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NFL stars in search of a new home

Campbell Atkins

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The National Football League (NFL) offseason is well underway with a lot of interesting, but not necessarily surprising, moves to review. The main priority for a number of teams is the NFL Draft in late April, but many are using this time to officially cut ties with players who no longer hold a spot on their respective rosters.

Any football fan from the past decade could tell you who the most game-changing running back of our time is: Adrian Peterson. On Tuesday, the Vikings announced they would decline the last-year option on his contract. This means he will become an unrestricted free agent on March 9.

Just because Minnesota has no desire to pay an injury-prone Peterson the $18 million he’s due in 2017 doesn’t mean we’ll never see him in purple and gold again. Neither side has ruled out a possible return for one of the greatest running backs in league history for less money.

While the departure of Peterson seems inevitable, his return to Minnesota would shock me. They need to take this opportunity to rebuild their offense and finally part ways with the legend. The Vikings feel like they’re on the cusp of a championship, but they’re simply not. Their defense is. Peterson can’t carry an entire offense like he used to.

Instead, Peterson will be a better fit in an established offense where he isn’t responsible for the whole workload. I see him finishing his career on a team like the Giants, Packers or Seahawks. He needs to find a pass-heavy environment where he will be a change-of pace player instead of assuming the majority of the touches. This could be a match made in heaven for any of the teams mentioned above and a viable option for Peterson if he wishes to win his first championship.

Adrian Peterson wasn’t the only high-profile running back to make headlines this week. On Tuesday, the Chiefs released 30-year old Jamaal Charles. Charles has been a member of the team since being drafted in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Charles, like Peterson, was one of the most polarizing running backs in the league before injury.

Charles tore his ACL in 2015 against the Chicago Bears on a non-contact incident and has dealt with swelling in the injured knee ever since. Overall, he has played just eight games in two years and it seemed to make sense for Kansas City to move on.

Every team I mentioned as a contender for Peterson should also be considered when looking at Charles. If I had to make a move and pay one of the backs, I’d strongly consider making a play for Charles. Both are quite injury prone, but Peterson gets battered on just about every down. Jamaal Charles does his best trying to avoid contact at all costs, and his injuries can be chalked up to cuts and jukes. Both are risky, but also offer tremendous upside for the right team.

The Chiefs saved about $6 million in cap room when they cut Charles, helping them award one of their defenders with a hefty contract. Safety Eric Berry became the highest paid player at his position in league history on Tuesday when he signed a six-year deal worth $78 million. The attitude in Kansas City is defense first, and they were able to make the playoffs for the second straight season in 2016 without the services of Charles. They will likely compete again in the AFC West next season without the star running back on the roster.

The availability of running backs in free agency will be as solid as ever this year. Latavius Murray and LeGarrette Blount may be able to test the market along with Peterson and Charles.

Quarterback is a different story. It’s the most coveted position in football and everyone has figured out they can’t have an elite team without a productive signal caller. The biggest free agent available at the position was Kirk Cousins, but Washington slapped him with the franchise tag for the second straight season. This means they will pay him top dollar in 2017 before he becomes a free agent again next year.

I was surprised that Washington couldn’t come to terms with Cousins for a longterm deal this offseason. There are a limited number of quarterbacks in the league who have proven they can be successful on a weekly basis. While Cousins is far form perfect, I believe he easily falls into this category. He has exceeded expectations since coming out of Michigan State in 2012.

Originally, he was meant to be a backup to Robert Griffin III. Griffin couldn’t stay healthy and Cousins became the guy in Washington. He tossed over 25 touchdowns and led them to winning seasons in 2015 and 2016. If Cousins posts similar numbers this year, expect a big contract in his future.

The most talked-about quarterback so far this offseason hasn’t been Cousins or even a free agent. Backup signal caller Jimmy Garappolo of the New England Patriots has been in the spotlight as a trade option for multiple teams without the luxury of a quarterback.

Days after Tom Brady’s fifth Super Bowl championship, it seemed like it would be a bidding war between the Bears and the Cleveland Browns for his services. Chicago possesses the third overall pick in the upcoming draft while the Browns have the 1st and 12th picks.

This week, it came out that the Patriots have no intentions of parting ways with Garappolo, a native of Arlington Heights, Illinois. The question remains if Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is simply trying to up the ante for his young backup or if he actually wants him to stick around next season.

Sure, on paper it makes sense for New England to keep Garappolo around as Brady enters his 40s. But Tom Brady is coming off the most impressive game of his life and there’s no reason to think the greatest of all time will slow down come September. I think the Patriots see the potential in Garappolo and refuse to send him off cheap.

Regardless of what happens with Garappolo, teams can turn to the NFL Draft for help at every position. The Browns will officially be on the clock to kickoff the Draft on April 27. The deadline for assigning the franchise tag was Wednesday.

On Tuesday, teams will be allowed to freely negotiate with free agents and the league year officially begins on Thursday, March 9 at 3 p.m.

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
NFL stars in search of a new home