MINNEAPOLIS — The clock has been ticking on Latavius Murray because the night time his tenure with the Minnesota Vikings was extended for one more season.
Hours after Minnesota signed Kirk Cousins on the second day of free company in 2018, Vikings brass restructured Murray’s contract earlier than $5.15 million of his 2018 wage would have turn into assured on March 16. In the event that they didn’t get a deal labored out earlier than then, Murray was anticipated to turn into a cap casualty.
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The efforts made to maintain the veteran working again in Minnesota for a second season supplied the Vikings with much-needed stability within the backfield as Dalvin Prepare dinner rehabbed from the ACL damage he sustained throughout his 2017 rookie season. That foresight paid off when a hamstring damage saved Prepare dinner sidelined for all however one half of motion from Weeks Three-Eight final season.
In that point, Murray as soon as once more carried the load within the backfield — a job he anticipated could be his when he signed with Minnesota as a free agent in 2017. After the Vikings used their second-round choose on Prepare dinner that very same yr, the Florida State product shortly emerged because the inheritor obvious to franchise rusher Adrian Peterson over Murray.
Now, with simply over two weeks till he’s set to turn into a free agent for the second time in his six-year profession, Murray’s future and the kind of position he’ll get to play on the Vikings, or elsewhere, is in query. Whereas the working again has expressed a want to return to Minnesota, he isn’t prepared to surrender on a beginning job.
“I would like all people to know — make no mistake about it, I need to play,” Murray stated this offseason. “I need to begin. I’m not content material with being in a backup position, however I need to compete, and Dalvin is aware of that. We push one another. That’s what it’s about. However I might like to be again right here for that chance to compete with and towards them. That’s the one manner you get higher.”
Murray performed the third-highest quantity of snaps in his profession in 2018 (43.9 %) and compiled 578 yards and 6 touchdowns on 140 carries final season. Regardless of his place as a between-the-tackles rusher, Murray was sparingly used within the passing sport, the place he totaled 141 yards on 22 receptions in 2018.
With the Vikings’ funds tight for the 2019 offseason (presently listed with $7,175,517 in cap area, in response to ESPN’s roster administration system) and the funding the crew made to maintain two undrafted free-agent working backs in Mike Boone and Roc Thomas, Murray’s probability at incomes extra financially and on this position might come elsewhere. In accordance with Sportrac, Murray’s calculated market worth would put him at a median wage of $1.6 million per yr.
Although there aren’t many lead working again roles up for grabs throughout the NFL, a couple of groups have pretty apparent wants within the backfield that would enable Murray to earn extra money and taking part in time.
Latavius Murray could be amenable to remaining with the Vikings, however he additionally desires an opportunity to begin. James Lang/USA TODAY Sports activities
A extremely inconsistent run sport forces the Philadelphia Eagles to handle their free-agent scenario with Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles, each of whom handled accidents in 2018. Just like the Vikings, Philadelphia is in a bind with its cap scenario however must bolster its backfield. Murray won’t be the piece the Eagles determine to construct round for the long run, however bringing in a veteran to play a key position in an offense that relied on a committee of rushers to win a Tremendous Bowl two years in the past won’t be a nasty place to begin.
There’s additionally the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs, who wish to fill a void within the run sport after the discharge of Kareem Hunt in December; the Buffalo Payments, who’re spending a complete ton on two working backs (LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory) who’re trending upward in age and downward in manufacturing; and even the Baltimore Ravens, who’ve expressed a want to construct closely within the run sport in 2019.
Murray, 29, has proved his value as a strong contributor in a backfield. Whereas his greatest speeding season statistically got here in 2015 because the Oakland Raiders’ featured again — the yr he was chosen to the Professional Bowl — when he crossed the 1,000-yard threshold for the primary time in his profession, it’s honest to argue that his greatest affect got here as a job participant the next yr. In 2016, Murray was each bit the crimson zone risk that Oakland wanted him to be in a committee of backs, tallying 11 of his 12 touchdowns contained in the 20-yard line, with 9 of these coming from contained in the 5-yard line. Six of Murray’s eight touchdowns in 2017 with the Vikings additionally got here contained in the 5-yard line.
Whereas Prepare dinner has earned the proper to be an every-down again along with his dynamic playmaking skills in each the run sport and the go sport, the best way Murray wears defenses down greatest is by being fed the soccer continually.
“He’s a man that wants carries and the physicality of issues,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer stated in October 2018. “I’ve stated it one million instances, I like Latavius and the best way he approaches the sport. Sometimes, he’s not a one-carry-every-quarter man; he’s a man that should get the soccer some.”
With a wholesome Prepare dinner prepared for Yr Three, it is sensible for the Vikings to maneuver on from Murray and provides him the possibility to carve out an even bigger position elsewhere. Nonetheless, the worth in maintaining round a veteran rusher who has proved he can present at each alternative can’t be ignored.
“I feel we have each mutually expressed our emotions about me returning,” Murray stated. “Then I feel we additionally perceive the enterprise aspect of it. So proper now, time will inform. They know the way I really feel about this group. They know the way I really feel in regards to the gamers on this locker room and the coaches. That is what issues to me, so long as they know that.”