Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Patriots Cup Of Coffee With Peterson About Leverage, Not Contract

The New England Patriots are taking the first step in assuring former-Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will have a job this fall.

Just don't be surprised if the place that he works isn't Foxborough.

The market for Peterson has been non-existant despite the casual fan's infatuation with the name, simply because his past three seasons have been an absolute horror show of injury and litigation that alienated many and reduced his market to teams desperate for a quality running back, and further alienated his market with lofty salary demands.

What is almost shocking about the Patriots reaching out to Peterson this past weekend and bringing him in for a reported physical and consequential cup of coffee, is his off field issues involving over-the-top discipline of his young son, as Patriots' owner Robert Kraft has a well-documented history of avoiding players with domestic violence issues...

...to the point that he has forced general manager and head coach Bill Belichick to cut players with such behavior on their rap sheet, and have already stated that another talented Oklahoma running back, Joe Mixon, has been taken off of their big board for punching a woman three years ago.

It is this history that suggests that Belichick bringing in Peterson for a confab is a leverage move on his part, and one that could ultimately benefit both Peterson and the Patriots.

It benefits Peterson simply by the Patriots showing interest, sparking anxiety with clubs who may have been on the cusp of wanting to host him but not willing to be the ones to break the substantial ice, and also pushing a panic button of any team that just can not fathom New England adding yet another elite talent to their already loaded offensive juggernaut.

But that won't happen, so no one on the Patriots' schedule needs to worry.

It seems that Belichick is doing a favor for an old friend - namely Peterson's agent, Ben Dogra - bringing Peterson in to help kick start interest in the certain Hall of Fame running back on the open market, with Dogra doing his part in the propaganda department by claiming through the rumor mill that Peterson has interest from two-to-four other teams.

Dogra and the Vikings had what can only be classified as a contentious relationship when it came to Peterson, which also went for his relationship with Creative Artists Agency - an agency that he headed with Tom Condon until rumors of him splitting off to form his own agency caused his dismissal in 2014.  He butted heads with the NFLPA as well, and had his licence suspended for three years early in 2016, which was reduced to six months upon his appeal.

While the genesis of the suspension remains unclear, many believe it had something to do with a skiff he got into with the Vikings Vice President of football operations at the 2015 combine during the running backs portion of the workout.  Obviously, Dogra's had it rough for the past couple of years, but leave to Belichick and Kraft to throw him a bone as a good will gesture in hopes that will win them leverage in future contract negotiations between them and the agent.

A simple visit by Peterson with New England breaks the ice not only with Peterson, but may generate interest for other free agent backs, most notably former Patriots power back LeGarrette Blount.

Blount has been linked only to the Patriots and the New York Giants since free agency opened for business in early March and it has been reported that he is looking to cash in on his career year with New England last season when he topped 1,000 yards and found the end zone 18 times, but at 30 years old and with a history of attitude in every stop besides Foxborough, Blount's market has been predictably docile...

...adding to the speculation that the Patriots used Peterson to try and entice Blount to return, demonstrating the lengths that they would go to project a level of resolve to replace Blount were he to not play nice in contract negotiations.

The Patriots know what they have in Blount, but the rest of the league has no idea what they would get if they signed the 30-year-old, as he pouted his way out of Tampa when Doug Martin took the lion's share of snaps away from Blount in 2012 after two successful seasons of hauling the mail for the Bucs, and simply walked away from Pittsburgh midway through 2014 after having his role reduced by the Steelers.

The only place where he has been successful and respected - in his eyes, anyway - is in Foxborough, though he may view the signing of Rex Burkhead to a $3 million+ deal as a sign of disrespect since Blount played his career year in 2016 for a third of that total.  But as Belichick always says, he formulates a player's value on the market to what he projects their future production to be, with little latitude reserved for sentiment.

That said, Blount outperformed his contract last season and was one of the better values at any position in the National Football League, while Burkhead is a virtual neophyte in comparison and Peterson missed most of last season with a bum knee.

So if Belichick was simply sending a message to Blount by hosting Peterson - that message being "We'll replace you with a guy that has alienated himself from NFL teams far more than you have" - is shaming him into signing the best course of action?

As usual, it doesn't matter.  Belichick doesn't care about perception, but probably gets a kick out of the media speculation in regard to his often cryptic moves - so in that respect, it's probably been a fun couple of days for the Dark Master during these dog days of free agency.

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