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What should become of Samaje Perine?

Is he just another wasted draft pick?

A promising draft pick

I think that when Samaje Perine was drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 draft, it was generally viewed as a good pick by the Redskins. Perine was seen as a powerful and reliable running back that represented good value in the 4th round.

For a team that had finished 2016 with Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson, “Fumblin’” Matt Jones, and Mack Brown, the addition of Perine looked like it would mark the end of the Matt Jones era — Jones having been a failed 2015 third-round pick that had reminded Scot McCloughan of Marshawn Lynch — and provide an overall upgrade in the form of a reliable power back who could solve the Redskins’ short yardage woes.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Fumbled opportunity

As things turned out, in similar fashion to Matt Jones, the ball seemed to end up on the ground a lot when Perine touched it, despite the fact that his official career stats show him with only 2 career NFL fumbles.

His official stats didn’t show him as an inveterate fumbler for a lot of reasons. One reason is that some of the fumbles happened in pre-season, setting a troubling tone. Another was that some of his miscues were charged to other players — notably Kirk Cousins. For example, on one play, Kirk pitched a nice lateral to Perine that hit him in the hands, waist-high and in-stride. Perine mishandled the ball; Cousins got charged with the fumble. Quarterbacks also get charged with the fumble if the running back drops the handoff, which seemed to happen a time or two.

Some of the balls that hit the ground ended up back in Perine’s hands. Also, I remember one play when he was fighting for yardage and had the ball ripped from his hands, but had stepped on the sideline just prior, saving himself from being charged with a lost ball.

NFL: New York Giants at Washington Redskins Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Rightly or wrongly, Perine quickly developed a reputation for being loose with the football. We heard reports of him carrying a ‘beeping’ electronic ball designed to encourage 4 points of contact.

Whether Perine was really a fumbler or not didn’t seem to matter much in the end; he landed in Jay Gruden’s doghouse, benched and usually inactive.

I honestly thought that, since Jay wasn’t gonna play him, the Redskins would try to trade Perine in the 2018 off-season to a team that had scouted and liked him coming out of college, but it didn’t happen.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

At the recent coach’s breakfast interview during the annual league meeting in Florida, Jay Gruden talked about Samaje, saying that Perine wasn’t “in the dogbouse”, and that Jay wanted and needed to get Samaje more opportunities. Jay actually sounded sincere, but, of course, he was rested and in a good mood; not answering questions mid-season, following a close loss at home that had been decided by a lost possession.

A record setting college career

Prior to being drafted by Washington, Perine was one of the most productive backs in Oklahoma history — and that’s really saying something!

But his production tailed off as he moved through his three years playing for the Sooners.

From his first year to his third and final season, Perine saw his attempts, yards, yards per carry and TDs fall each season. This is not usually the trend you look for in drafting a player, and it was the thing that troubled me the most about him after learning that the Redskins had drafted him.

NCAA Football: Texas Kickoff-Oklahoma vs Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Still, he had gotten a strong endorsement from most draft analysts, and going into the 2017 season, he was seen as a welcome change from the Matt Jones disaster.

So far, not so good

But Perine’s career as a Redskin has been more a tale of disappointment and unfulfilled promise than anything else.

In his first two seasons, he has seen limited duty, often inactive on game days, and when Derrius Guice, the 2018 version of the newly drafted rookie who would finally fix the Redskins run game, ripped his knee apart in the first preseason game, instead of turning to Samaje Perine, the Redskins held tryouts for a number of veteran backs, and ended up signing 33-year-old Adrian Peterson, who went on to post a(nother) 1,000 yard season while Perine amassed 8 carries for 32 yards.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Redskins currently have Derrius Guice, Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Byron Marshall, Samaje Perine and a couple of other camp bodies on the depth chart. They could take a late-round flyer on a running back in the 6th or 7th round, but I don’t expect them to. I imagine the ‘Skins will add one or two UDFA running backs that show some promise, and the ‘19 regular season RB corps will come from the 5 players named above.

Barring injury to Peterson or Guice, Perine looks like the odd-man-out.

What is Samaje Perine’s future?

In 2018, he took up a roster spot for the entire season, yet, despite injuries to Guice, Marshall, and Bibbs, Perine ran the ball only 8 times. Do we want to burn a roster spot on him again in 2019?

I doubt whether he has any trade value between now and the draft — teams that want a RB will likely be inclined to keep their picks and try to fill the need during the draft.

It could be that the reason that Jay continues to insist that Samaje has talent that the team needs to utilize is because of some (likely vain) attempt to maintain whatever trade appeal Perine might still have.

However, probably the only way Perine gets traded this year is if he plays exceptionally well in the preseason and another team wants to get him from the ‘Skins when they lose a player to injury. Of course, if he can play that well, perhaps Washington should hold onto him and use him.

Perine is cheap, being a 4th round pick still on his rookie deal. His cap hit this season is $809,000, rising to $899,000 in 2020, the final year of his rookie deal. The front office may want to hold onto him, just in case he outlasts Jay Gruden’s tenure. Who knows? Maybe Jay’s replacement will want to play the young man.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Peterson can’t play forever, though he might be able to last long enough in a shared-backfield role with Guice to make Perine largely redundant.

The Redskins backfield may be too crowded for Perine to have a place this season, and the opportunity to trade him may have been lost forever due to Jay’s decision to make him a healthy scratch for the ‘18 season. It may turn out that the only option remaining will be to cut him at the end of August (when, if history is any guide, the Colts will pick him up off of waivers).


What SHOULD happen to Perine this year?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Jeeez. Just cut him already and end the pain.
    (254 votes)
  • 18%
    Skins should do whatever is necessary to trade him.
    (192 votes)
  • 16%
    Stash him on the practice squad if you can.
    (171 votes)
  • 38%
    He should be on the 53. He’s cheap insurance against injury this season, and maybe Jay’s 2020 replacement will want to use him.
    (394 votes)
1011 votes total Vote Now