The start of the new NFL year is right around the corner, and with it will come the start of free agency. Teams can begin contacting players on March 7 and can actually start signing them once free agency begins at 4 p.m. ET on March 9.
While any sort of contact between teams and pending free agents is, at this point, illegal, you can bet that speculations are already on the rise. All 32 teams are gathered in Indianapolis for the scouting combine, which means offseason plans and potential trade scenarios are going to begin to leak.
ESPN's Adam Schefter has already reported that the New England Patriots have no plans to trade quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, which could already be having an effect on the looming free-agent market:
Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter
In a move that will have a ripple effect on all QB-needy teams, Patriots are not expected to trade QB Jimmy Garoppolo, per league sources.2017-3-1 13:49:47
Nothing can be set in stone until after the start of the new league year, but here's the latest on what we know (or think we know) about some of this year's biggest pending free agents.
Vikings Won't Exercise Option for Peterson
There's a very real chance that one of the greatest running backs in recent memory will be hitting the open market this offseason. The Minnesota Vikings made it clear that the team will not be exercising Adrian Peterson's option for the 2017 season.
“Adrian is an important part of the Minnesota Vikings organization,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said, via the team's official website. “We will continue to have conversations with his representatives and leave our future options open while determining what is best for both parties moving forward.”
Peterson was due to have a salary cap hit of $18 million this season.
This doesn't mean that Peterson won't be playing for the Vikings in 2017. It only means that he won't be playing for the ridiculous price of $18 million. The move isn't at all surprising. If we were talking prime Peterson, then sure, he might be worth starting quarterback money. However, Peterson is nearly 32 years old and coming off a significant injury.
While Peterson isn't molded like most running backs, there's simply no guarantee that we'll ever see prime Peterson again.
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Peterson In, Murray Out in Oakland?
If Peterson doesn't play for Minnesota this year, he'll certainly get an opportunity to play elsewhere. One team that might interest Peterson is the Oakland Raiders.
Per Ben Goessling of ESPN.com, Peterson recently spoke to ESPN's Josina Anderson and indicated that he would explore other options if he hit the market.
"On Wednesday, sources told Anderson that the Oakland Raiders have caught Peterson's attention," Goessling wrote. "One significant reason for Peterson's interest is the team's offensive line."
Aside from the Raiders line—which was rated fifth in run-blocking by Pro Football Focus last season—there are other reasons why the Raiders could interest Peterson. They were one of the AFC's hottest teams last year before quarterback Derek Carr suffered a broken leg.
Realistically, the Raiders could offer Peterson a very good shot at finding some playoff success before he calls it a career. A Super Bowl might even be part of that success.
Would the Raiders really be interested in an aging back like Peterson? Well, if Peterson can prove that he is back to 100 percent and can be effective, they might be.
Per Anderson, the Raiders expect 2016 starter Latavius Murray to at least test the open market this offseason:
Josina Anderson @JosinaAnderson
I'm told #OAK expects to let RB Latavius Murray go into FA. Source: "The door will remain open for a posb return after he tests his market."2017-2-26 15:36:39
If Murray leaves, Peterson could be the guy to carry the load in the backfield moving forward.
Eagles Interested in Charles
One team that makes a ton of sense for Charles is the Philadelphia Eagles. The team is in need of a steady presence at running back—Pro Football Focus rated Philadelphia just 30th in rushing in 2016—and it has ties to Charles.
Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson spent three years with Charles as offensive coordinator of the Chiefs.
It appears that this isn't only a move that makes sense, it's one that could happen soon. According to Turron Davenport of the Eagles Wire, Pederson has admitted that the team will look into signing him:
TURRON DAVENPORT @TDavenport_NFL
Pederson on Jamaal Charles: I have a history with him. He's a tremendous running back. It's something we will evaluate with him..2017-3-1 19:57:51
The question is how much Charles has left in the tank after injuries limited him to only eight games over the past two season. If Charles is close to 100 percent, this could be a brilliant move for Philadelphia. Charles is a hard runner with a career 5.5 yards-per-carry average. He is also a threat as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.
If Charles is healthy, young quarterback Carson Wentz could finally have a workhorse back to lean on. If he's not, though, the Eagles may be better off looking at other options—perhaps Murray or Peterson, perhaps a young runner in the draft.