Vikings Viewed as Landing Spot for Future Hall of Famer

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The main focus in Minnesota’s offseason is on the quarterback position as Kirk Cousins is set to leave as a free agent in March unless the franchise and its six-year starter can agree on terms for an extension. A second big talker is the potential departure of Danielle Hunter after nine seasons with the purple team, which would leave a disastrous outside linebacker group behind.

Vikings Viewed as Landing Spot for Future Hall of Famer

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General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah must also find a successor for pending free agent Dalton Risner (or re-sign him), as well as someone to take the spot of K.J. Osborn, who is also scheduled to test the market following the expiration of his rookie deal.

Almost a forgotten item on his to-do list is the running back group, which he must either revamp or add someone to carry the load. Well, Pro Football Focus could envision the latter option. Brad Spielberger compiled a list of the top free-agent running backs and named potential landing spots.

Vikings Viewed as Landing Spot for Future Hall of Famer
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) addresses the fans after what may be his last game as a Titans player after their game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024. The Titans beat the Jaguars 28-20 to knock them out of the playoffs. – Credit: Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

Derrick Henry’s two destinations are the Baltimore Ravens and the Minnesota Vikings. After a couple of campaigns in a committee followed by half a decade of dominance, he has most likely played his final game in a Titans uniform. His contract will expire, and the Vikings can pursue him.

Minnesota’s rushing attack was one of the least efficient across the NFL this past season, and they may also be looking to bring along a young quarterback whether or not they keep Kirk Cousins in the fold. This front office may not be viewed as one very likely to pay top dollar to the running back position, especially after they sharply moved on from Dalvin Cook before the 2023 season, but maybe there’s enough of a buy-low opportunity here on Henry.

Brad Spielberger

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The Vikings employ Ty Chandler and Alexander Mattison, but their play has highlighted the need to add another piece. Mattison was re-signed to replace Dalvin Cook in the starting lineup, which was a disaster. While there are certainly worse backs in the league, he is not a starter and should return to his role as a complement to a top runner. Chandler has the necessary explosiveness, but the coaching staff doesn’t really trust him for some reason. That was most obvious when they were hesitant to give him carries over Mattison and when they traded for Cam Akers.

That’s why Henry is interesting. The star running back could be the top guy but he doesn’t anymore have 25 carries per game in him. As a trio, the Vikings would probably have one of the best running back rooms in the NFL.

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Henry is coming off a season with 1,167 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. His yards per attempt dipped to 4.2, and he has never been a good receiver out of the backfield. He also celebrated his 30th birthday in January, and running backs usually begin their dip in production after turning 28. Henry is a physical specimen, and his powerful running style apparently lets him age better than a speedy rusher like Dalvin Cook.

But because of that age, the Vikings should make sure to limit their risk and refuse to hand him a big contract with huge guarantees beyond 2024. Spielberger predicts him to sign a two-year contract for a total of $20 million with $13 million guaranteed. If he falls off a cliff in 2024, he could be cut with a limited dead cap hit.

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) heads to the locker room as the team gets ready to face the New Orleans Saints at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, La., Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023. © Andrew Nelles / / USA TODAY NETWORK.

However, that salary could still be a problem as Adofo-Mensah is the guy in charge, and as someone who is viewed as a numbers guy, paying top money for a running back doesn’t seem ideal in the analytics era.

A more realistic way is likely the addition of a cheap runner like Zach Moss or Devin Singletary or the draft selection of a running back in the middle rounds.

Henry leads all active players with 9,502 rushing yards and 90 rushing touchdowns. The former Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama led the league in both categories in 2019 and 2020, is a four-time Pro Bowler, and was the Offensive Player of the Year in 2020. While he might have lost a step, he would still be an exciting signing and could lead the backfield for another year or two.

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