The Vikings early Thursday morning signed former Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray, and by doing so they likely closed the door on the Adrian Peterson era.
Murray first got to town Tuesday and arrived at Winter Park on Wednesday morning to meet with the coaching staff and check out the facility. Former Green Bay Packers tight end Jared Cook was also visiting.
The Vikings announced a little after 8 p.m. Wednesday night that Cook had left Winter Park without a contract. Meanwhile, Murray lingered for a few more hours before officially putting pen to paper a little bit before 1 a.m. Thursday.
The contract is for $15 million over three years, with $8.5 million guaranteed.
Murray, listed at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, rushed for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2016 behind one of the NFL’s top offensive lines. In 2015, he topped 1,000 yards. But the Raiders did not prioritize keeping Murray, who turned 27 in January.
A New York native who played collegiately at Central Florida, Murray rushed for 2,278 yards and 20 touchdowns in his four years in Oakland, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Murray, originally a sixth-round pick by the Raiders in 2013, is also considered to be a quality pass protector in the backfield, and he made 74 receptions combined in 2015 and 2016.
Murray joins a backfield that includes Jerick McKinnon, Bishop Sankey and C.J. Ham. The Vikings are also expected to pick one of the many talented running backs in this year’s draft. But the backfield probably won’t include Peterson.
The Vikings decided last month to not exercise their $18 million team option on Peterson’s contract for the upcoming 2017 season. That made him a free agent for the first time in his 10-year career. Suitors have not exactly lined up for Peterson, who has made one visit, to Seattle, since free agency began last Thursday.
In the meantime, the Vikings hosted former Packers running back Eddie Lacy and offered him a contract. When he opted to sign with the Seahawks, the Vikings turned their attention to Murray as a potential Peterson replacement.
Peterson rushed for at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of his first four seasons. He was on pace to do it again in 2011 before he tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in December, setting the stage for his stunning comeback.
Peterson was amazingly ready to roll by the 2012 season opener and carried the Vikings to the playoffs with 2,097 rushing yards, only 8 yards shy of the NFL’s single-season record set by Eric Dickerson in 1984. He was named the MVP that year.
After playing only one game in 2014 because of an NFL suspension stemming from his child-abuse case in Texas, Peterson produced another All-Pro campaign in 2015. But last season, he played in only three games because of knee and groin injuries and averaged a career-low 1.9 yards per carry when in the lineup.
The Vikings both publicly and privately maintained that they were receptive to re-signing Peterson. But their signing of Murray a week into free agency strongly suggests that the door has been closed for Peterson.
Peterson, whom the Vikings drafted seventh overall in 2007, likely has finished his Vikings career with 11,747 rushing yards and 97 touchdowns on the ground.