With the NFL Scouting Combine in the rearview mirror, 2020 free agency is just around the corner. That period will officially begin at 3 p.m. (CT) on March 18 when the new league year begins.
Over the next two weeks, Lindsey Young, Craig Peters and I will dive into Minnesota's current roster status by position. We'll offer a refresher on which Vikings are scheduled to become free agents, where potential needs might be and note players from other teams that are set to become free agents.
Up next? The running backs …
Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone and Tony-Brooks James
2019 Stats: 14 games (14 starts); 250 carries for 1,135 yards (4.5 yards per carry), with 13 rushing touchdowns; 53 receptions for 519 yards
Cook had the breakout season many were expecting in 2019, as he surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career. He was also the focal point of an offense that ranked third in the league in rushing percentage.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said at the combine that he expects another big year from Cook in 2020, and that he is "excited to see" where the versatile running back can take his career.
2019 Stats: 10 games; 100 carries for 462 yards (4.6 yards per carry), with one rushing touchdown; 10 receptions for 82 yards
Mattison played well as a rookie, stepping in to give Cook a breather when necessary. He could take on a bigger role in his second season in the league to help give the Vikings one of the top backfield duos in the league.
2019 Stats: 16 games (two starts); 49 carries for 273 yards (5.6 yards per carry), with three rushing touchdowns; three receptions for 17 yards
Boone provided solid depth behind Cook and Mattison, as evident by his 148-yard rushing performance in the regular-season finale when the aforementioned duo did not play. He is also a key special teams player.
2019 Stats: 3 games with Pittsburgh; 8 carries for 7 yards (0.9 yards per carry)
Brooks-James appeared in three games with the Steelers in 2019 before signing a Reserve/Future contract with the Vikings in January.
SCHEDULED TO BECOME A FREE AGENT:
C.J. Ham (restricted)
Ham enjoyed a Pro Bowl season in 2019 as he helped lead the way for the NFL's sixth-ranked rushing attack. He fit in well in Minnesota's new offensive scheme and could fill the same role in 2020 if he returns. Ham is a restricted free agent, which means the Vikings could re-sign him and/or place a tender on him in order to receive compensation if he leaves.
View the top photos of Vikings FB C.J. Ham from the 2019 season.
Abdullah led the Vikings with 13 kickoff returns for 325 yards (25.0 average) in 2019, and also chipped in on offense and the special teams coverage units.
If Ham, a Minnesota native, does not return, the Vikings will need to explore bringing in a new fullback for a position that was important in the Vikings 2019 offense.
Much like 2019, Cook and Mattison will likely receive the bulk of the rushing attempts in 2020, and for good reason. Cook is one of the league's top backs, while Mattison was a solid contributor as a third-round rookie. Cook will be the one to watch, however, especially with Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak calling plays in 2020.
With Boone also set to return, will the Vikings also bring back Abdullah. If he's not back, then the kickoff return job also will open.
View photos from workouts at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine on Friday in Indianapolis that included running backs and offensive line.
WHO'S POTENTIALLY OUT THERE:
NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling teamed up again this year to rate their top 101 potential free agents.
The following running backs are listed in order of their overall rankings: 13. Derrick Henry, 34. Melvin Gordon, 46. Kenyan Drake, 73. Carlos Hyde.
Other running backs set to become free agents that didn't crack the top 101 are as follows (listed in order of 2019 team): Brian Hill* and Kenjon Barner (ATL), Gus Edwards* (BAL), Frank Gore (BUF), Kareem Hunt and Dontrell Hilliard* (CLE), Devontae Booker (DEN), J.D. McKissic (DET), Tyler Ervin (GB), Lamar Miller (HOU), Johnathan Williams (IND), Spencer Ware and LeSean McCoy (KC), Austin Ekeler* (LAC), Bilal Powell and Ty Montgomery (NYJ), Isaiah Crowell and DeAndre Washington (OAK), Darren Sproles [retired], Jordan Howard and Corey Clement* (PHI), Matt Brieda* and Jeff Wilson, Jr. ** (SF), Marshawn Lynch, C.J. Prosise and Robert Turbin (SEA), Peyton Barber (TB), Chris Thompson and Wendell Smallwood (WAS).
Other fullbacks set to become free agents that didn't crack the top 101 are as follows (listed in order of 2019 team): Keith Smith (ATL), Danny Vitale (GB), Anthony Sherman (KC) and Derek Watt (LAC).
* Restricted free agent
** Exclusive rights free agent
While the Vikings aren't expected to be major players in the free-agent pool of running backs, there are some intriguing names and situations here for two teams that made the NFC Playoffs (Philadelphia and Seattle).
Gore ranks third all-time with 15,347 rushing yards, and Ekeler was one of the NFL's top pass-catching backs in 2019 with 92 receptions for 993 yards and eight scores.