Veteran Running Back Is Nearing The End And Simply Doesn't Fit What Big Blue Wants To Do On Offense

By Ernie Palladino
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For everything Jerry Reese has done right the last two seasons, he shouldn’t risk making a big mistake now.

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Which is exactly why he should tell Vikings Hall of Famer-in-waiting Adrian Peterson “Thanks, but no thanks,” when the free agent period starts March 9.

To sign the 32-year-old Peterson at this point in his career would be a lot like putting Tiger Woods on one’s fantasy golf roster. No, not the Tiger of his prime, who brought virtually every course he set foot on to its knees, but the broken down Tiger of today who now misses as many cuts as he makes.

He’s just not going to give you that much.

MOREReport: Giants Interested In Signing Adrian Peterson

It’s the same with Peterson. Sure, he has impeccable credentials. But most of those 11,747 yards and 97 rushing touchdowns were compiled over the first seven seasons of his 10-year career. Then came the 15-game suspension in 2014 for a no contest plea stemming from the “Texas discipline” — a tree branch to the legs and backside — he meted out to his 4-year-old son.

That alone would cause an unneeded public relations problem for a team still stained by the mishandling of the Josh Brown domestic abuse situation.

The league-leading 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns of 2015 put Peterson’s career back on track. But two games into last season, he tore his right meniscus and missed all but one more game.

Had he remained healthy, one would think the Vikings would have done everything in their power to keep him around, despite an $18 million price tag for 2017. Instead, they will allow him to explore free agency, probably with the intention of re-signing him at a much lower level.

But that’s their problem. The Giants shouldn’t make it theirs, even though Ben McAdoo said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine that they’d take a close look at Peterson.

What they will find is a running back in decline who also doesn’t fit the Giants’ mold of 2017. This is a building team that is coming off an 11-win season achieved without a hint of a running game.

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Moreover, McAdoo has built his new offense more for lateral movement than downhill running. They got rid of power rusher Rashad Jennings for just that reason, having put their faith in the more flexible second-year back Paul Perkins. The plan now is to team Perkins up with the now-healthy Shane Vereen to create equal threats in the middle and the edges. Assuming McAdoo uses Vereen properly, the offense should feature a lot more flares and screens that will allow his two fast backs to work in space and make tacklers miss.

Quicker and younger. A backfield more in tune with a line more suited to a finessed ground game. That’s the new philosophy.

A downhill guy like Peterson won’t prove a great fit for that. Besides, it’s hard to believe Peterson would be happy with anything short of a featured role. Signing him automatically makes him the lead rusher based on name and reputation alone.

He’s certainly not going to take a back seat to a pup like Perkins.

Reese has made the most of his second chance with the organization so far. His free agent signings of Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, Damon Harrison, and Keenan Robinson turned the defense 180 degrees from the bunglers of 2015. Franchising Jason Pierre-Paul this week assures the Giants — at a $17 million investment — of having the pass-rushing end for at least one more year, and possibly longer if the move leads to a long-term, cap-friendlier contract.

In addition to Perkins, Reese picked up a wonderful receiver in Sterling Shepard in the draft, along with a strong first-rounder in Eli Apple, a developing linebacker in B.J. Goodson, and a useful tight end in Jerell Adams.

He shouldn’t mess it up now by signing a high-profile name in the midst of the back-nine of his career.

If Peterson holds as much interest as McAdoo hinted at the Combine, go ahead. Kick the tires. Check under the hood.

And then do the right thing.

Take a pass.

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Please follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino