Free Agency Preview: Will the Vikings Bring Back Latavius Murray?

Will the Vikings make substantial moves in free agency and how will this impact the fantasy landscape? Dave Caban reviews Minnesota’s 2018 season, outlines players the team will lose to free agency and considers free agent targets.

Free agency and salary data included in this article was sourced from Spotrac

2018 IN SUMMARY

The Vikings won eight games, lost seven and recorded one tie in 2018. The team outscored its opponents by 19 points — scoring 360 and allowing 341. Kirk Cousins was fine in his first season as Minnesota’s starter but likely disappointed the team’s fanbase. He threw for an inefficient 7.0 yards per attempt which translated to 4,298 yards. The team skewed toward the pass, throwing 606 passes to 357 rushes. This helped Cousins to post 30 passing touchdowns, at a clip of one touchdown for every 20 attempts.1

Adam Thielen had a career year as the first option in the passing game. He converted 113 of 155 targets for 1,373 yards and 9 touchdowns. Stefon Diggs recorded 102 receptions on 150 targets for 1,021 yards and nine touchdowns. With Antonio Brown ranking fifth in total points and Juju Smith-Schuster eighth, Pittsburgh was able to outlast Minnesota for the league’s best fantasy wide receiver duo. Thielen finished seventh and Diggs finished tenth.

Due to the team’s proclivity to pass, Minnesota recorded just nine rushing touchdowns. They averaged 4.3 yards per attempt on 298 carries. Dalvin Cook was sidelined between Weeks 5 and 8 but led the backfield when healthy. Cook was more efficient than Latavius Murray on a per carry basis and played a larger role in the Viking’s passing game.

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OFFENSIVE FREE AGENTS

PLAYER POS. AGE 2018 AAV STATUS
Latavius Murray RB 28 $5,000,000 UFA
Brett Jones C 28 $2,914,000 UFA
Nick Easton C 27 $2,914,000 UFA
Ameer Abdullah RB 26 $1,039,032 UFA
Tom Compton G 30 $900,000 UFA
Aldrick Robinson WR 30 $790,000 UFA
Trevor Siemian QB 27 $583,196 UFA
C.J. Ham RB 26 $490,000 ERFA
Cedrick Lang TE 27 $490,000 ERFA
Josiah Price TE 27 $480,000 ERFA

AAV stands for average annual value and is calculated by dividing the total value of a contract by its life

In addition to being Minnesota’s most notable UFA, Murray is one of the best running backs available in free agency. He’s been serviceable when controlling Minnesota’s backfield and averaged 80 yards and 1.0 touchdowns per game when Cook was sidelined. Though Murray averaged just 4.1 yards per attempt to Cook’s 4.6, he was a more successful rusher. Murray was successful on 46 percent of rushing attempts whereas Cook was successful on 40 percent.2

In two seasons with Minnesota, Murray recorded 1,420 yards on 178 attempts, scored 14 touchdowns, and caught 37 passes for 244 yards. This should be enough for him to merit a competitive salary on the open market.

Regardless of who plays alongside Cook in 2019, the Vikings will need to address the departures of three offensive linemen. In 2018, Brett Jones played 18 percent of snaps and Tom Compton 80 percent.3

Aldrick Robinson was targeted on seven percent of pass plays in 2018, his only season with the Vikings. Despite recording just 15 receptions, he scored five touchdowns.

Potential Moves

The Vikings don’t have any glaring needs on offense. Defensively, they will need to re-sign or replace Sheldon Richardson and Anthony Barr, who combined for a 2018 AAV of $11.2 million. As the team has the third worst cap situation in the league it seems very unlikely that it makes any major moves on offense. As a result, Murray will be playing elsewhere in 2019.

Aldrick Robinson has a decent chance of returning but with Thielen, Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph fixtures in Minnesota’s passing game, he nor his replacement will have any fantasy value.

Any substantial spending made on offense will likely be sunk into the offensive line. While this lacks excitement Cook owners will be paying close attention to these signings.4

FINAL THOUGHTS

A compelling argument for bringing back Murray could be made, but given the Vikings’ cap situation, bringing in a less expensive alternative, is more likely. Ameer-Abdullah could be re-signed for depth in the backfield alongside Roc Thomas and Mike Boone. The preseason is a long ways away, but it will be worth paying attention to which back wins the backup duties in August.

  1. This ranked 13th among passers.  (back)
  2. A play is deemed ‘Successful’ when the following occurs: 40 percent of yards-to-go are gained on 1st down; 60 percent of yards-to-go on 2nd down or 100 percent of yards-to-go on 3rd & 4th down. The formula changes slightly in the 4th quarter of close games.  (back)
  3. Nick Easton was injured before the start of the season.  (back)
  4. The team could also address its needs in the trenches in the Draft.  (back)