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Alexander Mattison

Are Vikings ready to go cheaper at running back?

It’s been a rough offseason for running backs. Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette were released. And there have been various reports that Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon and Derrick Henry will be asked to take pay cuts.

Kareem Hunt isn’t generating any interest. Austin Ekeler wants a new contract, and the Chargers told him that won’t be happening. And guys like Rashaad Penny and Damien Harris signed deals for not much more than the league minimum. It’s been pretty brutal.

In the specific case of Dalvin Cook, I will be interested to see how it plays out. On the one hand, he’s seemingly not worth what he’s scheduled to be paid. He’s got a base salary of $10.4 million, with a cap number of $14.1 million. But at the same time, the Vikings signed Alexander Mattison to a two-year deal worth $7 million, with over 90 percent of that money guaranteed.

The Mattison contract indicates that they believe he’s ready to be a starter, but I’m skeptical. I haven’t seen him do anything that suggests he’s anything more than an average backup.

Mattison has gotten to step into those starter shoes five times (all in the 2020-21 seasons). While he averaged 90 rushing and 42 receiving yards in those games, which are impressive enough numbers, three of those games came against really suspect Detroit defenses. For the bulk of his career, he’s looked like a run-of-the-mill backup. He’s no Cook.

In each of the last three years, Mattison has averaged over a half yard less per carry than Cook. He’s just not that kind of player. (Heading into this offseason, I was thinking the Vikings would let Mattison walk, promoting youngster Ty Chandler into the backup spot.)

Over the last two years, 46 running backs have carried the ball at least 200 yards. Of that group, Mattison ranks next-to-last in yards per carry, down at 3.7 per attempt. If the Vikings wind up elevating him into their starting job, I think they’ll regret it.

RUSHING, YARDS PER CARRY (last 2 years)
PlayerAttYardsAvgTD
Tony Pollard, Dall.3231,7265.3411
Nick Chubb, Cle.5302,7845.2520
Travis Etienne, Jac.2201,1255.115
Miles Sanders, Phil.3962,0235.1111
Jonathan Taylor, Ind.5242,6725.1022
Khalil Herbert, Chi.2321,1645.026
Aaron Jones, G.B.3841,9205.006
Tyler Allgeier, Atl.2101,0354.933
Elijah Mitchell, S.F.2521,2424.937
Rhamondre Stevenson, N.E.3431,6464.8010
D'Andre Swift, Det.2501,1594.6410
Devin Singletary, Buff.3651,6894.6312
Christian McCaffrey, Car.-S.F.3431,5814.619
Kenneth Walker, Sea.2281,0504.619
Dalvin Cook, Min.5132,3324.5514
Josh Jacobs, L.V.5572,5254.5321
Jeff Wilson, S.F.-Mia.2551,1544.537
Damien Harris, N.E.3081,3914.5218
Austin Ekeler, LAC4101,8264.4525
Darrell Henderson, LAR2199714.438
Javonte Williams, Den.2501,1074.434
Cordarrelle Patterson, Atl.2971,3134.4214
D'Onta Foreman, Car.3361,4804.408
Derrick Henry, Ten.5682,4754.3623
James Robinson, Jac.-NYJ2741,1924.3511
Latavius Murray, Bal.-N.O.-Den.2901,2614.3512
Dameon Pierce, Hou.2209394.274
Kareem Hunt, Cle.2018544.258
Melvin Gordon, Den.2931,2364.2210
AJ Dillon, G.B.3731,5734.2212
Saquon Barkley, NYG4571,9054.1712
Chuba Hubbard, Car.2671,0784.047
Joe Mixon, Cin.5022,0194.0220
Jamaal Williams, Det.4151,6674.0220
Ezekiel Elliott, Dall.4681,8784.0122
Leonard Fournette, T.B.3691,4804.0111
Michael Carter, NYJ2611,0413.997
James Conner, Ari.3851,5343.9822
Sony Michel, both LAs2449513.904
Antonio Gibson, Was.4071,5833.8910
Brian Robinson, Was.2057973.892
Alvin Kamara, N.O.4631,7953.886
David Montgomery, Chi.4261,6503.8712
Najee Harris, Pitt.5792,2343.8614
Alexander Mattison, Min.2087743.728
Mark Ingram, Hou.-N.O.2227873.553

—Ian Allan

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