Free Agency

If Not Eddie Lacy, Why Not Latavius Murray?

So the Minnesota Vikings didn’t get their guy in Eddie Lacy; what a bummer.

The 267-pound running back signed a one-year, $5.55 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks, ending any hope he’d make the short trip from Wisconsin to Minneapolis. While Lacy was surely a fit with the Vikings, he likely saw Seattle as the more lucrative destination — a run-first offense with the necessary backs to rotate and split carries.

Lacy turned down comparable offers from the Vikings and Packers, leaving Rick Spielman empty-handed once again this free agency period. Fortunately, the running back market’s been soft—thanks, pass-happy offenses—and remains abundant with talent. Spielman recognized the surfeit of options, quickly shifting focus to another high-profile player looking for a new home — Latavius Murray.

Almost immediately after news broke of Lacy’s decision to sign with the Seahawks, Adam Schefter reported Murray would be visiting the Vikings Tuesday afternoon.

Murray’s quick trip comes in the wake of a slow news cycle for the former Oakland Raiders running back. He’d visited with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seahawks previously, but the Vikings appear to have the strongest interest in the 27-year-old.

KFAN’s Paul Allen was the first to note the team’s pursuit, telling a reader on Twitter he likes Murray’s fit “more for what they do here [Minnesota]” than Lacy. Allen also said he didn’t think the team would sign Lacy, and as we now know, that prediction came true.

Like Lacy, Murray’s more than suited to succeed in Pat Shurmur’s shotgun-based offense. Last season, he took 91 carries out of the alignment, gaining 383 yards and scoring four touchdowns. The 4.2 yards-per-carry average slightly betters his career average of 4.0 yards out of the shotgun, but his numbers are far superior to those of the recently-departed Adrian Peterson.

Although Murray lost touches in Oakland to a pair of younger running backs last season, he’d likely experience the same workload in Minnesota. The Vikings see Jerick McKinnon as their do-it-all back, a player with the ability to contribute out of the backfield or lined up in the slot. With a back like Murray taking carries on the early downs, McKinnon could come in and serve the Chester Taylor role on third downs.

Over his career, Murray’s carried the ball 543 times for 2,278 yards, scoring 20 touchdowns while averaging 4.2 yards per carry. The University of Central Florida back, a sixth-round pick in the 2013 draft, would immediately take over for Peterson as the Vikings’ workhorse ball carrier.

Signing Murray wouldn’t preclude the Vikings from drafting another back in this year’s deep class of talent. As it stands, McKinnon, C.J. Ham, and Bishop Sankey are the only rostered running backs; adding one or two pieces this offseason makes the most sense for a team with a historically bad rushing attack in 2016.

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Austin Belisle

Austin Belisle is the West Coast's biggest Vikings fan, a football diehard cheering on the purple and yellow from sunny California. After graduating from San Jose State University in 2014, he began working full-time in corporate marketing and blogging on various sports websites. Austin's passion for the Vikings led him to Vikings Territory, where he hopes to share his lifelong enthusiasm for the team with readers on a daily basis. You can follow him on Twitter @austincbelisle

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  1. I continue to be confused why so many want a guy who played behind a great o-line with good deep ball WRs pushing players out of the box, and had a negative DVOA. Why is he a great fit for our poor to maybe if everything works out average o-line with a short passing game? It seems like he was put in a great position, and was largely meh, which is why they’re letting him walk.

    1. I have a buddy who follows and covers the Raiders. He’s of the opinion the Raiders used Murray as an early down back and rotated the smaller guys—Richard, Washington—in certain situations. Those two were more the role I’d see McKinnon having in Minnesota. I agree, his lackluster totals aren’t the best incentive to sign him, but over his career, he’s been an above average back and has the athletic profile the Vikings would like in a Peterson replacement.

    2. You echoed my opinion Z. On top of that I read immediately prior to FA that his agent believes he is worth a couple million more than what Lacey will get.. $7M for him? Just wow. I sincerely hope that the Vikes offer no where near that and he leaves Mpls without signing.

  2. As long as we don’t throw too much money at him AND draft someone who can challenge him to start no later than next year, okay, pull the trigger. Our OL is not going to be as helpful as the Raiders has been the last couple of years, but Remmers and Reiff should improve the run-blocking at the tackle positions greatly, and Berger remains a solid run-blocker at either guard or center.

    1. cka2nd, totally agree. I think it’s imperative MN goes after a RB in the draft. No harm in building depth at a position with absolutely nothing outside of McKinnon.

      1. I’m not a big fan of drafting RBs early (before 4th round). It’s an extremely devalued position and great talent is found as often in the 2nd half of the draft as the first. Only Elliott or AP caliber backs should be drafted in the first.