The Minnesota Vikings were in search of a “Thunder” style running back to pair with the “Lightning” that is Jerick McKinnon.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman noticed and acted.
Early Thursday morning (or late Wednesday night), the Minnesota Vikings announced they signed former Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray.
We have signed RB Latavius Murray (@LataviusM).
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) March 16, 2017
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network was first to announce the terms of the deal, tweetng that the deal is worth up to $15 million over three years. For reference, Eddie Lacy’s deal with Seattle was a one-year deal worth $5.5 million.
The #Vikings signed RB Latavius Murray to a 3-year deal worth roughly $15M, source said. Similar to Eddie Lacy’s value but on a multi-year
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 16, 2017
Ben Goessling of ESPN also added that Murray will receive $3.4 million guaranteed. Additionally, Murray’s $5.15 million salary in 2018 only becomes guaranteed if he’s on the roster on the third day of the league year. It’s essentially a prove-it deal for Minnesota’s new tailback.
Murray’s cap hit is slightly under $3 million for the 2017 season, giving the Vikings ample space to make more acquisitions. From the details presented, it appears as if the deal is very team-friendly.
And for those anxiously wondering, it doesn’t appear as if Murray will keep No. 28 as a Viking, out of respect for Adrian Peterson. That’s a quick way to win over a fan base.
The addition of Murray presents an upgrade from Matt Asiata in Minnesota’s backfield committee. Murray’s North-South, downhill running style is an excellent compliment to Jerick McKinnon’s scat back tendencies.
The ex-Raider registered a 1,000-yard rushing season in 2015 (1,066) and recorded 12 rushing touchdowns in 2016, good enough for fifth in the NFL. In his three-year career, Murray has rushed for 2,278 yards on 543 attempts (4.2 yards per carry) and 20 touchdowns. Additionally, Murray has hauled in 91 passes for 639 yards in his career.
Murray played against the Vikings once in his career as a Raider, rushing for 48 yards on 12 carries and catching five passes for 29 yards in a home loss.
Schematically, Murray should fit well in Pat Shurmur’s offense. He fulfilled his role well in Oakland as a short-yardage ball carrier and showed effectiveness in a variety of formations on all three downs.
Valid concerns stem from Murray’s middle-of-the-pack 4.0 yards per carry over the past two seasons, despite excellent offensive line play. Murray now joins a Vikings team in the midst of rebuilding its offensive line that was in shambles during the 2016 season.
However, Murray’s productiveness from the shotgun is reason for optimism. Shurmur’s system relies heavily on shotgun sets, and that factor was enhanced due to the lack of protection from the offensive line in 2016. Overall, the Vikings ran 65 percent of their plays out of the shotgun last season — a number that would be much higher had Minnesota been running Shurmur’s scheme from Week 1.
Murray rushed for 383 yards on 91 carries (4.2 yards per carry) and four touchdowns in 2016 from the shotgun. For his career, Murray has tallied a 4.0 yards per carry average on carries from the shotgun.
Those numbers compare quite favorably to Peterson’s numbers from the shotgun. Peterson’s career numbers in such an alignment include 485 yards on 113 carries (3.7 average) and three touchdowns. Moreover, Peterson has only managed 1.5 yards per carry from the shotgun (66 yards on 45 attempts) since the beginning of 2015.
Murray can also contribute in the passing game, boasting soft hands as a receiver out of the backfield and excellent pass protection abilities. Pro Football Focus dubbed Murray with a pass blocking grade of 83.5 in 2016, which was tied for third among all running backs in the NFL.
The addition of Murray still allows the Vikings to draft a running back in the NFL Draft this spring — and fans should expect Spielman to do so. But for now, the 1-2 punch of Murray and McKinnon should be a solid combination for what Pat Shurmur’s offense entails.