Vikings Urged to Sign $22 Million RB to Replace Alex Mattison

Alexander Mattison

Getty Vikings running back Alexander Mattison

The Minnesota Vikings need reinforcements in the run game after a disappointing season from Alexander Mattison, and few signings would make more of a splash than signing Pro Bowl running back Saquon Barkley, The Athletic’s Alec Lewis proposed.

In a February 6 article, Lewis proposed eight high-end free agents “who make sense if the Vikings swing big” this offseason and named the New York Giants star as an ideal free-agent singing to fortify the run game.

“If the Vikings were to spend, bucking league-wide trends to add a proven, dynamic (and aging) running back like Barkley would be an interesting move. Barkley will turn 27 later this week. Among 49 qualified running backs this past season, Barkley’s average yards after contact per rush (2.92) ranked 24th. Adding Barkley to the Vikings’ mix of skill players might be transformative both for him and the offense (like the 49ers trading for Christian McCaffrey). It’d be a bold swing for a team that cannot afford to miss.”

Barkley is poised for free agency after a leak that the Giants do not intend to franchise tag the former No. 2 overall pick this offseason. Pro Football Focus (PFF) projected Barkley to garner a two-year deal worth $22 million — an average annual value of $11 million a season that would rank seventh at the position ahead of 2024 free agency.

The Solve Saquon Barkley Could Bring Vikings

Saquon Barkley

GettyGiants 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.

The Vikings scored just seven rushing touchdowns, ranking 30th in the NFL. Mattison, the team’s leading rusher with 180 carries for 700 yards, did not score a rushing touchdown this season. The offense’s options narrowed in the red zone as defenses effectively stopped the run and forced the Vikings to be one-dimensional.

Barkley’s combination of size and speed could be a remedy in the red zone. At 6 feet, 230 pounds, Barkley is a bruiser between the tackles and nimble enough to shake defenders in space.

Beyond scoring, the Vikings also stranded their defense throughout the season with their inability to sustain drives.

Barkley is a capable pass-catcher in the backfield and could mesh into several unique roles the Vikings have not seen from a running back with Kevin O’Connell.

The Vikings coach has preached about creating more favorable situations on second and third down — and by adding a do-it-all back like Barkley — the Vikings could have mismatches all over the field to exploit, create more opportunities every series and sustain drives consistently.

Derrick Henry Another Candidate to Land With Vikings, Replace Mattison

Derrick Henry, Titans

GettyRunning back Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans.

The running back market imploded last offseason as many of the league’s top backs found themselves at odds with teams.

Aging star running backs were forced to either take a pay cut or be released, while rising stars like Josh Jacobs, Tony Pollard and Barkley could not secure long-term extensions and instead played on franchise tags.

This offseason will be an intriguing reevaluation of the market that could lead to some discounts at the position. PFF considered Derrick Henry a prime candidate to land with the Vikings if the price is right.

“Minnesota’s rushing attack was one of the least efficient across the NFL this past season, and they may also be looking to bring along a young quarterback whether or not they keep Kirk Cousins in the fold,” PFF’s Brad Spielberger wrote on February 5. “This front office may not be viewed as one very likely to pay top dollar to the running back position, especially after they sharply moved on from Dalvin Cook before the 2023 season, but maybe there’s enough of a buy-low opportunity here on Henry.”

There’s a vast disparity between how analysts are appraising Henry in free agency. PFF predicted Henry to secure a deal worth $10 million a season, while Spotrac projected Henry to land a one-year deal worth $4.3 million in free agency.

The Vikings have $4 million guaranteed sunk into Mattison next season and likely wouldn’t bite on signing a replacement for eight figures. However, a trade would offload the majority of Mattison’s guarantees to his new team and create $3.35 million in cap space.