MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Adrian Peterson has taken his final handoff for Minnesota, a 10-year run featuring a league MVP award, plenty of off-the-field drama and a franchise-leading 11,747 yards rushing over 123 regular-season games.
After the Vikings declined their $18 million option on his contract for 2017 two weeks ago to make Peterson a free agent, they signed former Oakland running back Latavius Murray early Thursday. General manager Rick Spielman then clarified the obvious that the four-time All-Pro will play elsewhere in 2017.
“He will always be a Viking,” Spielman said. “I know, to our fans and to the people in this building, he will always have a special place in this franchise.”
Spielman called Peterson’s agent with a heads-up about Murray’s deal before speaking with Peterson, as did Vikings ownership, to wish him well. Spielman declined to answer a question about whether the Vikings offered him a new contract.
“We had a great conversation,” Spielman said.
Murray wrote an ode to Peterson on Instagram that revealed his old uniform number, 28, was first chosen in awe of former Jacksonville running back Fred Taylor and then maintained out of respect for Peterson. The choice to change to 25 with the Vikings was easy, with Peterson’s purple 28 sure to be retired someday.
“I’ve been a huge fan of everything that he’s done there,” Murray said on a conference call with reporters. His new number will honor childhood friend Jonathan Diaz, who was shot to death last year in Syracuse, New York.
Murray, who will join Jerick McKinnon as the team’s top two running backs, compiled 2,278 yards and 20 touchdowns over the past three years with the Raiders after missing his rookie season because of a foot injury.
Murray rushed for 788 yards and a career-high 12 touchdowns in 2016 despite missing two games with a toe injury. He was a sixth-round draft pick out of Central Florida in 2013 and was picked for the Pro Bowl in 2015, when he topped the 1,000-yard mark.
Since 2014, Murray has 20 rushing touchdowns, the second-most in the league among players with 13 or fewer carries per game.
Murray has a three-year contract worth as much as $15 million, ESPN reported, but only $3.4 million is guaranteed now. If the Vikings bring him back for 2018, his $5.15 million base salary would then be guaranteed too.
The Vikings were last in the NFL in 2016 with 3.2 yards per rush and 75.3 yards rushing per game.
“There’s some guys there that they’ve brought in and some guys that already were capable,” Murray said, alluding first to recently signed offensive tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers. “Any year is a new year. You have to go in and put the work in, so we’ll all get a crack at this thing.”
Murray has a mere five 100-yard games in his career. Peterson has five 200-yard games and topped the 100-yard mark 50 times, but he’ll be 32 next week.
With 33 receptions for 264 yards last season, Murray is more of a three-down player than Peterson , whose swift and powerful running skills were better suited to the state of the NFL when he entered it in 2007. Some 10 years later, picking up blitzes and catching passes are more critical than ever for running backs.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Murray has fumbled only seven times and lost just two over a combination of 647 carries and catches in his career (one fumble per 92 touches) including the playoffs.
Peterson has 42 fumbles, 24 lost, in 2,781 total carries and catches (one per 66). Though Peterson led the league with 1,485 yards rushing in 2015, he was a nonfactor in 2014 and in 2016 while he recovered from a torn meniscus in his right knee .
The Vikings hosted Murray at team headquarters on Wednesday and struck the deal early Thursday , announcing it at 12:47 a.m. That’s the exact same night-owl time the Vikings announced on Sept. 17, 2014, that Peterson was being placed on paid leave while the child abuse case he was involved in unfolded.
Murray waited out the negotiations by doing some online coursework for the MBA he’s working toward at Syracuse, chomping on some Mr. Goodbars to stay awake after a salmon dinner with chopped salad.
“Just making sure we got the details right,” Murray said of his contract. “It’s all a part of the process.”
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