Free Agency

Vikings Sign Former Raiders RB Latavius Murray

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.

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.

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.

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Drew Mahowald

Drew Mahowald is the No. 1 Jim Kleinsasser fan and No. 1 Little Caesars pizza enthusiast on planet Earth. That about sums it up.

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  1. Great news!

    Murray can be the “Thunder”. McKinnon can be the “Lightning”. But we need something to link these talents together. For this reason we need Zach Line, “The Missing Link”

  2. Pretty sure this seals the deal no more AD I was still hopeful that we’d see the 28 out there again but it was great to watch Murray is a really good back tho I think we’ll be fine just would rather see the 28 for a couple more years skol vikes

    1. AP kind of developed the Randy Moss theory, I play when I want to. Whether I want to or not is my decision
      and mine alone. As he proved at the end of last year. He is by far one of the very best it’s just a shame he
      put’s himself above the rest. There is no I in TEAM. Good luck AP in all future endeavor’s you were great to bad ego got in your way..

  3. Nice to see his good pass pro grade from PFF. That makes me feel much better.

    I thought Zach Line was only visiting the Jets. Has he actually signed elsewhere, or have the Vikings announced that they’re not interested in re-signing him?

    1. I’ve only heard about the visit…have not heard about Line actually signing elsewhere.

      1. Perhaps it was a bogus article Drew, but midday yesterday I read that he signed with Jacksonville. In the morning I read that he would be visiting the Jets.

    2. I read the same cka. Mere hours before I read that he signed with the Jags I read he was on his way to visit the Jets. I read nothing in regards to the Vikings, nothing at all.
      I don’t mind this pick if they are not thinking of drafting one of the power backs, not so much if they do. Hard to imagine that he wouldn’t be an upgrade over Asiata (and no slight on Matt), but at what cost? I had read a statement by his agent that he thought he was worth more than what Eddie received from Seattle. If they got him for less than $3M or so, ok. More than $5M, I just don’t think he is worth that much. But, I read the same regarding his production on passing. The only knocks against him were a pedestrian 4 YPC and not the greatest laterally. Regardless of what my opinion might be, of course I hope he just tears it up as a Viking! SKOL Vikings and SKOL to all you Vikes fans here!!

      1. I should have read the additions to this article above before I posted. Less than $3M! And his first statement as a Viking was very classy.. He is starting to make me change my mind already. Sometimes it is good to be wrong.

  4. Zach had his hip scoped out the other day. At least that’s what his brother Prescott told me