Leading up to free agency in mid-March, we will examine a multitude of angles pertaining to the Minnesota Vikings’ free agency approach.
Do the Vikings Need to Find a Backup QB?
In Part 2 of our free agency series we evaluate the running back position, where Dalvin Cook enters his third pro season as the clear starter but has no definite backup.
Level of need on a scale of 1 to 10: 3
We established in our post-season series that it may not be realistic for the Minnesota Vikings to re-sign Latavius Murray, who has voiced his desire to compete for a starting job and would likely cost between $3-4 million based on recent contracts for players of similar age and caliber. If Murray were to accept an offer half that size, a reunion could be in order.
Ameer Abdullah, who was acquired mid-season after being cut by the Detroit Lions, turned into Minnesota’s go-to kick returner but did little else in the offense.
With Murray and Abdullah’s deals expiring, the Vikings head into the offseason with second-year players Mike Boone and Roc Thomas on the roster, both of whom made the team as undrafted free agents last season. The two young backs showed promise in the preseason but may not offer the same type of pass-blocking prowess or short-yardage push as Murray. While it’s possible they end up being a platoon behind Cook, the Vikings will certainly be bringing in competition to join Boone and Thomas during OTAs and training camp.
There’s a strong chance the Vikings add another back late in the draft or in undrafted free agency as opposed to spending millions in free agency, but if they can find a veteran at a low price who could inject some experience into a young running backs room, there may be intrigue. Let’s see who could be available.
LeGarrette Blount: The Vikings struggled in short yardage running situations last year, Blount is still bruising at age 32, has ample playoff experience (three Super Bowls) and could probably be signed at $1-1.5 million.
Doug Martin: Played in all 16 games for the Raiders last year and put up the third-best yardage total (723) and yards per carry average (4.2) of his career. May demand too much.
Adrian Peterson: It’s doubtful he’d return to Minnesota with all the baggage surrounding his departure, but coming off a 1,000-yard season at age 33, it will be intriguing to see what he’s worth on the market.
Jacquizz Rodgers: Turns 29 on Feb. 6. Knows how to catch the ball out of the backfield but isn’t great in pass protection (eight pressures allowed last year).
Alfred Blue: Had much more success in Houston as a change-of-pace back than as a starter, which might bode well for his potential role in Minnesota. Only 27 years old.
Charcandrick West: Had 848 scrimmage yards in 2015 but has declined in production and opportunity ever since.
Zach Zenner: Just 27 years old and posted 4.8 yards per carry last year in 55 carries with Detroit. Eagan native who may want to come home.
Raheem Mostert: Finally got a chance last year with the San Francisco at age 26 and racked up 7.7 yards per carry on 34 totes before breaking his arm. Only two players with at least 30 carries had a better elusive rating, per Pro Football Focus.
Javorius Allen: Just finished up his rookie deal in Baltimore. Can catch the football but has never exceeded 4.0 yards per carry in a season.
If the Vikings sign a running back in free agency, it will likely be in the second or third wave of signings once big names have gone off the board and cap space is more discernible.
As a general trend, it’s wiser and more cost effective to cycle through cheap running backs on rookie deals than dipping into the free agent market where veterans may be at a declining age. But if the Vikings hope to fill a niche in their running back corps with a veteran presence, any of the nine names above could become a target.