Alexander Mattison

Vikings Open To Trading Alexander Mattison

With Dalvin Cook signed to a lucrative extension, his veteran backup may not be in the Vikings’ post-2022 plans. Alexander Mattison might not be in Minnesota’s plans for this season, with the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson noting the team is open to trading him (Twitter link).

At least 12 teams have called on the fourth-year running back, Tomasson adds (via Twitter). That would create value here, but the Vikings also like the 215-pound back as their primary backup behind Cook. While it may not be easy to pry Mattison away, this is now a situation to monitor.

No extension talks between Mattison and the Vikings have taken place. Considering the money tied to Cook ($12.6MM AAV), it is unsurprising a regime that did not draft Mattison would view him as replaceable long-term. Making just $965K in 2022, Mattison is going into a contract year.

Cook’s backup is interested in becoming a starter, per Tomasson. While a trade is not certain, Mattison leaving as a 2023 free agent in an effort to forge a clearer pathway to a starting gig would make sense for the former third-round pick. Mattison, 24, has spelled the oft-injured Cook at points during each of the Vikings’ past three seasons and accounted himself fairly well during that span.

Mattison has surpassed 400 rushing yards in each of his three NFL slates; he averaged more than 4.5 yards per carry in 2019 and ’20 and scored a career-high four touchdowns in 2021. The Boise State product has three 100-yard games on his resume over the past two years.

Running back value has obviously nosedived over the past several years, but it would be interesting to see how Mattison would fare away from Cook’s shadow. The Vikings may also prioritize the insurance Mattison provides, however, making a deal tougher to complete.

Despite Minnesota hiring a new GM-HC combo (Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell), the team’s offense did not change much, personnel-wise, this offseason. The Vikings should be in the mix to vie for a playoff spot, and Mattison — considering Cook’s history with minor injuries — has proven to help past Minnesota editions. The team does roster second-year back Kene Nwangwu (13 carries, 61 yards as a rookie) and used a fifth-rounder this year on Ty Chandler.

Vikings Not Expected To Extend RB Alexander Mattison

It sounds like Alexander Mattison will definitely hit free agency following the upcoming season. Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (on Twitter) doesn’t expect the Vikings to extend the running back before the start of the upcoming campaign. The RB told the reporter that he’s “not aware” of any talks between his camp and the Vikings front office, and Tomasson hints that the RB will likely test the open market in pursuit of a starting gig.

Mattison was a third-round pick by the Vikings in 2019, and he’s transformed into a necessary backup for his oft-injured teammate, Dalvin Cook. In six career starts, Mattison has collected 693 yards from scrimmage and five total touchdowns on 140 touches. Those numbers account for a good portion of his career stats, and while he’s often playing behind a workhorse starter, he’s shown he can be productive when he gets the bulk of his team’s carries.

The 24-year-old set a number of career highs in 2021, running for 491 yards and three touchdowns while hauling in another 32 receptions. Pro Football Focus graded him as a below-average halfback, although his grade was partly dragged down by poor scores in both pass blocking and (especially) run blocking.

Two summers ago, the Vikings signed Cook to a five-year, $63MM deal, and it’s unlikely the front office will want to commit a whole lot more to the position. The organization used a fourth-round pick on Kene Nwangwu last year and a fifth-round pick on Ty Chandler this year, so they’re well positioned to replace Mattison’s spot on the depth chart.

Barring an unexpected breakout in 2022, Mattison probably can’t expect a significant pay day. The three free agent RBs who topped $5MM AAV this offseason were Leonard Fournette, Chase Edmonds, and Cordarrelle Patterson, and they each have more starting experience than Mattison. If a team truly believes in his potential, he could see a contract that more resembles J.D. McKissic‘s deal with Washington. McKissic has more starting experience and is an elite pass-catching back (including an 80-catch campaign in 2020), and he ended up inking a two-year, $7MM deal.

Vikings Extend QB Kirk Cousins Through 2023

New Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell wanted a chance to build an offense around quarterback Kirk Cousins. Well, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, he will get his chance as the Vikings will sign Cousins to a one-year, $35MM extension that will keep him in Minnesota through the 2023 NFL season. 

The Vikings reportedly had been receiving calls on Cousins, but the new coaching staff and general manager are declaring their commitment to the veteran quarterback and gaining some much needed cap space in the process.

