Phoenix — The Detroit Lions have between $7-8 million in cap space, less than most teams, but are still interested in making additions via free agency, including potentially signing a marquee name like running back Adrian Peterson.
“We’re definitely still open for business in terms of free agency,” general manager Bob Quinn said at the league meetings Monday afternoon. “This is a little bit of a lull in the process, but we’re constantly evaluating, looking at our options compared to what might be in the draft and trying to make those things come together and make the best possible decisions.”
Quinn and the Lions have been aggressive on the open market, filling a number of needs the past month. The team has especially poured significant resources into its offensive line, signing tackle Rick Wagner and guard T.J. Lang to lucrative multi-year deals.
But that’s only part of the equation when it comes to solving the franchise’s long-standing woes in the ground game. There continues to be an expectation the Lions will add a running back this offseason to round out its rotation, currently led by Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick.
Could Peterson, the seven-time Pro Bowler who has spent his entire career with the Minnesota Vikings, be the solution? Quinn certainly didn’t close the door.
“I think AP still has plenty left in the tank,” Quinn said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Peterson, who is fewer than 600 yards from cracking the top 10 on the all-time list, missed most of last season with a knee injury. Limited to just three games, he mustered just 72 yards on 37 carries. He also missed nearly all the 2014 season with a groin issue.
But in 2015, Peterson still showed signs of dominance, racking up 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
Quinn declined to comment whether he’s specifically talked to Peterson’s representation to gauge interest, saying only that the team has kicked the tires on “hundreds of players” and the list of players they’ve called on would be “a mile long.”
Peterson was released by the Vikings earlier this month. He remains a free agent with multiple national reports suggesting the 32 year old’s asking price was too high.
Peterson refuted those reports via his Twitter.
“You can’t believe everything you read or hear people,” Peterson wrote. “The last thing I’m worried about is playing ball this coming season. That will happen! It’s not all about the money as everyone is speculating here lately. You’d think these analysts spoke to me directly. When you don’t know what’s going on people will say anything to create or make a story!”
The Lions ranked 30th in rushing yards last season and 27th in yards per carry. Both Abdullah (foot) and Riddick (wrist) are coming off seasons where they finished on injured reserve and required surgery.
Peterson isn’t the only intriguing back still on the market. LeGarrette Blount, who led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns and Quinn knows well from his time in New England, also remains unsigned.
And if the Lions continue to pass on free agent running backs, there’s always the draft. Most analysts consider this class to be deeper than an average year, including four potential first-rounders in Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara.
The Lions have been in contact with a number of running back prospects in recent weeks, including mid-round options Samaje Perine, Kareem Hunt and James Conner.