Many Vikings Veterans May Leave. 1 Might Stay.

Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings fullback C.J. Ham (left) hugs running back Alexander Mattison (2) after losing a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings will be amid an offseason of somewhat radical change to their roster, as a handful of expensive veteran players appeared to slow down in 2022. The franchise is underwater via cap space — an annual Vikings tradition — and must “trim the fat” with dollars and cents to navigate free agency.

Here’s the list of expensive veteran Vikings who may be on the cap-casualty chopping block:

  • Dalvin Cook (RB)
  • C.J. Ham (FB)
  • Eric Kendricks (LB)
  • Jordan Hicks (LB)
  • Harrison Smith (SS)
  • Za’Darius Smith (OLB)
  • Adam Thielen (WR)

Many Vikings Veterans May Leave. 1 Might Stay.

Those men will likely be approached for contractual restructuring, trade, or outright release. It’s a painful reality for Vikings — seeing a mass exodus of beloved players — but the business side of the NFL is unavoidable.

Minnesota also has 17 free agents on the docket to hit the open market in March:

  • Kris Boyd (CB)
  • Garrett Bradbury (C)
  • Blake Brandel (OT)
  • Jonathan Bullard (DL)
  • Andrew DePaola (LS)
  • Ben Ellefson (TE)
  • Bisi Johnson (WR)
  • Greg Joseph (K)
  • Alexander Mattison (RB)
  • Nick Mullens (QB)
  • Patrick Peterson (CB)
  • Austin Schlottman (C)
  • Duke Shelley (CB)
  • Irv Smith (TE)
  • Khyiris Tonga (NT)
  • Chandon Sullivan (CB)
  • Oli Udoh (OT)

Brutal, huh? Well, it doesn’t have to be. The ninth man on the list could end up staying with the Vikings — running back Alexander Mattison. Here’s why:

Affordability

Many Vikings Veterans May
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) walks off the field after the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

There’s a year-long stance by Vikings fans and pundits (this site included) that goes a little something like this, “Alexander Mattison can fetch a lot more money on the open market in free agency than the Vikings can afford.”

Ask yourself — is this true? Or is this just something we say?

Mattison has served as a four-year-long RB2, filling in admirably for Dalvin Cook since 2019. And that same Cook may depart the Vikings in March. Vikings fans believe Mattison is a decent football player, but do NFL general managers agree?

Spotrac.com doesn’t think so.

On that site, Mattison is listed with a “calculated market value” of $2.2 million. The Vikings could reasonably retain Mattison for three years and $6.6 million. That isn’t daunting. Unless a player’s last name is McCaffrey, Barkley, or Cook, running backs don’t break the bank anymore in the NFL.

Mattison can probably be welcomed back to the Vikings for cheap.

Continuity + Cousins’ Thoughts

The Vikings 2021 Offense by the Numbers: After Week 1
Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) in action against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

After Minnesota’s gross loss to the New York Giants on Wildcard Weekend, ESPN’s Kevin Seifert tweeted, “[Kirk] Cousins mentioned two pending free agents that he feels close to: center Garrett Bradbury and tailback Alexander Mattison.”

Cousins isn’t the most universally-cherished player in the Vikings community, but let’s face it — the man is the Vikings QB1. What he says should matter.

And he evidently would like Mattison back, evidenced by the “close to” commentary.

Mattison should be affordable, the QB1 has endorsed the tailback in public, and well, you do the math. That creates a pathway to Mattison sticking around in Minnesota.

The Committee Approach

Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) scores a touchdown over Detroit Lions linebacker Austin Bryant (2) and safety Will Harris (25) during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Cook is not guaranteed to leave the Vikings. He’s a team leader and captain and ranks third all-time on the Vikings franchise rushing yards leaderboard.

But Minnesota hired Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell one year ago, and those two men might prefer an affordable running back by committee, an everpresent trend in the NFL.

Adofo-Mensah, especially, is known for his value-based approach to decision-making or what has been called Moneyball. Paying an aging running back $14+ million yearly doesn’t align with gridiron Moneyball.

However, a value-based and economical RB-by-committee does adhere to Adofo-Mensah’s principles. In that vein, the Vikings RB room next September could include Mattison, Ty Chandler, and Kene Nwangwu.

Mattison will also be 25 years old in June, which would align perfectly age-wise via three-year contract to utilize the Boise State alumnus in his prime. Hell, Mattison is younger than Chandler, who was a rookie in 2022.


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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