Mattison, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, is expected to test free agency for a starting job after playing understudy to Dalvin Cook his entire career.
With Cook under contract through 2025, the Vikings cannot give Mattison the job he wants next season, leaving Minnesota in a position where they can either let him walk or get something for the fourth-year running back in a trade before the November 1 trade deadline.
“Talked to some folks on #Vikings RB Alexander Mattison & possible trade At least 12 teams have called on Mattison,” Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson tweeted on August 29. “As noted before there’s no chance of Mattison signing an extension (wants to be an RB1) But Vikings like him as a big back after Cook as [Kene] Nwangwu & [Ty] Chandler aren’t big.”
Until the trade deadline, the Vikings are likely to continue fielding calls for Mattison, who is one of the most sought-after backup running backs in the NFL.
Kirk Cousins on Alexander Mattison’s TD: ‘That’s a Man’s Run’
Speaking to local media after a 28-24 win over the Lions on September 25, Cousins spoke about Mattison’s stepping up after Cook was knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury.
Down by 10 points, Mattison sparked the Vikings’ fourth-quarter comeback by taking a handoff and breaking three tackles before finding the end zone on a 6-yard touchdown scamper.
“That’s a man’s run,” Cousins said in a September 25 postgame press conference. “Eventually, there’s an unblocked player. He makes that guy miss, runs through an arm tackle. It’s just a big-time run. When you call that run, you’re expecting to be third-and-goal from the 2. And it’s just … touchdown. That takes so much pressure off of us.”
Mattison has served admirably as both a backup and replacement starter for Cook. In six career starts, Mattison has averaged 115.5 all-purpose yards and scored five touchdowns. He surpassed 100 rushing yards in two of those games and posted over 90 rushing yards in four of his six starts.
If or when Mattison signs to a new team next offseason, Minnesota will receive a compensatory third- or fourth-round pick for helping develop Mattison. The floor for a potential trade would have to involve at least a pick of that value.
However, given Cook’s injury woes over his five-year career, Mattison is the ultimate insurance policy for Cook and likely much more valuable than simply a mid-round draft capital.
“Mattison will be a free agent after the season, and the Vikings got plenty of calls this summer from teams interested in trading for him. He remains on the roster as a complement and insurance policy for Cook, though, and even as Cook prepares to play against the Saints, the Lions game provided a reminder of why Mattison is still here,” the Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling wrote on September 27.
Vikings Should Use Its RB Room More Against Saints
While the Vikings dodged a bullet with Cook suffering a minor shoulder dislocation that shouldn’t force him to miss any time, Minnesota keep Cook’s workload to a minimum given two separate shoulder injuries in the past.
The Vikings have Mattison who thrives best between the tackles, and also have second-year speedster Kene Nwangwu who’s a home-run threat every time he touches the ball.
Fourth-round rookie Ty Chandler also flashed potential in the preseason, especially as a pass-catcher.
And don’t forget fullback C.J. Ham, who’s shown to be a short-yardage thumper, capable receiver and shifty in space over the course of his career.
Minnesota has a bevy of unique weapons to deploy, warranting the Vikings to take some carries off Cook’s plate as he recovers from his shoulder injury.