Vikings ‘Interested’ in Former $48 Million Division Rival in Free Agency: Report - Sport News

Vikings ‘Interested’ in Former $48 Million Division Rival in Free Agency: Report

The Minnesota Vikings watched as the Atlanta Falcons poached quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency.

They will now shift their focus to contingency plans, per General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who released a statement following news of Cousins’ departure. That apparently includes looking to replace running back Alexander Mattison with former Green Bay Packers back Aaron Jones.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Minnesota Vikings

“In his annual season-ending press conference on Feb. 1, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said he “absolutely” expected running back Aaron Jones to return for the 2024 season,” The Athletic’s Matt Schneidmann and Dianna Russini wrote on March 11. “On Monday, about five weeks later, the Packers released Jones.

“The Vikings have shown interest in Jones, who is now free to sign with any team.”

If this is it… this would be Aaron Jones’ last regular season run as a Packer. A first down to seal the game and clinch a playoff berth. 🥺

Jones, 29, rushed for 656 yards and two touchdowns on 142 carries last season. He also added 233 yards and one score on 30 receptions.

It was Jones’ second-fewest yards from scrimmage in his career, behind only his rookie campaign. His 11 games were also the fewest of his career. He rushed for 1,100-plus yards in two of the three previous seasons, and 1,000-plus in three of four campaigns before 2023.

Jones was heading into the final year of a four-year, $48 million contract.

The Packers wanted him to take a 50% pay cut, per Russini, which would have been the second such adjustment for Jones in the last year.

Jones’ camp balked and the Packers cut the seven-year man out of UTEP. Green Bay agreed to terms on a new contract with Jones’ replacement, former Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, earlier in the day.

Vikings Could Turn to Aaron Jones in Free Agency to Revitalize Anemic Running Game

Aaron Jones, Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings had the fourth-fewest rushing yards as a team last season. Jones would step in for the departed Mattison, whom the Vikings cut on March 4. The move cleared $3.4 million in cap space. Mattison rushed for 700 yards on 180 carries.

That is a 3.9 yard-per-carry average, which stands as his best mark in the last three seasons.

Mattison also failed to cross the goal line and was outplayed by 2022 fifth-round pick Ty Chandler, who rushed for 461 yards on 102 carries; 4.5 yards per tote.

The Vikings also added former Miami Dolphins runner Myles Gaskin on a futures contract ahead of free agency, and they have seldom-used backs Kene Nwangwu and DeWayne McBride under contract. None of them are as accomplished as Jones, a one-time Pro Bowler.

His 4.6 yards per carry in 2023 were the fewest of his career.

That would have led the Vikings’ backfield. His 62% rushing success rate was also the best mark of his career, per Pro Football Reference.

New QB Could Lead to Emphasis on Running Game

Kevin O'Connell, Nick Mullens, Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings could very well run it back with Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall at quarterback next season. Justin Jefferson‘s looming contract situation seemingly makes that less than tenable, though the All-Pro wideout has stated he will produce regardless of who is throwing him the ball.

Still, if the Vikings aim to remain in Jefferson’s good graces amid contract negotiations, finding a more suitable option would be wise.

Jefferson noted the inconsistency at quarterback last season once Cousins was lost for the season.

Regardless, the Vikings could lean on their potential new-look backfield to ease the burden for whoever is under center next season. Mullens and Hall were underwhelming in their opportunities and an outside addition would need to get acclimated to the system.

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