Vikings’ Pro Bowler Sends Message to Former Teammate After Free Agency Exit

C.J. Ham, Minnesota Vikings

Getty C.J. Ham #30 of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings cut Alexander Mattison on February 29, sending him to free agency and paving the way for a changing of the guard at running back.

Nearly three weeks later, the former third-round pick (2019) has found a new home, leaving friend and former teammate C.J. Ham to send him some parting sentiments.

“My brother,” Ham posted along with saluting and gorilla emojis in a post on X on March 18.

“BREAKING: Free agent RB Alexander Mattison is signing with the #Raiders, sources tell @BleacherReport,” Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz reported on March 18. “Still just 25 years old, Mattison had 17 TDs in five seasons with the #Vikings.”

Mattison also dropped a reaction post on X, formerly Twitter, not saying much and letting emojis do the talking for him.

Mattison is in line to compete with incumbent second-year back Zamir White for the starting job. He follows in the wake of Josh Jacobs, who left in free agency for the Green Bay Packers, leading to Aaron Jones‘ ouster.

Ham, 30, earned his second Pro Bowl nod last season. He starts his two-year, $8.6 million contract extension this season.

The former Viking, Mattison, set career highs with 180 carries and 700 yards last season. But that is just a 3.9-yard-per-carry average while he also failed to cross the goal line on the ground. Mattison turned 10 attempts from 10 yards out or less for a net loss of five yards.

The Vikings’ rushing attack ranked 29th this past season. Mattison was supplanted as the starter for the final three weeks of the campaign following an injury in Week 14.

Mattison missed Week 15 entirely and returned behind 2022 fifth-round pick Ty Chandler.

Chandler, 25, toted the rock 102 times for 461 yards – a 4.6 YPA clip – and three scores. He tallied 258 yards and two scores on 53 carries in those final four weeks. He also added 69 yards on eight receptions in his stint as RB1.

That is likely over with the arrival of Jones in free agency. The 29-year-old endured an injury-marred season in 2023, finishing with 142 carries, 656 yards, and two rushing scores.

Like Chandler, however, Jones finished the season strong.

Aaron Jones’ Strong Finish Bodes Well for Vikings

Aaron Jones, Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings

GettyAaron Jones of the Minnesota Vikings and Alexander Mattison of the Las Vegas Raiders.

Jones rattled off three straight 100-plus-yard performances from Week 16 through Week 18. He put up two more such games in the postseason. The Vikings could utilize Jones, who split carries throughout his career with the Packers, and Jones in a similar situation.

Their respective track records and the money suggest that it will be the veteran who gets the lion’s share of the work out of the backfield.

Jones, a one-time Pro Bowler, is earning $7 million on a one-year contract signed in free agency.

Chandler, who in Week 15 of this past season recorded the Vikings’ first 100-yard game by an individual since Week 10 of the 2022 slate, will earn $986,000 in the third year of his four-year, $3.9 million contract.

The good news for Chandler is that he and Jones should both see ample work in the passing game in addition to traditional usage.

The Vikings are breaking in a new Week 1 starter for the first time in seven seasons.

Vikings Entering New Era at QB After Signing Sam Darnold in Free Agency

Sam Darnold, Minnesota Vikings

GettySam Darnold #14 of the San Francisco 49ers.

Sam Darnold signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Vikings in free agency. He steps into a situation Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and former Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce believe he will thrive in with Kevin O’Connell as head coach and Justin Jefferson leading a strong contingent of options in the passing game.

Minnesota has also long been speculated as a prime trade candidate in the 2024 draft with potential eyes for a quarterback.

They are armed with two first-round picks; potentially enough ammo to jump into the top five.

General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah acknowledged their added flexibility after acquiring the second first-rounder from the Houston Texans. But the Vikings will hold a private workout with Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy, per Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer on March 18.