Adrian Peterson, once a great running back for the Minnesota Vikings, is about to become a free agent. The news broke Tuesday morning, a few hours before it was announced that Jamaal Charles, once a great running back for the Kansas City Chiefs, also is about to become a free agent.
Could either wind up in Seattle? It’s a pertinent question for two reasons.
Reason No. 1: Whenever a formerly accomplished player enters the wash cycle of his NFL career, he looks toward the Seahawks, and the Seahawks often return the look with a wink. It’s a tradition that long predates the current regime’s determination to turn over every rock, even those dappled with moss.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers released Franco Harris in 1984, he ended up with the Hawks. Harris’ best seasons clearly were behind him, but he and Walter Payton were chasing Jim Brown’s all-time rushing record, and the Seahawks figured such an inducement would recharge Harris’ 34-year-old legs.
Uh, no. He started eight games, gained 176 yards, and retired.
Jerry Rice had nothing left to prove — and pretty much nothing left to give — when the Seahawks acquired the legendary receiver in a 2004 midseason trade with the Oakland Raiders. The idea was to reunite Rice with head coach Mike Holmgren, who’d served as the San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator during Rice’s glory years.
Didn’t happen. Rice’s most memorable grab with the Hawks was to wear the No. 80 jersey that had been retired in honor of Steve Largent.
More recently, free agent Edgerrin James signed a one-year, $2 million free-agent contract to run for the 2009 Seahawks. James responded with 125 yards and a touchdown, a performance typical for him on any given Sunday. Unfortunately, the 125 yards were produced over the course of six Sundays, and he was cut.
You’d think a franchise that’s whiffed three times on past-their-prime stars — the athletic equivalents of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway — would be weary of stepping up to the plate again, but there’s an abundance of needs for the Seahawks offense. Which brings us to...
Reason No. 2: Seattle finished 2016 ranked 23rd among NFL teams in run efficiency. Not necessarily a problem, except head coach Pete Carroll regards run efficiency the way Patrick Henry regarded liberty.
Running back Thomas Rawls provided bursts of power reminiscent of his retired predecessor, Marshawn Lynch. But Lynch was as durable on the field as he was quirky off of it, and though many adjectives can describe Rawls — fearless, humble, charming — “durable” is not among them.
Rawls doesn’t surrender upon contact, and C.J. Prosise is a genuine threat on third-down pass plays. It’s an intriguing combination punch out of the backfield, but the duo never seemed to be healthy at the same time.
As a consequence, an NFL-record 18 players ran the ball for the 2016 Seahawks. The ground game, in short, was a mess, and now Peterson and Charles loom as established reinforcements.
What should the Hawks do?
Avoid them, is what they should do.
Peterson, 32, has been sidelined for at least 13 games twice in the past three seasons. Surgeries on both knees have complicated the Hall-of-Fame credentials of the four-time first-team All Pro. So has the 2014 suspension for the grotesque methods he used to discipline his young son.
The Seahawks last season were plagued by injuries to their running backs. Identifying somebody limited to three starts in 2016 doesn’t strike me as a prudent investment, and it would be a multi-million dollar investment.
Charles, 30, can be acquired at less of an expense, but the knee injury he suffered in 2015 reduced the Chiefs’ career rushing leader to a 2016 role player without a defined role.
For better or worse — and I think it’s worse, pardon the digression — NFL offenses have evolved from the ground-based attacks some of us grew up watching to throwing the ball, out of a shotgun formation, on third-and-short. Pete Carroll believes running to be the root of all good. He knows that when the Hawks are unable to run on offense, it stresses out their overworked teammates on defense.
But beware 30-something running backs, no matter how gaudy the statistics they achieved at age 25.
Off tackle is no country for old men.
John McGrath: @TNTMcGrath