With the NFL Draft in about three weeks, we've discussed the fact that the Minnesota Vikings could still use offensive line help. A few days ago we also took a look at a potential storm just over the horizon with the defensive line.
But what about running back?
The Vikings witnessed the end of an era this off season, as a long time running back who had been a big contributor for the Vikings will be moving on to a different team.
That's right, kids...Matt Asiata will not be returning.
I kid, I kid. No, we've truly witnessed the end of one of the most remarkable eras in team history as Adrian Peterson's option wasn't exercised, he was released, and became a free agent. The Vikings and Peterson have gone their separate ways, as Minnesota signed Raiders running back Latavius Murray. Although Peterson is currently still a free agent, he will most assuredly sign with someone for 2017 and beyond.
But is Murray the answer for the Vikings? Let's take a look.
Currently the Vikes have three running backs on the roster--Murray, Jerick McKinnon, and Bishop Stankey. Going into training camp, that feels like how the depth chart would look like as well. It feels like a running back trio that might fit the Vikings overall offense a little bit better than the skill set Peterson brings to the table in 2017, but is it a long term answer?
The Vikings aren't sure, as they're hedging their bets. With Murray, he signed a three year contract, but it's essentially a one year tryout, as they can part ways with him after this season with only a $1.2 million salary cap hit.
With McKinnon, he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2017, so he's got one last chance to convince the Vikings he's worth a contract extension. He's shown promise at times, and struggled last season...but then again, everyone running the ball struggled last year behind that offensive line, so I'm approaching last year with a grain of salt.
And is Bishop Sankey a viable option as the #3 back?
So much like the other side of the ball, which we talked a little bit about here, there's a potential reckoning coming in terms of expiring contracts, only it's coming one year earlier than the defensive line. The Vikings could very well find themselves short on running backs, depending on how that position plays out in 2017.
Here's the thing with running back. I don't buy Sankey as the third running back on the roster out of Mankato, which means there's a competitive spot open this year. And, quite possibly, in 2018 and beyond.
Is there as much of a need at running back as there is at say offensive or defensive line? At face value, the loss of Adrian Peterson can make it seem that way. Peterson was a generational talent who won't be easily replaced. After this year, the Vikings could potentially lose both Murray and McKinnon to free agency if they want, and that would leave them with zero experienced running backs on the roster after this year.
Running back seems like an issue that needs to be addressed, but when? You can make an argument that long term it's as important as the interior offensive line or the defensive line, but in the short term I think the need still falls behind both lines.
Still, I expect the Vikings to draft a running back fairly early, just how early remains to be seen.