Vikings Don’t Need Expensive Veteran RB

Denny Simmons-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings rushing attack ranked 27th in 2023 per DVOA.

The Minnesota Vikings rushing attack also ranked 27th in 2022 per the same metric.

Vikings Don’t Need Expensive Veteran RB

And that was after Vikings coaches and players said that improving the ground game was a foremost point of emphasis all last offseason. Unfortunately, the team showed up to 2023, and nothing had changed per rushing efficiency. In some regards, it actually regressed.

Need Expensive Veteran
Running back Derrick Henry (22), in action against Seattle Seahawks in Seattle, Wash., on Sept. 19, was the Tennessee Titans’ leading rusher for 2021 with 937 yards on 219 carries with 10 rushing touchdowns. © George Walker IV / / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Fast forward to the 2024 offseason, and at least one credible voice claims the club needs a big-name veteran free agent to fix the conundrum. That’s Pro Football Focus, and its solution is Derrick Henry for the Vikings.

PFF’s Brad Spielberger wrote this week, “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.”

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) gets a first down in the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, La., Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023. © Andrew Nelles / / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Henry rushed for 1,167 yards in 2023 with a 4.2 yard-per-carry average, his lowest since 2017. His skillset has visibly diminished, but even in his 2023 form, PFF believes it could be enough for Minnesota.

“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,” Spielberger concluded.

Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Kevin O’Connell addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center on Wednesday, December 6th, 2023. The Vikings had a quarterback debate off the bye week in 2023, and O’Connell announced incumbent starter Joshua Dobbs would play in Week 14 at the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Vikings already have five running backs under contract in 2024. It’s not a quantity problem:

  • RB1: Ty Chandler
  • RB2: Alexander Mattison
  • RB3: Kene Nwangwu
  • RB4: DeWayne McBride
  • RB5: Myles Gaskin

Chandler emerged down the stretch of 2023 as a fringe RB1 contender, while Mattison struggled for most of the season. The other three — Nwangwu, McBride, and Gaskin — are depth options for 2024.

Meanwhile, these veteran running backs will be available in free agency, too:

  • Saquon Barkley
  • JK Dobbins
  • Austin Ekeler
  • Antonio Gibson
  • Josh Jacobs
  • Zack Moss
  • Tony Pollard
  • D’Andre Swift

But instead of overpaying for a veteran — Henry will undoubtedly fetch a “lifetime achievement” contract like Dalvin Cook with the New York Jets six months ago — the Vikings should either draft a rookie, roll with their current fivesome, or spend on an inexpensive veteran like Zack Moss.

These rookies will be available to the Vikings in the 2024 NFL Draft:

  • Jonathon Brooks (Texas)
  • Blake Corum (Michigan)
  • Trey Benson (Florida State)
  • TreVeyon Henderson (Ohio State)
  • Bucky Irving (Oregon)
  • Donovan Edwards (Michigan)
Texas Longhorns running back Jonathon Brooks (24) celebrates after he runs into the end zone for a touchdown against TCU Horned Frogs in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, November. 11, 2023, at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. © Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

It makes more sense for Minnesota to take another swing at a young, affordable runner, pair him with Chandler, and let the chips fall.

PFF claims Henry would command a $10 million salary from the Vikings, and they should hold back on spending that on a 30-year-old.

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