Vikings Make Veteran’s Release Official

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Just one week before free agency opens, Vikings fans still don’t know what to expect from general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah in his third offseason in charge of the franchise. With Kirk Cousins’ pending free-agent journey, it is an opportunity to move on from the veteran after six seasons, although keeping him is an option, too. A potential successor could arrive via trade, free agency, or the draft.

Vikings Make Veteran’s Release Official

Vikings Make Veteran's Release Official
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

While the main focus is on Cousins and his future, Adofo-Mensah has begun making moves on his own roster. His first act of the offseason was the contract extension of safety Theo Jackson, who will continue to provide depth and special team snaps.

On February 29, reports about the release of running back Alexander Mattison surfaced. A few days later, on Tuesday, March 4, the Vikings officially parted ways with their former third-rounder.

Mattison was a five-year contributor to Minnesota’s offense after former GM Rick Spielman acquired him in the third round of the 2019 draft. Jerick McKinnon left in 2018, and Latavius Murray in 2019, leaving Dalvin Cook without a backup. Mattison filled that role for years.

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Alexander Mattison and Dalvin Cook

In the first four campaigns of his career, Mattison started only six of the 59 games he appeared in. He was an unrestricted free agent in the 2023 offseason, and Adofo-Mensah surprisingly re-signed him to a two-year contract. Cook was released a few months later, and Mattison took over the RB1 role ahead of a bunch of unproven players.

That, unfortunately, didn’t work out very well. A combination of offensive line struggles, a seemingly broken running scheme, and subpar play from the RB group, the rushing attack was a disaster in 2023. Mattison was in the most prominent role. He failed to find the endzone on the ground and tabulated 700 rushing yards on 180 attempts, resulting in an average of only 3.9 yards per carry. The veteran added 192 yards and three touchdowns as a pass-catcher.

Monitor Key Offensive
Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) dives for the end zone as Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt (57) and Cincinnati Bengals safety Dax Hill (23) defend in the first quarter of a Week 15 NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

When he was forced to miss a contest in Week 15, backup Ty Chandler usurped him in the starting lineup and kept the job for the final four games. Chandler’s emergence and the opportunity to save $3.35 million in cap space for the upcoming season were the two reasons for the release.

The Vikings currently employ Chandler, kick returner Kene Nwangwu, and practice squad players DeWayne McBride and Myles Gaskin. Adding a free agent or someone in the draft is without an alternative.

Syndication: The Tennessean
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

It is a good free agent class to need a running back as it is filled with stars like Derrick Henry, Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Austin Ekeler, just like a bunch of solid but cheap options. Spending a mid-round pick on a running back in the draft could also be the way to fix the position. For now, Chandler is penciled in as the starter.

Mattison will turn 26 in June and should generate some interest as a backup when free agency opens with the legal tampering window on March 11.

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