A Perfect Free Agent Running Back for Minnesota

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Although it is beyond clear that Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell isn’t a huge fan of the running game, it’s also evident that the team left plenty to be desired on the ground this year. Alexander Mattison isn’t the answer, and while Ty Chandler could be part of the equation, additional help is needed. There may be a perfect free agent available.

A Perfect Free Agent Running Back for Minnesota

The Vikings decided that Dalvin Cook had reached the end of the line, and it’s beyond hard to fault them. Not only did he still have a substantial financial commitment for 2023, but the effectiveness had begun to wane down the stretch last season. Despite being healthy for each game, he clearly was not the same runner. Going with Alexander Mattison and Ty Chandler instead was an understandable shift, but it simply didn’t work.

A Perfect Free Agent
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Former Detroit Lions running back and current Philadelphia Eagles ballcarrier D’Andre Swift is set to hit the open market this offseason. A former second-round pick out of Georgia, Swift joined the Eagles this season after spending the first three years of his career with the Lions. He has long looked the part of a bellcow back, but it wasn’t until joining Philadelphia that he was totally unleashed.

Across 16 games in 2023, of which he started 15 times, Swift rushed for over 1,00 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry. He found the end zone five times on the ground for the third straight season, and his career has been one of efficiency. Swift has also proven to be a capable receiver, and despite being a relatively big-bodied back, he’s plenty shifty with impressive top-end speed.

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Whether the Eagles want to retain his services or not, Swift has the opportunity to test the open market for the first time in his career. He will play in 2024 at 25 and still should have plenty of tread left on the tires. It remains unlikely that Minnesota would commit significant dollars to a position they don’t put a ton of emphasis on, but his lack of consistent track record could keep the price tag down. He has only put up one full season of production as a leadback, and teams could argue that he remains somewhat of an unknown commodity.

Should the Vikings pair Swift with a back like Chandler, they would be effectively accomplishing what they sought to do in the pairing for 2023. Swift is more of a Mattison type but embodies a much higher ability and allows Minnesota to have the tandem they hoped for this season.

Ultimately, there are a couple of different players that could fit the mold of Swift for Minnesota in the year ahead, but they will be looking for one that also fits in the economic ramifications. Paying a quarterback, Justin Jefferson, Danielle Hunter, and eventually Christian Darrisaw won’t leave much flexibility for the future. Paying handsomely for a back isn’t going to happen, but maybe Swift sees another opportunity to be the unquestioned leader.

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Whether O’Connell likes it or not, putting a greater emphasis on the running game is a must in the year ahead. He doesn’t need to abandon the pass, but having better talent on the ground would also help him lean on that aspect of the offense.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.