The 5 o’clock club is published Wednesday to Saturday during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.
There may not be two players on the Redskins roster who contribute more and have more uncertain futures with the team than Adrian Peterson and Vernon Davis.
In both cases, the issue isn’t really production, but age, salary cap and position on the depth chart in 2019.
Tight End, Vernon Davis
Vernon Davis is 34 right now, meaning for all of you math wizards out there, that he will be 35 years old next season. There aren’t many tight ends in the NFL who are his age, and the ones that are close aren’t really healthy and productive.
Delanie Walker is about 8 months younger. He is on IR and — with no guaranteed money on his contract remaining after the ‘18 season — may not be back with the Titans.
Greg Olsen is about a year younger. He has played in only 9 of a possible 21 games over the ‘17 and ‘18 seasons. The Panthers are upside-down on his restructured contract (it would cost them extra salary cap space to cut him prior to the ‘19 season), so he looks safe enough, but his recent injury issues must be troubling for the Panthers coaches and front office.
In contrast, Vernon Davis has been something of an iron man for the Redskins, active for all 37 games that the Redskins have played since signing him ahead of the 2016 season.
Running Back, Adrian Peterson
Among active running backs, only Frank Gore and Darren Sproles are older than AD, but Peterson is actually carrying on a Redskin franchise tradition that dates back at least to the time of John Riggins, of being the team’s featured back at a time when most running backs are being pushed out the door. There’s nothing really wrong with Peterson’s production so far either; he’s on track to put up over 1,000 yards rushing this season, and he has been the most consistent part of a sputtering Redskins offense through six games.
After Sunday’s home win over the Dallas Cowboys, Head Coach Jay Gruden described Adrian Peterson this way:
He’s a physical freak, he’s in great shape, I don’t see him slowing down. But when we get Chris Thompson back, maybe we’ll take a little bit off of him as the season goes on, but it’s hard to because he wants the ball, he’s hungry, he’s strong, he’s fast and loves to play. He’s made a major impact for this football team.
There’s nothing so far to suggest that Peterson won’t be capable of returning to the Redskins in 2019 and continuing to be productive. After all, Riggo’s best years came in ‘83 and ‘84 when he was 34 & 35 years old.
One unknown about Peterson that is quite different from Vernon Davis, though, is his contract. AP signed a one-year vet minimum deal to join the Redskins this season. If he manages to get through this year healthy and productive, there could actually be a competitive market for his services next season.
Neither of these guys is the future for the franchise
Obviously, Jordan Reed is the starting tight end for the Redskins, but because of Reed’s frequent injuries, Davis has actually played more and produced more as a backup than Reed has as the starter in the time that Davis has been with the Redskins.
The situation with Peterson is, of course, very different, but potentially more problematic. The Redskins anticipate that their 2018 2nd round draft pick, Derrius Guice, will return from his torn ACL to take over the lead running back position for the Redskins, but he has never taken a snap in a regular season NFL game. Guice, in a word or two, is unproven and returning from major injury. With so many unknowns in the situation, it’s hard to project whether Peterson will be offered a role with the team next year, or if he would be interested in it if a contract were put on the table.
In short, there’s no guarantee that either player will be with the Redskins in 2019, but both are enjoying productive seasons in 2018. All of this plays into the career milestones that both players — Davis and Peterson — can pass in their respective careers.
If AP and VD can continue playing beyond 2018 — and especially if they find themselves in situations that offer them the opportunity to continue to be statistically productive — they each have the opportunity to wind up with career numbers that will put them in some very elite company.
With 10 games left in the season, and averaging around 70 rushing yard per game, Adrian Peterson is within reach of passing Eric Dickerson for the 8th position in the career rushing yards list.
With another season as a full time back, Peterson could possibly pass Curtis Martin for #5 on the list by the end of 2019.
If he can extend his career beyond next season, Peterson could wind up slipping past Barry Sanders to take over the 3rd spot on the list.
This kind of achievement could offer powerful motivation to a player like Adrian Peterson, who is likely to be more motivated by the opportunity to cement his place in the record books than he would be by earning a couple of million dollars more or less to finish out his career. Given the situation with Derrius Guice, though, it’s unclear whether Peterson would see Washington as the best place for him to chase records in 2019.
As @LakeLewis pointed out, Adrian Peterson is 124 rushing yards from catching Tony Dorsett for 9th place all-time. If Peterson stays healthy, tho, Eric Dickerson could also be in play later this season. #Redskins #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/iNwuomNvkk— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) October 16, 2018
The other career record that offers a lot of opportunity for Peterson is the career rushing rushing touchdowns list, where Peterson is currently 7th all-time.
Peterson has already scored 3 rushing touchdowns this year, to move from 99 career TDs to 102. He needs three more TDs to pass Redskins great, Riggins, and 5 more to surpass the legendary Jim Brown. Both of those are achievable this year if Peterson stays healthy and productive.
Nine more rushing TDs would put Adrian Peterson all alone at #4 on the list, which is as high as he is realistically going to get. While this is possible to achieve this year, Peterson is more likely to need to be on the field in 2019 to get his 111th career rushing TD.
It’s worth noting that with 99 yards against the Cowboys, AD was 1 yard away from adding another 100-yard game to his career record.
So — with good health and some good luck — if Peterson can play pretty much full time this year and next, and then extend his career, even as a part-time player, into the 2020 season, he seems to have a reasonable shot at ending up 3rd all-time on the career rushing yards list and 4th all-time in career rushing touchdowns.
Of course, even if he doesn’t get another carry in the NFL, he’ll retire ranked in the top ten in both lists, and will likely be a first-round entrant into the Hall of Fame. He’ll certainly always be remembered as #28 in gaudy Viking purple, but he has the chance to finish his career strong running in beautiful burgundy & gold.
In September last year, Antonio Gates set a new record for career receiving TDs by a tight end.
The 13 months that have passed since then have seen some shuffling in the leader board:
- Gates record now stands at 115.
- Gonzalez, 111.
- Gronkowski now has 77.
- Jimmy Graham has 70.
- Jason Witten retired with 68.
- Shannon Sharpe, 62
Vernon Davis currently has 61, sitting at #7 all time.
Davis caught 2 TD passes in 2016 and 3 in 2017. So far this season he has one. Another score will tie him with Shannon Sharpe; two more puts him alone in 6th place all-time.
See and hear Matt Cavanaugh describe the design of Vernon Davis’ touchdown play against the Carolina Panthers Click Here
Five more TD receptions — which would probably require Davis to play a significant number of snaps through 2019 — would see Vernon Davis take over the #5 position from Witten.
Career yardage leaders
- Tony Gonzalez - 15,127
- Jason Witten - 12,448
- Antonio Gates - 11,620
- Shannon Sharpe - 10,060
The positioning among active players in the top-10 all-time leaders changes around a bit from month to month. At the time of writing, three active players were separated by less than 500 yards:
- Rob Gronkowski - 7,584
- Vernon Davis - 7,221
- Jimmy Graham - 7,149
While Davis is unlikely to outlast Graham or Gronkowski, he will almost certainly rank among the top-ten tight ends of all-time in career yardage. Davis put up over 1,200 receiving yards in ‘16 & ‘17 combined, so the has the opportunity to finish his career with over 8,000 yards.
If he finishes his career with 8,000 receiving yards and 5th all time in TDs among tight ends, Vernon Davis could find himself very much in the conversation for a spot in the Hall of Fame.
It will be interesting to see if he ends up remembered more for his start in San Francisco or his finish in Washington. Remember, Davis was born in DC, grew up in DC, graduated from Dunbar High School, and played his college ball in Maryland. Vernon may actually want to be remembered as a Redskin.
Should these guys retire as Redskins?
Adrian Peterson and Vernon Davis didn’t start their careers in Washington, but then again, neither did Sonny Jergenson, Billy Kilmer, Joe Theismann, Doug Williams, John Riggins, Santana Moss or London Fletcher.
There may be some benefit to keeping them on the Redskins even as they approach their use-by dates. Greatness begets greatness.
Of course, there may be salary cap and other practical considerations that motivate the front office to get rid of these two great players sooner rather than later. But it sure is fun to see them achieving milestones wearing the burgundy and gold for the moment, and it could be pretty cool to see these guys finish out their careers in Washington.
What should happen with Vernon Davis, who will have a $5m cap hit in the final year of his contract (2019)?
This poll is closed
Redskins should keep him and use him
Redskins should cut him to save the cap space
Redskins should trade him to save cap space and build draft capital
What should happen with Adrian Peterson, who will be a free agent at the end of the season?
This poll is closed
Redskins should offer him a market rate contract, and let him compete with and mentor Derrius Guice
Redskins should offer him another vet minimum contract with the idea that he will play only part time and back up Derrius Guice
Redskins should let him leave in free agency and hope he signs a big enough contract to qualify for a late-round compensatory draft pick