Cousins’ scheduled cap hit for 2022 was set to be the largest in NFL history at $45MM. The extension reduces his 2022 cap number to $31.42MM, granting Minnesota a little over $13.5MM in cap space. In addition, Cousins will see a raise, making $40MM this season and $30MM in 2023. The deal includes phantom, voidable years in 2024 & 2025 that allow them to reduce the cap hits in ’22 and ’23.

Say what you will about Cousins pay and performance, but after receiving two consecutive franchise tags in Washington, a three-year fully-guaranteed contract to join the Vikings, and two fully-guaranteed extensions to stay in Minnesota, Cousins has secured eight-straight seasons of guaranteed contracts.

There are expectations for Cousins to thrive under O’Connell. With offensive weapons like running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, wide receivers Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn, and tight end Irv Smith Jr. all returning, the familiarity of personnel should make up for the new playbook. The bookends of the offensive line seem set with Christian Darrisaw showing promise after a delayed debut and Brian O’Neill making the Pro Bowl last year. There are some questions to be answered on the interior of the line, but the pieces, for the most part, are there.

The onus will now be on the coaching staff and front office to make offseason improvements to a defense that struggled mightily last year. The Vikings defense allowed the third-most yards in the league and the ninth-most points. If the new leaders in Minnesota can turn around that unit, look for Minnesota to make a play for a playoff spot and potentially even challenge the perennial NFC North power from Green Bay for the division.

NFL COVID List Updates: 12/22/21

We’ve compiled a list of players who were placed or activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list today. In some instances (including Christian McCaffrey and Travis Etienne), players activated from the list remain on IR:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Placed on list: T Le’Raven Clark

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Vikings Place RB Alexander Mattison On Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Vikings made a handful of roster moves today, and it sounds like they’re preparing to be without Alexander Mattison for next Monday’s game against the Bears. The team announced that they’ve placed their backup running back on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The team has claimed veteran Wayne Gallman off waivers to fill the roster spot.

Mattison has had a career season for the Vikings, thanks mostly to three productive starts where he filled in for starter Dalvin Cook. In 13 games this season, Mattison has collected 615 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns on 140 touches. He had more than 100 yards from scrimmage after starting Minnesota’s Week 13 loss, but he returned to a backup role last Thursday with Cook back in the lineup.

Gallman is an experienced option to turn to if Mattison misses time. The veteran finished 2020 with a career-high 682 rushing yards, and after getting signed (and cut) by the 49ers, he caught on with the Falcons in September. He proceeded to see time in six games for Atlanta this season, collecting 125 yards from scrimmage on 29 touches.The 27-year-old was cut by the Falcons on Saturday.

The Vikings made some additional moves, including placing wideout Dan Chisena on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The team also placed linebacker Ryan Connelly on injured reserve. The 26-year-old has seen time in 12 games this season, collecting three tackles. The Vikings also made a procedural move, activating Olabisi Johnson from the reserve/COVID-19 list. The wideout still remains on injured reserve.

Vikings RB Dalvin Cook Intends To Play Through Injury

After missing Week 3, Dalvin Cook returned to the field for Week 4 but struggled as he battled through an ankle injury. However, the Vikings running back isn’t intending to miss another game as he nurses the injury.

“I don’t feel like I’m getting worse,” Cook said (via ESPN’s Courtney Cronin). “I don’t feel like I’m headed in the wrong direction. I feel like I’m headed in the right direction to get myself back to where I need to be at. You have those days, but we just played a game. Just trying to work myself back to being 100% so I can help us win games.”

The running back has dealt with his a share of injuries throughout his career, missing a total of 21 regular season games through his first four seasons in the NFL. The Vikings are prioritizing his long-term health, and they naturally sat him out of practice late this week.

Cook had a hot start to the season, scoring two touchdowns in Week 1 and collecting 148 yards from scrimmage in Week 2. It was during that latter game that the running back suffered his ankle injury, forcing him out of the lineup for Week 3. He returned last weekend but collected only 44 yards on 11 touches.

Fortunately, if the Vikings star does miss another game, the team is set at the position. Backup Alexander Mattison rushed for 112 yards and added another 59 yards through the air in Week 3.

