Vikings May Have New but Familiar RB Leading the Way in 2023

The 2023 Minnesota Vikings, in many ways, will feel like the new-look Vikings as many longtime veterans will depart, and oodles of free agents will test the open market.

These 18 players are scheduled for free agency:

  • 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)
  • Dalvin Tomlinson (DT)
  • Khyiris Tonga (NT)
  • Chandon Sullivan (CB)
  • Oli Udoh (OT)

Vikings May Have New but Familiar RB Leading the Way in 2023

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah must also make decisions on these expensive non-free-agents, choices that will be harrowing for fans:

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

And if Minnesota parts ways with Dalvin Cook, who is scheduled to incur a $14 million cap hit against the Vikings books, one new but familiar Viking may take the reins at RB1 — Alexander Mattison.

Vikings May Have New but
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.

Mattison is scheduled to become a free agent, but a possible subtraction of Cook from the roster would increase his probability of re-signing in Minnesota. The Boise State alumnus has served as a four-year-long RB2, filling in commendably for Cook since 2019. Vikings fans believe Mattison is a decent football player, but do NFL general managers agree?

That’s unclear. NFL free-agency sites predict Mattison to fetch about $3 million per season on the open market, a sum the Vikings could afford if Cook is jettisoned. Until now, Vikings fans basically forecasted Mattison as a goner, but that doesn’t have to be true at $3 million per season.

Oct 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) celebrates a first down against the Chicago Bears in the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

After the Vikings lost 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 would evidently like Mattison back in 2023, evidenced by the “close to” choice of words. The Vikings QB1’s words should, in theory, carry weight in the organization.

Too, Alec Lewis, who covers the Vikings for The Athletic, hinted at a possible Mattison fifth year in Minnesota this week. Lewis wrote, “Assessing Mattison’s situation is impossible without first seeing what the Vikings do with Dalvin Cook. The longtime starter has a hefty cap hit for 2023. His trade or release could save considerable money for a team needing to find ways to save in 2023.”

“His return would not only dictate how much money the Vikings could allocate to Mattison, but it could also lead to Mattison looking elsewhere for a starting opportunity. If Minnesota parts with Cook, Mattison makes a lot of sense as a respected locker room voice who knows the playbook and has shown flashes. He could be a perfect match for a few years (three?) and a doable amount of total contract value ($12 million?),” Lewis concluded.

All 17 of the Vikings
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) celebrates with Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. (84), back, after he scores a touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports.

If Cook is chopped, a “running back by committee” could be heading to Minnesota. A value-based and economical RB-by-committee seems to adhere to Adofo-Mensah’s principles. In that vein, the Vikings RB room next September could include Mattison, Ty Chandler, and Kene Nwangwu.

Always remember, as well — Mattison is younger than Chandler. Mattison was drafted in 2019 and Chandler in 2022.

And this theoretical committee might just be led by Mattison.

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).

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