I think most people would agree that the Indianapolis Colts have a need at running back that they should address this offseason. But don't assume that the need automatically makes them a fit for some of the notable veteran running backs who will be available.
Earlier today, the Minnesota Vikings announced that they will not pick up Adrian Peterson's option, making him a free agent when the new league year begins. Also earlier today, the Kansas City Chiefs announced that they released Jamaal Charles, making him a free agent immediately.
Without a doubt, both Peterson and Charles have had tremendous careers. Peterson is a seven-time Pro Bowler and five-time first-team All-Pro, while he has led the NFL in rushing yards three times. He's rushed for 11,247 yards and 97 touchdowns, recording seven 1,000-yard rushing seasons, while totaling 13,692 yards and 102 touchdowns. Charles is a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, as he's rushed for 7,260 yards and 43 touchdowns, recording five 1,000-yard rushing seasons, while totaling 9,717 yards and 63 touchdowns. Both players may wind up in the Hall of Fame one day.
But at the same time, both players also have question marks surrounding them. Adrian Peterson will be 32 years old when next season starts, while Jamaal Charles will be 30. Both players have had significant knee injuries in recent years. Both players have over 1,300 career carries and a number of games under their belts.
Contrast that with what the Colts already have on their team in Frank Gore. He'll be 34 when next season starts, he has nearly 3,000 career carries - but he's also been very productive, rushing for 13,065 career yards and 74 touchdowns while totaling 16,492 yards and 90 touchdowns. One of Gore's best abilities recently has been his availability: he hasn't missed a game since the 2010 season! In the last six years, Gore has played in all 96 games and started 95 of them, and he's also started eight playoff games. So Gore has played in 104 straight games and started 100 straight games. That's insane for anyone, but especially a veteran back who's still producing. By comparison, Peterson has played in 62 games (64 including playoffs) over that span, while Charles has played in 56 games (57 including playoffs) over that span. There is no doubt about it: while Peterson and Charles are both great running backs, Gore has been far more reliable in recent years.
Plus, Peterson averaged just 1.9 yards per carry on his 37 rushes last year, while Charles averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on his 12 carries. Gore, meanwhile, averaged 3.9 yards per carry on 263 carries in 2016.
Basically, here's the point I'm trying to make: while Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles are exciting names because of their incredible level of production in their careers, they are not the running backs the Colts need this offseason. The Colts already have a veteran, productive running back in Frank Gore, and though he's older he's also been far more durable.
What the Colts need this offseason is a younger back to play alongside Gore but also to be the long-term running back. That's why the attention should be turned to the draft, not free agency. This is a deep draft class for the running back position, and there are plenty of exciting young backs that the Colts could add to pair alongside Gore. Yes, running back is a need for the Colts - but they don't need veterans like Peterson or Charles. The Colts need a young, long-term back, and that's why we should expect them to address the need in the draft, not in free agency.