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Arizona Cardinals land Adrian Peterson in trade with Saints

New Orleans Saints' Adrian Peterson (28) on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. The Saints won 34-13. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

The Arizona Cardinals have struggled mightily to run the football in 2017, and Tuesday, they did something about it.

ESPN’s Dianna Russini was the first to report the news that general manager Steve Keim pulled the trigger on a trade, acquiring former Pro Bowler Adrian Peterson from the New Orleans Saints.

The team made it official, adding that they will be giving up an undisclosed 2018 draft pick. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the pick will be a sixth-rounder. Upon the move, the Cardinals also released starting running back Chris Johnson.

“Chris Johnson’s a great guy. I hate that it came down this way for him, but we had to do something to help our football team,” Arians told AZCardinals.com.

“(Peterson has) run the football all his life. Very similar in Minnesota to what we do, and is a good fit.”

The 32-year-old signed a two-year, $7 million contract back in April with the Saints. Peterson’s 2017 compensation of $3.5 million — $1 million guaranteed, $2.5 million signing bonus — was fully guaranteed at signing. In 2018, none of Peterson’s $3.5 million is guaranteed. The deal includes $2.4 million in total roster bonuses, a $1.05 million salary and $50,000 in workout bonuses.

“We are always on the lookout for opportunities to improve our team and we look at this as one of those opportunities,” said general manager Steve Keim. “What Adrian has accomplished in this league is well-established. Our need for a spark in our running game right now is also obvious and we are excited to give him the chance to provide that.”

Peterson spent the first ten years of his career with the Minnesota Vikings before signing with the Saints in April. The fit in New Orleans was a strange one from the get-go. As part of a running back rotation with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, Peterson got only 27 carries in New Orleans’ first four games. He rushed for 81 yards, averaging three yards per attempt.

In his first game as a Saint, Peterson was captured by television cameras appearing to yell at New Orleans head coach Sean Payton during a Monday Night Football loss against Minnesota. Peterson later clarified that he was only suggesting certain running plays to the head coach.

In the week following the Monday night game, Peterson did talk to reporters about his lack of playing time.

“I didn’t sign up for nine snaps, though. But unfortunately that’s the way the game played out,” Peterson told ESPN’s Mike Triplett. “In my mind, personally, I knew it was gonna take some adjusting. You know, me and Mark [Ingram] played in the last preseason game, and [Alvin Kamara] didn’t even play that game. So with all three of us being out there, I knew it would take a game or so to kind of get adjusted. So we’ll see how things [go] this week.”

Only two seasons ago, Peterson led the league in rushing, amassing 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Vikings. It was the third time he led the league in rushing, and the first since 2012, when he totaled 2,097 yards — the second-highest total in league history and only eight yards behind Eric Dickerson, who set the record for the Rams in 1984.

Injuries have been an issue for Peterson in recent seasons. Last year, he suffered a torn meniscus in Week 2 and saw action in only three games total, gaining 72 yards on 37 carries. In December of 2011, he landed on injured reserve after tearing his ACL and MCL, yet was ready to go in Week 1 the next season, just eight months after surgery. He would go on to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2012.

Peterson also missed the majority of the 2014 season after receiving a suspension stemming from an indictment on child abuse charges. He landed on the league’s Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list that required he remain away from all team activities.

Peterson was originally a first-round pick of the Vikings in 2007, and was famously passed on by the Cardinals, who had the fifth overall pick. Instead, the Cardinals drafted tackle Levi Brown out of Penn State, who spent seven mostly forgettable years with the franchise.

The former Oklahoma star is a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time First Team All-Pro. He was the 2007 NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year and in addition to winning the league’s MVP award in 2012, was named the AP Offensive Player of the Year that same season. As recently as 2013, Peterson was ranked No. 1 in NFL Network’s annual offseason ranking of the league’s top 100 players.

Peterson ranks 16th on the league’s all-time rushing yardage list with 11,828 yards, which is second behind Indianapolis’ Frank Gore among active players.

The Cardinals rank last in the NFL in rushing with 259 yards on 100 carries — just 51.8 yards per game. Eighteen players in the league have more yardage on the ground than Arizona does as a team. Arizona has been struggling to move the ball in the run game since All-Pro running back David Johnson went down with a wrist injury in Week 1. That has been exacerbated by a rash of injuries on the offensive line that have necessitated nine different players getting a start through the season’s first five weeks.

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