Vikings Notes: Wilson, Mattison, Rudolph

Eric Wilson has been an unexpected surprise for the Vikings this season. The former undrafted free agent has been one of the best linebackers in the NFL, compiling 90 tackles, three interceptions, three sacks, and five tackles for loss. Per ESPN’s Courtney Cronin, the 26-year-old leads his position in combined interceptions, forced fumbles and opponent fumble recoveries (six total), and that’s earned him the nickname “walking turnover” from fellow linebacker Eric Kendricks.

Wilson didn’t miss a game through his first three seasons in the league, but he only started 10 contests. He’s started 11 games already this season, but his sudden improvement didn’t come as a huge surprise to the organization.

“Ever since Eric’s been here, he’s been able to back up both positions when Anthony [Barr] and Eric [Kendricks] were in there, and whoever went down, he just went in in that position,” co-defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer told Cronin. “It’s something he’s done in the past, which helps, but it’s a real tribute to the kid, how he just steps in and doesn’t miss a beat playing a completely different position in the sub [package].”

Wilson’s breakout season came at the right time; the linebacker is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the season.

Let’s check out some more notes out of Minnesota:

  • Vikings running back Alexander Mattison will miss another week as he recovers from surgery for appendicitis, per Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com. The 22-year-old has appeared in 11 games this season, rushing for 338 yards and one touchdown on 74 carries. For the second-straight week, Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah will serve as the backups to Dalvin Cook.
  • Meanwhile, tight end Kyle Rudolph is listed as doubtful for tomorrow’s game against the Buccaneers (per Tomasson). The veteran is currently dealing with a foot injury, but he’s determined to maintain his 98-game starting streak (including playoffs). “He’s a pretty fast healer, so we’ll just see,” said head coach Mike Zimmer. “He’s been getting a lot of treatment, and he wants to play really bad. So I don’t want to count him out yet.” The 31-year-old has 28 receptions for 334 yards and one touchdown this season.
  • With Mattison sidelined, the Vikings are eyeing some free agent running backs. Tomasson reports (via Twitter) that Khalfani Muhammad was in Minnesota this week for a workout with the Vikings. The California product was a seventh-round pick by the Titans in 2017, and he’s also spent time with the Patriots, Broncos, and Cardinals.
  • In case you missed it, the Vikings signed tight end Hale Hentges off the Colts practice squad earlier this week. The 2019 undrafted free agent out of Alabama saw time in 11 games for Washington last season, hauling in eight receptions for 103 yards and one touchdown.

NFC North Notes: Lions, Cook, Bears

Having dealt with back trouble for two years, Matthew Stafford missed half of this season with fractures in his back. He will not undergo surgery and expects to be back in time for the start of the Lions‘ offseason program in April. Last season, Stafford played through a transverse process fracture in his back. This will be OC Darrell Bevell‘s second year in Detroit, so Stafford’s participation in the upcoming offseason program will not be as critical as last season’s attendance. Still, Detroit’s soon-to-be 32-year-old passer appears on the way back.

Oh yeah, I’ll be good to go,” Stafford said, via Justin Rogers of the Detroit News. “I feel really good, which is good. I’ve had quite a bit of rest, obviously. I think I’ll be feeling really, really good pretty darn soon, to tell you the truth.”

Shifting first to one of the division’s teams still playing, here is the latest out of the NFC North:

  • The Vikings‘ plan to sit Dalvin Cook (shoulder, chest) for the final two regular-season games looks to have paid off. Minnesota’s Pro Bowl back took part in a full practice Wednesday, putting him in line to suit up for the Vikings’ first-round game against the Saints. Alexander Mattison (ankle) was also a full participant, giving Minnesota a good chance of having the best version of its backfield in action Sunday in New Orleans.
  • The Bears quickly identified their next offensive line coach. A day after firing previous O-line instructor Harry Hiestand, Chicago will hire Juan Castillo to replace him, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). Castillo’s most recent role was with Buffalo, where he served as the Bills’ O-line coach from 2017-18, but he was on the Eagles’ staff for each of Andy Reid’s 14 years in Philadelphia. Nagy broke into coaching during those years, spending time on Reid’s final five Philly staffs. The Bears ranked 29th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards metric, with their offensive front frequently struggling to open running lanes.
  • Back to the Lions, they have starting guard Graham Glasgow set for free agency. The team moved Glasgow back to guard after he’d started at center in 2018, but this season’s Lions featured a three-guard rotation. That may or may not impact Glasgow’s offseason decision; he was non-committal about a desire to stay in Detroit. “It’s been a long year and I’d like to feel like — I’d like to kind of feel like I’m wanted, sort of,” Glasgow said, via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. “So, yeah. It’s been — it’s just been a long year. And ideally, I’d like to — we kind of need to talk about it.” Glasgow started 58 games with the Lions from 2016-19 and graded well, in the view of Pro Football Focus, this past season. With the guard market gravitating toward sellers in recent years, Glasgow could be in for a nice payday in March.

