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Vikings urged to sign $22 million RB to replace Alex mattison

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After Alexander Mattison’s disappointing season, the Minnesota Vikings need to bolster their run game, and Alec Lewis of The Athletic suggested that signing Pro Bowl running back Saquon Barkley would be one of the biggest splashes of all time.

In an article that was published on February 6, Lewis recommended eight high-end free agents “who make sense if the Vikings swing big” this offseason, and he listed the star player of the New York Giants as the ideal free agent to bolster the run game.

It would be an intriguing move for the Vikings to spend money on a proven, dynamic, and aging running back like Barkley, defying league-wide trends in the process. Later this week is Barkley’s 27th birthday. This past season, Barkley’s average yards after contact per rush (2.92) placed him 24th out of 49 qualified running backs. Barkley’s addition to the Vikings’ skill group might have a revolutionary effect on the offense and on him (similar to the 49ers’ acquisition of Christian McCaffrey). It would be a risky stroke for a squad that has no margin for error.

Following a leak indicating the Giants will not be franchise-tagging the former No. 2 overall pick this summer, Barkley is set to become a free agent. Barkley is expected to sign a two-year contract worth $22 million, or an average of $11 million each season, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). This would place him eighth at the position prior to 2024 free agency.

The Solve Saquon Barkley Could Bring Vikings

Saquon Barkley

Getty Giants RB Saquon Barkley

Last season, the Vikings were a bottom-five team in the red zone with a 47.1% touchdown conversion rate, partially due to a poor run game.

Saquon Barkley’s blend of size and speed could provide a solution in the red zone. Standing at 6 feet tall and weighing 230 pounds, Barkley possesses the strength to power through tackles while also displaying agility to elude defenders in open space.

Beyond his ability to score, the Vikings’ struggles extended to sustaining drives, putting additional pressure on their defense throughout the season.

Barkley’s versatility as a pass-catcher out of the backfield offers a dynamic element that the Vikings haven’t previously utilized, especially under the guidance of Kevin O’Connell.

O’Connell has emphasized the importance of creating favorable situations on second and third downs. By incorporating a versatile back like Barkley into their offensive scheme, the Vikings could exploit mismatches across the field, generating more opportunities per series and sustaining drives consistently.

Derrick Henry Another Candidate to Land With Vikings, replaces Mattison

Derrick Henry, Titans

Derrick Henry, the running back for the Tennessee Titans, epitomized the turbulent running back market during the previous offseason, wherein several prominent backs clashed with their respective teams.

Established veteran running backs were compelled to accept reduced salaries or face being released, while emerging talents such as Josh Jacobs, Tony Pollard, and Barkley couldn’t secure long-term contracts and instead played under franchise tags.

The upcoming offseason promises to be an intriguing reassessment of the market, potentially resulting in discounted deals for running backs. Pro Football Focus (PFF) identified Derrick Henry as a potential target for the Minnesota Vikings, provided the price aligns.

PFF’s Brad Spielberger highlighted the Vikings’ underwhelming rushing performance in the past season and suggested that they might be inclined to bolster their ground game, particularly considering the possibility of grooming a young quarterback alongside or in lieu of Kirk Cousins. Although the Vikings aren’t known for splurging on running backs, given their previous departure from Dalvin Cook, Spielberger suggested that there could be an opportunity to acquire Henry at a lower cost.

Analysts hold varying opinions on Henry’s free agency value. While PFF forecasted a lucrative deal averaging $10 million annually, Spotrac projected a more modest one-year contract worth $4.3 million.

Considering the Vikings’ financial commitments to Alexander Mattison for the upcoming season, with $4 million guaranteed, they might not be inclined to invest heavily in a replacement. However, a trade involving Mattison could alleviate their financial burden and potentially create additional cap space of $3.35 million.

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