Vikings Eyeing $10 Million Pro Bowl RB to Replace Alex Mattison

Alexander Mattison

Getty Vikings running back Alexander Mattison during a Week 11 matchup with the Broncos in 2023.

The Minnesota Vikings released starting running back Alexander Mattison last week, which paves way for the franchise to take a shot on a player they’ve had their eye on for some time — Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard.

During a March 7 appearance on SKOR North’s “Mackey and Judd” podcast, KSTP’s Darren Wolfson reported that running back is a priority in free agency starting March 13 and Pollard has fans in high places within the Vikings organization.

“There are multiple fans at a very high level of Tony Pollard,” Wolfson said, adding that Pollard’s performance in a dominant 40-3 win over the Vikings in 2022 has had some staying power in Minnesota. “Doesn’t mean they’re going to chase him, but Tony Pollard is somebody that has some fans in Eagan.”

As a backup behind Ezekiel Elliott, Pollard seized a lion’s share of the workload that day at U.S. Bank Stadium, rushing for 80 yards on 15 carries and adding six receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

He earned Pro Bowl honors for his efforts in the 2022 season, tallying over 1,000 rushing yards, 371 receiving yards and 12 total touchdowns even with Elliott in the fold.

Pollard is coming off a down year in his first season as a starter after he was on a one-year, $10.09 million franchise tag.

He is poised to reach free agency in a competitive market that could see the Cowboys chase a star running back like Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry or Josh Jacobs — giving the Vikings a chance to land him at a discount.

Tony Pollard’s Upside in the Passing Game

Tony Pollard

GettyThe Cowboys could move on from RB Tony Pollard.

A 2019 fourth-round pick, Pollard has exceeded expectations throughout his career.

Pollard was Pro Football Focus’ fourth-highest graded running back for two seasons before he became the Cowboys’ starter. He averaged 5.13 yards per carry across his first four seasons in the league as a change-of-pace back to Elliott.

Pollard showed some signs of regression once he took the reigns of the rushing game last season. He still rushed for over 1,000 yards, but his 4.0 yards per carry was a career-low. Pollard finished as PFF’s 15th highest-graded back last season.

Pollard’s struggles have fallen on Mike McCarthy, who has faced some scrutiny for not capitalizing on the running back’s playmaking ability.

But beyond his rushing ability, Pollard’s prowess in the passing game is what should entice the Vikings. He saw a heavy workload as a receiver last season, catching 55 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns.

More importantly to Kevin O’Connell, Pollard is a reliable pass-blocker.

He posted the fourth-highest PFF pass-blocking grade (70.6) among running backs with 60 or more pass-blocking snaps. Pollard was relied upon often in Dallas, with the second-most pass-block snaps (115) of any running back in the league.

Pollard is proven in many phases of his game and could be the bell cow ahead of Ty Chandler, who struggled in pass protection in his second NFL season.

Austin Ekeler, D’Andre Swift Also RBs Vikings Could Target

Austin Ekeler (left), Tony Pollard (middle), D'Andre Swift (right)

GettyAustin Ekeler (left), Tony Pollard (middle), D’Andre Swift (right)

After the top three free-agent running backs in Barkley, Henry and Jacobs is a second-tier that includes Austin Ekeler, D’Andre Swift and Pollard. Wolfson said that the second-tier running backs are considered in play for the Vikings.

While PFF projected Pollard and Swift to garner deals north of $6 million a year, Ekeler, the eldest of the trio at 28 years old, was projected to land a $4.5 million-a-year contract.

According to the Star Tribune, the Vikings saved $3.35 million by releasing Mattison, which could be reappropriated to signing another running back.

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