The Cardinals traded for veteran running back Adrian Peterson Tuesday.
History has shown the Cardinals haven't been averse to bringing in a veteran running back whose days of stardom are behind him, with the hope he can still help.
The team signed Emmitt Smith in 2003. They brought in Edgerrin James as a free agent in 2006. They added Chris Johnson in 2015. And Tuesday, with all-pro David Johnson hurt and the running game ranked last in the NFL, the Cardinals traded a conditional 2018 sixth-round draft pick to the New Orleans Saints for Adrian Peterson.
"We are always on the lookout for opportunities to improve our team," General Manager Steve Keim said in a statement. "What Adrian has accomplished in this league is well-established. Our need for a spark in the running game right now is also obvious and we are excited to give him the chance to provide that."
To make room on the roster, the Cardinals released Chris Johnson for a second time this season.
"Steve and I had been talking for the last couple of weeks about the running back position," coach Bruce Arians said. "Chris Johnson is a great guy and I hate that it came down this way for him. But we had to do something to help our football team."
Peterson, who had signed with the Saints as a free agent in the offseason, was the odd man out in the New
Orleans running back rotation behind Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. He will practice Wednesday, and speak to the media after. He will play Sunday against Tampa at University of Phoenix Stadium.
"I'm so ecstatic," Peterson texted to NFL Network reporter Stacey Dales.
Peterson has just 81 yards on 27 rushes this season. He had just four yards on four carries two weeks ago in Miami. The Saints had a bye this past weekend.
But with the Cards struggling on the ground – they have gained just 2.6 yards a carry this season and rushed for only 259 yards in five games – and with an offensive line ripped by injury and having issues, Peterson could help with the tough yards the team haven't previously been able to make.
"I don't think it can hurt," defensive lineman Josh Mauro said. "He's a proven running back. He's probably the best running back of my generation. He's definitely still got some juice in the tank. I'm just excited to see whatever he can do to help our team win."
Chris Johnson had been the team's leading rusher, with 114 yards on 45 carries, a 2.5 average. David Johnson, last year's leading rusher, has been on injured reserve since Week 2 with a broken wrist and the hope is that he can return in November.
Arians said the running game problems have been "a combination of missed blocks and poor running.
"The few that we've made, everybody was on the same page," Arians said Monday. "We practiced a play last week five times, only one direction, and we busted it twice (Sunday). That baffles me."
Peterson, 32, is under contract through 2018. He is due about $700,000 the rest of this season and $1.05 million in 2018, with a roster bonus of $750,000 in the spring.
Peterson has 11,828 yards rushing in his career, including a 2,097-yard season in 2012. But he had just 75
yards in one game in 2014 before getting suspended the rest of the season because of child abuse charges, and while he came back to gain 1,485 yards in 2015, he had just 72 yards in three 2016 games, spending most of the year sidelined with a meniscus tear. He was released by the Vikings in the offseason – the team that had drafted him – and signed with the Saints as a free agent.
With Peterson, "we'll tailor it, like we always do, to the back," Arians said.
Peterson has long been connected to the Cardinals, beginning in the 2007 draft. With James on the roster, the Cardinals considered taking Peterson fifth overall but instead drafted offensive tackle Levi Brown. Peterson went two picks later to the Minnesota Vikings.
Brown ended up starting six seasons for the Cardinals but had his issues, while Peterson dominated in Minnesota, including posting a 2,000-yard season. With his future in Minnesota cloudy before the 2015 season, Peterson's father was quoted as saying his son – if traded – wouldn't mind going to Arizona. It set off a round of rumors of Peterson coming to the Cardinals.
But the Cardinals instead drafted David Johnson to join Andre Ellington, and later signed Chris Johnson in training camp. They proceeded to have one of the best running games in the NFL and reached the NFC Championship game.
"(Peterson) has run the football all his life," Arians said. "Very similar in Minnesota to what we do, so it's a good fit. It felt like it was a good move for our team at this point and time."
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