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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Should the Vikings try to re-sign Jerick McKinnon?

By Matthew Coller

With Dalvin Cook returning from an ACL tear and Latavius Murray under contract, it would appear the odd-man out of the Minnesota Vikings’ backfield is Jerick McKinnon.

At his locker following the Vikings’ loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, McKinnon made it pretty clear that a No. 3 RB role wasn’t going to work in 2018.

“I want to be the guy,” McKinnon said. “I don’t put in all the work in the offseason to come back and be in this role. I appreciate the role. It worked out well, but I want bigger and better things for myself.”

If McKinnon is looking to be a true No. 1 running back, he might have a difficult time finding that type of job. Not because he isn’t worthy, but because there are so few backs in the NFL who are true No. 1s.

The problem with returning to Minnesota is that the Vikings likely have one of those true No. 1 backs in Dalvin Cook.

Speaking with the media at the NFL Combine last week, head coach Mike Zimmer discussed Cook’s likely workload, saying:

“I think he’s going to get a lot of plays,” Zimmer said. “I think he’s going to get a lot. The one thing we have to be careful about with Dalvin is, you know, we don’t wear him out. It’s a long season, we’ve got to be smart about it, so we’ll have to have a – not necessarily a pitch count but be mindful that it’s a 16 game, maybe 20 game season and we’re going to have to be smart about how we use him. Because he is a three-down back.”

Zimmer’s comments certainly don’t make it sound like there will be any kind of running back rotation. And in Cook’s first four games last season, he averaged over 40 snaps per game despite leaving with the ACL tear in the second half against the Lions.

With all of that said, there is a good case to be made that the Vikings should still make an offer to McKinnon.

First, because the Eagles had a “true No. 1 running back” as part of a three-man rotation. Jay Ajayi carried the ball 260 times for the Dolphins in 2016. When he was traded to the Eagles, he rushed just 70 times in seven games, but averaged 5.8 yards per carry mixing in with LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement.

The rotation gave different looks to opponents. With Blount in the game, opponents expected power runs and often got burned by play-action passes. Nick Foles found Clement 10 times for 139 yards in the playoffs.

McKinnon is a dynamic player who ranked as Pro Football Focus’s seventh best pass-catching running back and eighth best pass protector. Overall PFF ranked him eighth out of 58 qualifying backs.

In fact, across the board he was an above average back in 2017. (Chart via Pro Football Focus):

When Zimmer elected to move Mike Remmers from tackle to guard in the playoffs, he said that he wanted the most possible talent on the field. Using McKinnon, Murray and Cook would put a lot of talent on the field at once.

Of course, the Vikings would have to pay a lot for it. McKinnon will be getting offers from others teams after rushing for 570 yards and catching 51 passes, but teams might still underrate his overall impact. And the highest bid might convince McKinnon to change his tune about his role.

If McKinnon wanted to return, the Vikings could also move on from Murray. The former Raider is set to carry a $6.3 million cap hit with only $1.2 million in dead money if he’s cut. McKinnon would likely come at a cheaper price than the $4.9 million the Vikings would save.

The benefit of keeping them both is they act as an insurance policy if Cook hits any bumps in the road in his recovery. Murray and McKinnon led the Vikings to the seventh best rushing total in the NFL last year. They had been 32nd in 2016. A restructure of Murray’s deal would be a must.

The situation at quarterback could impact a potential return for McKinnon. If the Vikings find a solution without spending upwards of $30 million, they will have more flexibility to sign luxury free agents like the world’s best No. 3 running back. If they spend to sign Kirk Cousins, that becomes less plausible.

It’s possible another team will simply give McKinnon everything he wants – a No. 1 role and the salary to boot – but if he doesn’t get those things, it would make sense for the Vikings to keep his phone number handy.

The post Should the Vikings try to re-sign Jerick McKinnon? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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