Latest On Dalvin Cook’s Status

Dalvin Cook‘s shoulder injury will likely shelve him for the biggest game of the Vikings’ regular season. The third-year running back is unlikely to play against the Packers on Monday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com notes.

The Vikings have now confirmed Cook will miss Week 16, and Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com adds the team is considering shelving its Pro Bowl back for the rest of the regular season in order to have him healthier for the playoffs. Minnesota can clinch a playoff spot with a Monday win, but with the Vikings holding a two-game lead on the Rams for the NFC’s No. 6 seed, Football Outsiders gives them a 98.2% chance to qualify.

Mike Zimmer said Cook was “doing good,” and the Vikings’ 1,000-yard rusher indicated he would play if sufficiently healthy (Twitter links via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). Cook has not missed a game this season but certainly has an injury history of note. An ACL tear ended Cook’s rookie season, and multiple hamstring setbacks limited him to 11 games last year. Cook initially injured his shoulder in Week 11.

Neither Cook nor backup Alexander Mattison practiced Wednesday. The latter missed Week 15 with an ankle injury, leaving second-year UDFA Mike Boone in command of the backfield. The Vikings gave Mattison a questionable designation for Monday’s game.

Prior to Sunday’s win, Boone had previously logged just eight carries this season. He rushed for two touchdowns against the Chargers. The Vikings also have Ameer Abdullah (13 carries this season) and C.J. Ham (five) as potential ball-carrying options.

NFC North Notes: Bears, Vikings, Flowers

The Bears have made some splashy trades since Ryan Pace replaced Phil Emery as GM in 2015. Deals that brought Khalil Mack and Mitch Trubisky to Chicago required major assets to complete. Fourth-year starter Cody Whitehair and second-round tight end Adam Shaheen also forced the Bears to surrender multiple mid-round picks. In a detailed piece by The Athletic’s Adam Jahns (subscription required), Pace summarized his aggressiveness on these fronts.

I think if you sit on your hands and you say, ‘Oh, this player is definitely going to get to us,’ and he goes right before you and you had conviction on him — not just you but the scouts and the coaches – and you wait on it, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Pace said. “If you have a guy or a group of guys, be aggressive and make it happen.

I don’t want to undervalue any of these mid-round picks. We’ve shown a lot examples of us hitting on those players. But I know if we’re ever in a situation where, ‘Hey, we’re doing a little too much here,’ we can police ourselves on that. But as long as it’s a fair deal and we’re getting a player that we all have conviction on, then we’ll do it.”

As teams break for camp, here is more from the NFC North:

  • A knee injury Ha Ha Clinton-Dix suffered during Chicago’s offseason program resulted in the recently signed safety beginning his first Bears camp on the active/PUP list. The former Packers and Redskins defender has not missed a game since the 2014 season.
  • However, the Bears received good news on Trey Burton. The team’s second-year tight end starter has been cleared for camp work. The “Philly Special” quarterback underwent sports hernia surgery this offseason.
  • Although Alexander Mattison is the assumed next man up if Dalvin Cook again goes down with an injury, Mike Zimmer cautioned about anointing the third-round pick too soon. The sixth-year Vikings coach (via the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling) singled out third-year UDFA C.J. Ham as a player who stands to play more on passing downs, in front of Mattison, due to pass-protection skills. Backs often begin their NFL careers limited at this skill, so the 26-year-old Ham (31 touches in two seasons, when Latavius Murray played behind Cook) may function as a stopgap while Mattison is groomed.
  • The Lions‘ top offseason expense, Trey Flowers will not begin camp with the bulk of his teammates. The four-year Patriots pass rusher will start his first Lions camp on their active/PUP list. Flowers underwent shoulder surgery before signing with the Lions, but Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes the $18MM-per-year defensive end is expected to be ready by Week 1.