Vikings Surprisingly Retain 1 of Their Own

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Many players of the 2022 Minnesota Vikings entered free agency with an unknown destination, especially on the defensive side of the ball. A disastrous defensive season subsequently led to a bunch of changes. The biggest names were Eric Kendricks, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Patrick Peterson. Defensive tackle Tomlinson agreed to join the Cleveland Browns, he will get a huge contract from former Vikings coach Kevin Stefanski.

Cornerback Peterson will join the Pittsburgh Steelers after two years with the Vikings. He will also unite with a head coach who used to work for the Vikings, Mike Tomlin. Linebacker Kendricks spent his first eight career seasons in Minnesota and is now heading to the Los Angeles Chargers.

Vikings Surprisingly Retain 1 of Their Own

On the offensive side, meanwhile, Garrett Bradbury was the only starter set to leave the team but the Vikings re-signed him. In addition to that, Adam Thielen was released and is now a free agent for the first time in his career outside of when he was an undrafted rookie in 2013.

Vikings Surprisingly Retain 1 of Their Own
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However, a few backups also played on expiring deals last year, like Alexander Mattison. The running back will rejoin the Vikings in their second season under head coach Kevin O’Connell, according to Tom Pelissero who reported on Wednesday:

“Another top running back domino to fall: Alexander Mattison agreed to a two-year contract to remain with the Vikings, per source. The deal is worth $7 million that can get to $8M with $6.35M in guarantees.”

Mattison spent his first four seasons in the league with the Vikings who picked him in the third round in the 2019 draft. He recorded 1,670 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 404 carries with the Vikings, which equals an average of 4.1 yards per carry. The runner is also effective in the passing game where he collected 526 receiving yards and 3 scores over the years.

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Retaining Mattison is a surprising move for many, as the team had five running backs on the roster in 2022, at least one more than usual, and is set to bring all of them back for the upcoming season. Just last year, Minnesota selected Ty Chandler in the 6th round, and folks expected him to be the replacement for Mattison.

It will be interesting to see what that move means in the upcoming days. Dalvin Cook, the star running back of the purple team, was surrounded by trade rumors recently. Signing Mattison could be a sign that he is on his way out.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Another reason to re-sign Mattison is that the Vikings might prefer continuity at the position over a potential upgrade or a cheaper option. Paying a backup running back $3.5 million per season is a steep price in today’s NFL, where the best teams, especially the Super Bowl champions, pay peanuts for their lead backs, for good reason.

Running backs are replaceable. A good back can be found late in the draft every year. Just last year, the Chiefs picked Isiah Pacheco in the 7th round and he was a wonderful top back on Patrick Mahomes’ team.

Baltimore Ravens tight end Josh Oliver (84) spikes the ball after a touchdown score as tight end Mark Andrews (89) looks on and Jacksonville Jaguars safety Andre Cisco (5) is slow to get up after an attempted stop during the fourth quarter of a regular season NFL football matchup Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Jaguars edged the Ravens 28-27. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

Retaining Mattison could make sense if the Vikings want to transition to a more run-heavy offense, something that would also explain the signing of tight end Josh Oliver who is an excellent blocker in the running game. Only four teams had a higher passing percentage than the 2022 Vikings, the Buccaneers, the Chargers, the Bengals, and the Chiefs. Looking at the quarterbacks of those teams, that makes a lot of sense. Most teams would pass the ball a lot with Justin Herbert, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, or Joe Burrow on the roster.

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins thrived in a more run-heavy offense as one of the elite play-action quarterbacks in the league. It could make a lot of sense to entertain some of Mike Zimmer’s ideas. Controlling the ball by running the ball more effectively and helping out the defense that way is a patented Zimmer strategy, especially with a quarterback perfectly built for that.

The upcoming days should reveal some more about the Vikings’ strategy. One or both of C.J. Ham and Dalvin Cook could be off the team following the move to keep Mattison. The Vikings would save almost $8 million in cap space if they trade Cook and a release of fullback Ham would save $3.05 million.

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