The Minnesota Vikings have suffered a handful of injury scares this week, at least one of which should have the team considering an addition to its roster.
One of the two injuries of considerable note that occurred during practice on Tuesday, August 1, involved Alexander Mattison. The running back signed a two-year, $7 million contract extension during the offseason and is poised to start in Minnesota as long as he remains healthy.
Mattison stayed on the field following the injury through the end of practice, though merely as an observer rather than a participant, per ESPN’s Kevin Seifert. On Wednesday, Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune reported a reassuring comment Mattison uttered as he did exit the field.
“Mattison was limping after an injury during team drills toward the end of practice, though the running back said, ‘I should be OK,’ as he went to receive medical tests,” Goessling wrote.
While that is good news for the Vikings, Mattison’s injury was a stark reminder that Minnesota is bereft of experience in the offensive backfield. Should Mattison find himself seriously injured at any point during the upcoming season, the Vikings don’t have even one proven backup option to whom they can turn.
The circumstances create a reasonable argument for the franchise to consider the current crop of free agent RBs available. At the top of that list is former NFL rushing champion Kareem Hunt.
Kareem Hunt Fits Well With Vikings at Right Price
It is unlikely the Vikings are willing to spend that kind of money on a backup/co-starter at running back considering the team released four-time Pro Bowler Dalvin Cook in June in order to save $9 million against its 2023 salary cap. That Minnesota just agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $20 million to keep edge rusher Danielle Hunter in purple and gold this season doesn’t help the franchise’s financial situation.
That said, if Hunt could find $7 million on the open market, he probably would have already taken it, especially considering how difficult it is proving for even the game’s top producers at the position to get paid in the contemporary NFL. If Hunt finds himself begrudgingly accepting a reality in which he must take a one-year prove-it deal somewhere to re-establish his value as a starting-caliber RB, the Vikings could offer him a quality platform to accomplish that goal.
Minnesota should have a potent offense under head coach Kevin O’Connell that will be led by veteran Pro Bowl quarterback Kirk Cousins. The Vikings have playmakers at wide receiver and tight end, as well as an above-average offensive line that is ranked eighth in the league heading into the preseason, per Ross Tucker of 33rd Team.
If Hunt is willing to accept a contract in the ballpark of $3 million to $4 million, an arrangement with the Vikings — who should compete again for the NFC North Division crown and/or a playoff spot in 2023 — can make sense on both sides.
Kareem Hunt Among Best NFL Free Agents Still Available in August
David Kenyon of Bleacher Report on July 30 named Hunt among the top eight free agents still available as preseason games approach in August. Hunt (No. 7) was joined on that list by Cook (No. 1) and former Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (No. 8).
“Hunt primarily served as Nick Chubb’s complement in four seasons with the Cleveland Browns. While tallying 4.2 yards per carry in that tenure, he also provided 33 receptions per season,” Kenyon wrote. “Hunt’s primary appeal is his versatility out of the backfield. Given his unhappiness in Cleveland last year … a bounce-back year in a new location is entirely plausible.”
Hunt hasn’t been a featured back since his early days with the Kansas City Chiefs. However, he will play next season at just 28 years old and has less wear and tear on his body due to the fact that he has been part of a successful two-headed rushing attack in Cleveland over the last several years.
Given the right opportunity in a place like Minnesota, Hunt could be poised for a resurgent season. And at a reasonable salary, even a moderate statistical output in 2023 would make a swing on Hunt worth taking.