agent March 9.
Peterson turns 32 on March 21. He’s not a long-term solution to the multitude of woes that plague the Broncos offense.
He could be a solution for 2017. He could, if he can regain his powers, bust past the 1,000-yard barrier and revive the Broncos barely breathing run game.
In my view, Peterson has grown from his inexcusable personal behavior. He beat his 4-year-old son with a switch, earning him a deserved suspension. He’s served his time, learned a desperately needed lesson.
It’s fashionable to blame almost all of the Broncos 2016 offensive troubles on the line, which was confused and confusing.
The runners deserve a big chunk of the blame. When C.J. Anderson departed after an injury, his replacements showed little imagination or power or gusto. Devontae Booker, Justin Forsett and Kapri Bibbs almost never rose above mediocrity.
Anderson is, as always, more of a question mark than an exclamation mark. He’s been consistently inconsistent, the only constant is his tendency to suffer injury. He’s shown flashes, but he’s never shown the ability to sustain those flashes.
The Broncos are currently wavering. The defense remains violent and sinister and powerful. The offense is crumbling.
If John Elway can persuade Peterson to sign an incentive-laden contract, the Broncos should take the plunge. An incentive-laden contract would hand the running back big money if he excels, but little cash if it turns out his days as an elite back have ended.
This persuasion is unlikely. Peterson - a native of Palestine, Texas, near Houston -has let it be known that he’s interested in playing for the Texans, Cowboys, Cardinals, Giants and Chargers. He's even interested in wearing the silver and black of the Raiders. He has not mentioned the Broncos.
Yes, it’s a risk. Peterson could be finished as a superlative runner who brought back memories of Barry Sanders and Jim Brown.
But there’s a recent example that we all remember of a worthy risk.
In 2012, when you looked at Peyton Manning from a certain angle, he looked done, too. He had endured repeated surgeries on his neck. There were questions about his arm strength.
He had defined the Colts for more than a decade, and the Colts axed him.
Peterson defined the Vikings, good and bad, for a decade. Now, player and team are waving goodbye to each other.
The Broncos should pursue one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.