4 Free Agents the Vikings Could Target to Help Their Rushing Attack
Simply put, the Vikings rushing offense in 2023 wasn’t good enough to garner consistent success.
They finished the year 28th in total carries, 29th in rushing yards, 23rd in yards per carry, and worst of all, tied for last in rushing touchdowns. Three of their seven rushing touchdowns on the season can be attributed to Josh Dobbs. Not only was there no balance between the passing and rushing attack, but when they did opt to run the ball, there was no efficiency to warrant sticking with it.
With free agency just a month away, here is a look at a few free agents at the RB position who could help rejuvenate Minnesota’s rushing attack in 2024.
D’Andre Swift began his NFL career with the Detroit Lions before being traded to Philadelphia prior to the start of the 2023 season. With the Eagles, the 25-year-old running back rejuvenated his career by rushing for over 1000 yards for the first time. He also totaled 39 receptions for 214 yards, proving to be a capable member of the passing game once again.
Swift was largely utilized in zone rushing with the Eagles, which fits right into what the Vikings have typically done under Kevin O’Connell. The Eagles RB also has a knack for utilizing his elusivity and acceleration to break off big plays. He totaled 12 carries of 15+ yards throughout the 2023 season, tied for 10th in the league.
Of course, signing Swift would require the Vikings to fork out a contract for the running back. PFF currently projects that he will garner a three-year deal worth $18.75 million with $12 million in guarantees.
Since taking over the full-time starting job in 2018 for Tennessee, Derrick Henry has surpassed 1000 rushing yards five times, and the only season in which he didn’t accomplish the feat was 2021 when he amassed 937 yards in just eight games before missing the remainder of the campaign with an injury.
The most intriguing part of a potential union with the Vikings this spring would be his ability to boost Minnesota’s red zone offense. The Vikings ranked 28th in red zone TD percentage by punching the ball in just 47.1% of the time inside their opponent’s 20-yard-line.
While Henry might not be able to put together massive rushing totals on a regular basis anymore, he remains a beast near the goal line. His 34 carries in the red zone this season resulted in 88 yards and a whopping nine touchdowns, which ranked tied for sixth among NFL running backs.
Henry would be another player requiring a decent chunk of cash, being projected by PFF to garner a two-year deal worth $20 million.
With Ezekiel Elliott departing the team last offseason, Tony Pollard took over the reins for the Dallas Cowboys’ backfield in 2023. It came with mixed results. He rushed for 1005 yards and six TDs, but it came at a career-low in yards per carry, averaging just 4.0 yards after garnering 5.2 yards per carry in 2022.
Perhaps, though, Pollard can get his efficiency numbers back up if he is not the sole featured back of an offense. Ty Chandler and Alexander Mattison will still be with the Vikings in 2024, so Pollard’s touch load could go back to roughly 200 (+/- 50) in Minnesota rather than the 307 that he had during the 2023 season.
Pollard is projected to receiver a three-year contract worth $24 million by PFF.
Gus Edwards is a bruiser as a runner. He fights in the trenches and could be another option for the Vikings as they look to improve their red zone rushing. Edwards garnered 39 carries in the red zone during 2023, which resulted in 101 yards and 13 touchdowns. Those 13 red zone TDs ranked second among all running backs this past season, tying Christian McCaffrey and coming in behind only Raheem Mostert (16).
Edwards was forced into the RB1 job for Baltimore during much of this season after J.K. Dobbins went down with another injury, and then, rookie Keaton Mitchell also suffered a torn ACL in December. As a result, the 28-year-old RB totaled career highs in carries, yards, and touchdowns.
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Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.