Writers tap away about it. TV and radio talking heads spend hours handicapping the teams he could end up with and the price he’ll be paid and throwing in their guesses about the inner workings of 32 NFL teams and how resources are doled out.
But, when it’s an agent doing the analysis – a guy who has tried to get every dollar every client can squeeze out of a team – you have to give that opinion a little more credence.
Joel Corry, a former sports agent who helped found Premier Sports & Entertainment, wrote a story from the agent’s perspective on the realities of aging veterans in free agency for CBSSports.com and what he found.
When a player is viewed as a superstar talent who has a lengthy and impressive resume, they all hope to be part of the initial feeding frenzy that marks the opening of free agency.
For many, Peterson being the most recent, it didn’t happen.
In the eternity that has passed from Peterson’s perspective since the opening gun sounded and teams have been shopping in earnest – 20 days to the rest of us, 20 years to him – he hasn’t latched on anywhere.
Backups are being re-signed. Core special teams players are being sniped from rosters. Yet, a Hall of Famer like Peterson can’t find a job. It hasn’t helped that since free agency opened on March 9, Peterson has gone from a 31-year old running back to a 32-year old running back – apparently with no camels at that theme party.
Corry viewed from Peterson’s latest Twitter defense brief that he overpriced himself for the initial market. Peterson has been the highest paid running back in the NFL for a while. The problem for him is that the running back market has dropped while the top salaries at his position have softened to the point of melting.
A year ago, the three biggest running back deals were signed by Lamar Miller, Doug Martin and Chris Ivory had multi-year deals that averaged about $8 million in first-year money – less than half of what Peterson was scheduled to make this year.
Not even those offers were on the table.
While he didn’t get signed, it didn’t mean other running backs weren’t – for even less money than last year’s soft market. We know Latavius Murray’s three-year $15 million deal is a one-year deal easily opted out of. Eddie Lacy got a one year deal for $4.25 million with an incentive-based ceiling of $5.55 million.
The problem Peterson is facing is not simply a weakened market, but the top landing spots anticipated for him to go to have been closing fast. The Vikings replaced him without apparently getting into any serious dialogue. Seattle signed Feast Mode to replace Beast Mode. The Artist (Eventually) Formerly Known As the Oakland Raiders is trying to resurrect Beast Mode. Green Bay has delayed a meet-and-greet with Peterson.
Add to that, the recent history of running backs of his particular vintage. Steven Jackson had eight straight 1,000-yard rushing yards with the Rams and signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Falcons with a high end of $13.5 million.
Why? There wasn’t a lot of tread off the tire. The Jackson Rams highlights were culled from years of available footage – not unlike NFL Network’s go-to Peterson package that, if watched closely, includes Brett Favre, Tarvaris Jackson and Christian Ponder in the background. Jackson had 2,400 carries on his stat sheet and Atlanta wouldn’t overspend.
Of his contemporaries, two signings the last two years have seemingly set the bar for players of Peterson’s demographic and wear and tear. In 2015, Frank Gore left San Francisco for a three-year, $12 million deal in Indianapolis. He’s still there and playing like Gore fans recognized. But, he came to Indy with more than 2,400 carries.
A year ago, Matt Forte signed a three-year deal with the Jets worth a base of $12 million that could go as high as $16 million if all incentives are met. Of his contract, $9.5 million was guaranteed. Forte had 2,000 carries and was 30 at the time.
Corry’s prognosis, from the purely business side of things, jibes with estimates that Peterson has to be in the range of $5.5 million a year.
Given the depth being proclaimed at running back in the draft class of 2017, the market for Peterson at his current value is likely to get shut down until after the draft.
What will his value be then? Will New England get involved at some point? Don’t bet against it.