Another Clue Hints at Alexander Mattison as RB1

Youngest Offseason
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.

Starting Friday, the Minnesota Vikings, in theory, can trade RB1 Dalvin Cook and save $11 million with a $3.1 million penalty against the 2023 salary cap.

Another Clue Hints at Alexander Mattison as RB1

Before June 1st, sending Cook elsewhere would save $7.8 million and perhaps fetch a mid-to-late round draft pick. Had the organization released Cook before June 1st, the club would save $5.9 million with an $8.2 million cap penalty. After that date, it’s $9 million in savings with a $5.1 million cap penalty with a release.

And while Cook’s contract is undoubtedly mental gymnastics, his would-be replacement is more straightforward. Alexander Mattison seemed poised to take over RB1 responsibilities and is a virtual lock for the gig if Cook is traded or released.

Hints at Alexander
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.

Why? Well, listen to the head coach. On Tuesday, Kevin O’Connell said about Mattison during organized team activities (OTAs), “It’s been really good to see Alex Mattison take a few more reps and really show that all three-down kinda ownership that he’s been capable of for a long time.”

‘Three-down kinda ownership’ is coach-speak for an RB1’s workload. From 2017 until, well, now, Cook has been the three-down ownership guy.

The 2023 Vikings Free
Dec 5, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (25) walks off the field after the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports.

Is Cook guaranteed to be traded or released Thursday or after? Nope — absolutely not. But all signs point that way and have done so since early March. The franchise and his teammates still value Cook, but money has been the sticking point this offseason. Cook is on deck to inflict a $14.1 cap hit against the Vikings books in 2023, a massive figure concocted by the former general Rick Spielman in 2020. Minnesota hired Kwesi Adofo-Mensah 16 months ago, and he’s likely not the type to pay running backs megabucks.

Moreover, the Vikings extended Mattison in March just as the 24-year-old neared free agency for the first time in his career. He’s now committed to the Vikings for two years and $7 million, which is more ‘with the times’ regarding running backs’ paychecks.

Viking Fined for a Wee Bit of Twerking
Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) on the sidelines against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

Last week, Mattison said about re-signing in Minnesota, “I’m happy. I love it here. I always tell people I wouldn’t rather play anywhere else. It’s just an unbelievable organization, an unbelievable locker room, a team full of amazing guys, amazing coaches and amazing staff, so I’m blessed to be back.”

Minnesota will also make running the football a point of emphasis in 2023. In O’Connell’s first season, the Vikings ran the ball third least per playcall percentage. Mattison confirmed the strategy, too at OTAs, “We all knew the run game was an area of improvement we needed, so coming into this year, there’s more emphasis. Being in Year 1 in this offense, it was something that throughout the process is learning new things, so that’s a year of foundation that we have, can look back on that at what we need to correct and do well, what we don’t do as well and improve. It’s definitely been a little more emphasis.”

So, if Minnesota brings the more-balanced playcalling to life, you might just see Mattison on the field in a three-down capacity.

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,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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