Vikings nab ex-Raiders RB Latavius Murray in late-night deal

Published 8:59 am Friday, March 17, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings have signed former Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray, the latest signal that the Adrian Peterson era has ended in Minnesota.

Murray was a sixth-round draft pick out of Central Florida in 2013 who rushed for 2,278 yards and 20 touchdowns over four years with the Raiders, including 788 yards and 12 scores last season while missing two games because of a toe injury.

Murray played in the Pro Bowl the year before, when he became Oakland’s lead ball carrier and topped the 1,000-yard mark. Since 2014, Murray has 20 rushing touchdowns, the second-most in the league among players with 13 or fewer carries per game.

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With 33 receptions for 264 yards last season, Murray is more of a three-down player than Peterson , whose swift and powerful running skills were better suited to the state of the NFL when he entered it in 2007. Some 10 years later, picking up blitzes and catching passes are more critical than ever for running backs.

With Murray and the similarly versatile Jerick McKinnon in place and one of the deepest draft classes in years for the position, bringing Peterson back at this point would be borderline awkward for the Vikings.

They declined their $18 million option on his contract for 2017 to make him a free agent and stated their openness to re-signing their all-time leading rusher, but their interest in former Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy and then Murray was telling. Lacy wound up signing with the Seattle Seahawks, who had Peterson in for a visit last weekend.

The Vikings hosted Murray at team headquarters on Wednesday and struck the deal early Thursday, announcing it at 12:47 a.m. That’s the exact same night-owl time the Vikings announced on Sept. 17, 2014, that Peterson was being placed on paid leave while the child abuse case he was involved in unfolded. Though Peterson led the league with 1,485 yards rushing in 2015, he was a nonfactor in 2014 and in 2016 while he recovered from a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Murray has a mere five 100-yard games in his career, delayed by a foot injury he suffered as a rookie that kept him off the field for the entire 2013 season. Peterson has five 200-yard games and topped the 100-yard mark 50 times, but he’ll be 32 next week. Murray is 27, and McKinnon will turn 25 in two months.

The Vikings were last in the NFL in 2016 with 3.2 yards per rush and 75.3 yards rushing per game, but they have other needs, too. They re-signed veteran cornerback Terence Newman on Wednesday and also reached an agreement on a three-year contract extension with wide receiver Adam Thielen worth as much as $27 million including $11 million guaranteed.

Free agent tight end Jared Cook, who played for Green Bay last year, also visited Winter Park on Wednesday with Murray. He left without a deal.