Long-Time Viking Says Goodbye

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The Minnesota Vikings began their version of free agency late last week when news leaked that Alexander Mattison would be released. Two days prior, the team’s head coach, Kevin O’Connell, hinted that a new running back or two could be on the way. The O’Connell comments made a whole lot of sense with the Mattison mini-bombshell two days later.

Long-Time Viking Says Goodbye

Fast forward to Monday, one week before the start of free agency, and the Vikings made the move official.

Mattison played for the Vikings in five seasons, mostly as an RB2, but took the big job as RB1 in 2023. After Minnesota tweeted the formality, Mattison personally tweeted a goodbye:

Image Courtesy of Alexander Mattison on X

The move trims the Vikings’ running back room to four men under contract heading into free agency:

  • Ty Chandler
  • Kene Nwangwu
  • DeWayne McBride
  • Myles Gaskin
Time Viking
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Offloading Mattison all but guarantees Minnesota will pursue a free-agent halfback in one week or one from the draft in late April. Mattison floundered mightily in one audition as RB1. The team nominated him as the main guy entering 2023, and the experiment undeniably flunked. Mattison tallied 180 carries for 700 yards and zero touchdowns. The veteran runner was injured in November, and second-year halfback Ty Chandler took over, immediately providing more burst and production, seeming to cement an enhanced role in 2024. To be determined.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell said Tuesday at the NFL Combine about possibly adding new juice to his RB room, “I think it’s always a position that I think, whether in free agency or the draft, you’re looking to continue to infuse talent and different skill sets into that room but I feel good about what those guys were able to do, and more importantly, hopefully, what we can build on from there specifically with Ty towards the end of the season.”

How Badly Do the Vikings Need an RB?
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Those comments made it sound like a new running back was on the way, and Mattison’s release all but seals the deal. An RB2 should be on the menu.

Before 2023, Mattison was quite impressive in the Vikings’ offense, serving as a steadfast RB2 behind Dalvin Cook for four seasons. In fact, when Cook would miss time, Vikings fans were never too worried about Mattison taking over for a game or two. He’s a superb man overall, and Vikings loyalists should remember Mattison fondly.

Via free agency, Minnesota has several options for Mattison’s replacement:

  • Saquon Barkley
  • JK Dobbins
  • Austin Ekeler
  • Antonio Gibson
  • Derrick Henry
  • Josh Jacobs
  • Zack Moss
  • Tony Pollard
  • D’Andre Swift
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.,

And via the draft:

  • Jonathon Brooks (Texas)
  • Blake Corum (Michigan)
  • Trey Benson (Florida State)
  • TreVeyon Henderson (Ohio State)
  • MarShawn Lloyd (USC)
  • Bucky Irving (Oregon)
  • Braelon Allen (Wisconsin)

Expect a team like the Cleveland Browns to investigate his free agency, as Mattison crossed paths with Kevin Stefanski in 2019, Minnesota’s offensive coordinator at the time, who now head coaches the Browns. The New Orleans Saints, too, could be a fit. Several Vikings offensive coaches from the Mike Zimmer Era are currently employed on Dennis Allen’s team.

Mattison will turn 26 in June and is younger than the aforementioned Chandler, though Mattison has played in the NFL for three more seasons.

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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.