Vikings Viewed as a Fit for Dynamic Free Agent RB

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota’s clear weakness on offense is the running game. Head coach Kevin O’Connell has proven that he can have a dynamic aerial attack even with a backup passer like Nick Mullens, but he hasn’t had a decent running attack in his first two seasons in charge. While the coaches must question the run blocking and O’Connell’s running scheme, the running back personnel should undoubtedly be improved in the offseason.

Vikings Viewed as a Fit for Dynamic Free Agent RB

Vikings Viewed as a Fit for Dynamic Free Agent Running Back
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah released Dalvin Cook to save some cap space, and considering Cook’s performance this year, that was a wonderful decision. However, he has failed to replace him adequately.

He re-signed Alexander Mattison in free agency, promoting him from his backup job to the starting role, and added DeWayne McBride in the seventh round of the draft to compete behind the veteran with sophomore Ty Chandler and kick returner Kene Nwanwgu. After two games, the Vikings also traded for Cam Akers, but none of those guys earned a starting job in 2024, although Chandler has earned touches.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Because of those struggles, Minnesota should be the destination of one new runner in free agency or the draft. Former NFL running back and now analyst Maurice Jones-Drew picked a team fit for the top free-agent runners, and he chose the Vikings for Cowboys running back Tony Pollard, who is in the final year of his contract.

Pollard’s stock likely decreased in 2023. Yes, he eclipsed 1,000 yards in his first campaign as Dallas’ RB1, but his yards-per-carry average plummeted from 5.2 in 2022 to 4.0 this season. I don’t see Dallas bringing him back for another go-around, but I could envision Minnesota scooping up the dual-threat back. The Vikings’ run game was atrocious this season, ranking 29th in the NFL at just 91.4 yards per game.

They cannot go into 2024 with Alexander Mattison and Ty Chandler spearheading the rushing attack. (Well, I suppose they could, but they shouldn’t.) Adding a guy like Pollard — who can add some juice to both the run and pass games — would be ideal for Kevin O’Connell’s attack.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Pollard had an outstanding breakout campaign in 2022, putting up 1,378 yards from scrimmage on only 232 touches. In 2023, he recorded 1,316 scrimmage yards but needed 307 touches. He has apparently lost a step, which can happen to running backs. It should be noted that he fractured his leg in the playoffs in his previous season.

Pollard will turn 27 in April, an age when many runners start to slow down. However, he would be, without a doubt, the best RB on Minnesota’s roster.

Vikings Can Face 4 Teams
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger predicts his contract to be a three-year deal for a total of $24 million with $15 million guaranteed. That is a lot of money for an RB in today’s NFL, especially for someone who’s not considered one of the top guys.

Other free agents include Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Austin Ekeler, and the draft is obviously another option for finding some talent.

The Vikings still employ Adofo-Mensah, who is an analytically driven executive, and those tend to prefer cheap running backs. It remains to be seen if he is indeed willing to spend that kind of money on a running back after a down year, but one thing is clear: the Vikings must add a running back.

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