Cardinals Peterson Football

New Arizona Cardinals running back Adrian Peterson (23) walks with running backs coach Freddie Kitchens, right, during practice at the NFL football team's training facility Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Ross D. Franklin

Adrian Peterson's time in New Orleans had come to a crossroads.

Four games into the season, the running back who had always been the focal point of the offense in Minnesota was playing a backup's role, taking fewer snaps than either Mark Ingram or Alvin Kamara and struggling to live up to his reputation.

The Saints solved the situation Tuesday by trading Peterson to Arizona, a team that needed his services much more, for a conditional sixth-round pick.

"I think this was a win-win," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Adrian and I have talked a ton each week. We would spend time just up here in the office talking about our system, just different things, his role. Our relationship, I’d say, has been fantastic. It was an opportunity, really, where he was going to obviously get somewhere and be featured more."

A decision New Orleans made after the Saints signed Peterson ended up causing Tuesday's trade.

Three days after the Saints signed Peterson, New Orleans traded up to draft Alvin Kamara in the third round, and the rookie has been a playmaker right away, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and hauling in 20 catches over the first four games.

Payton has mentioned that the NFL, unlike the NBA, holds its draft after free agency, a schedule that leaves some uncertainty as to a team's true needs, but the coach wasn't able to say whether he'd have held off on signing Peterson if he knew the Saints would land Kamara.

"These are all hypotheticals," Payton said. "Had I known that I could draft Kamara, had I known Kamara was going to be good as a runner and as a receiver, and had I known ... all of those things are a fantasy."

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Peterson was already out at practice Wednesday in Arizona. 

The future Hall of Famer kept saying he believed the division of labor would work itself out in New Orleans, but he had also acknowledged he wanted to play a bigger role.

Accustomed to having the carries of a lead back, Peterson worked hard to accept his role in New Orleans, but he told reporters in Arizona he was hoping a move would be made.

"I wasn’t pushing to be moved, but I’d be lying to say I didn’t want a change of scenery," Peterson said, according to The Arizona Republic. "It was something I was praying about."

Peterson spent just four games with the Saints, but the locker room in New Orleans appreciated his work ethic and his ability as a teammate.

Most of the Saints are hoping Peterson gets the playing time he craves in Arizona.

"Obviously, it’s frustrating for him to not be able to get the reps that he was accustomed to getting and I think what he had hoped for and planned for," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "I think this is all for the better. It allows us to move forward. It allows him to move forward with another opportunity where it looks like he’s going to get probably a significant amount of time.”

With Peterson gone, both Ingram and Kamara will see their touches increase. 

Ingram, coming off of his first 1,000-yard season, is still the team's best all-around back, averaging 4.0 yards per carry as he continues to take the bulk of the snaps. Ingram has played 52.5 percent of the snaps through four games, up from the 46 percent he played a year ago.

"No matter who is here or wherever I’m at, I’m always gonna compete; I’m gonna fight and put my best foot forward," Ingram said. "I mean, he’s a great player; he still has a lot of juice left in the tank. He can go. I’m hoping that he goes and proves it in Arizona.'

Kamara, likewise, expects to get more touches with Peterson in Arizona, but the rookie is grateful for the time he got with the legendary veteran.

“All the experience he has, he was trying to funnel as much as he could into me," Kamara said. "Anything I needed to know, he was an open book, and I was thankful for that. I let him know that through a text.”

Peterson is about to get the playing time he craves, and New Orleans now has a backfield picture that is far more clear than it was a couple of days ago.

Both parties are hoping to thrive after going their separate ways.

Follow Joel A. Erickson on Twitter, @JoelAErickson.