Vikings a Fit for a Top Free Agent RB

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The Vikings released Dalvin Cook in free agency, and it obviously opened the door for another addition at the running back spot. At this point, it is Alexander Mattison’s job to lose. He will be pushed by a trio of backups. The Vikings selected one runner in each of the last three drafts. Kene Nwangwu joined the team in 2021 and will be in his third season, Ty Chandler was a 2022 pick, and DeWayne McBride is a rookie.

Vikings a Fit for a Top Free Agent RB

Mattison has shown decent backup ability and played wonderfully whenever Cook missed due to injury. However, he has never had the opportunity to show that he can be a starter for a full season in the NFL; the subsequent skepticism is only logical. One of those doubters is Justin Melo from TheDraftNetwork.

Vikings a Fit for
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt (27) takes the field before an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FirstEnergy Stadium, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, in Cleveland, Ohio. Browns27jl 27

The analyst identified the Vikings as one of three possible suitors for free-agent running back Kareem Hunt.

I’m extremely skeptical that the Vikings have enough at running back following the departure of Cook. Is Alexander Mattison really a starting-caliber running back? Are the inexperienced DeWayne McBride and Ty Chandler ready to contribute?

I don’t blame general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah for releasing Cook from his bloated five-year, $63 million contract. Releasing Cook cleared approximately $9 million in cap space. This decision isn’t an indictment on Minnesota’s potential interest in Hunt, who would cost a fraction of Cook’s previously scheduled cap charge.

The 13-win Vikings have arguably experienced the strangest offseason among all NFL franchises. Are they rebuilding or reloading? Agreeing to terms with Hunt could help Minnesota repeat as NFC North division champions.

Justin Melo

Mattison recently revealed the surprise he experienced when the Vikings brought him back. He entered free agency, expecting to play for a different team in the upcoming season. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah re-signed the former third-round pick to a two-year $7 million contract, numbers that immediately jeopardized Cook’s future. The eventual release of the four-time Pro Bowler left Mattison as the new lead-back.

Year 1 of the O'Connell Era
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Mattison has started six games in his career in place of Cook and rushed 117 times in those contests for 477 yards and 3 touchdowns. That equals 19.5 carries a game, a really high number, which shows that he can handle the big workload of a true bell cow running back. He also caught 23 passes for 216 yards and 2 more touchdowns.

Behind Mattison, the Vikings employ three unproven backs. Nwagnwu and Chandler offer high-end speed. Chandler showed some promise in limited playing time in the preseason against subpar competition, while Nwangwu could be a special teams player only. McBride had an outstanding college career but lacks experience in the passing game. Those mysteries are precisely why the team could pursue Hunt.

The veteran came into the league with Cook in the 2017 draft as a third-rounder. He took the league by storm with the Chiefs, recorded almost 1,800 yards from scrimmage in his debut season, and found the endzone 11 times.

In November 2018, a video surfaced of Hunt kicking a woman. He was never charged with a crime. The Chiefs immediately released him, and he signed with the Browns in February 2019. In March of the same year, the NFL announced that he was suspended for the first eight games of the 2019 campaign.

Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt (27) reacts after running for a first down in the third quarter during an NFL Week 8 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.

Hunt was stuck on the depth chart behind Nick Chubb, Cleveland’s star runner, and he was primarily used as a receiver to take some touches away from Chubb. In four seasons with the Browns, Hunt rushed for 1,874 yards and 16 touchdowns while adding 973 receiving yards and 7 more touchdowns.

The veteran was a fantastic football player in his prime, but the off-field problems cost him a potential Hall of Fame career in Kansas City, in addition to a lot of money. He’s coming off a season with only 3.8 yards per carry and will turn 28 in August.

Hunt is in the final years of his career but could certainly help the Vikes on the field for another year if they deem either Mattison as a starter or his backups in their roles as not good enough to form an improved unit after the inefficient 2022 rushing attack.

The other two fits for Hunt, according to the article, are the Dolphins and the Cowboys. Both teams are rumored to be part of the Cook sweepstakes.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt