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Vikings release RB Mattison with their ground game still in need of a boost

Alexander Mattison Minnesota Vikings Alexander Mattison - The Canadian Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings released running back Alexander Mattison on Monday, with the club continuing to seek solutions to a lagging rushing attack.

Mattison was coming off an unremarkable first season as the primary ball carrier and lost the starting job to Ty Chandler for the last four games. Mattison rushed for a career-high 700 yards and had three receiving touchdowns, but a lack of explosiveness at the line minimized his impact.

The move will clear $3.35 million from Minnesota’s salary cap and leave just $1.25 million in dead money from the two-year, $7 million contract he signed prior to last season. The Vikings cut four-time Pro Bowl pick Dalvin Cook for cap savings last year and turned the backfield over to Mattison, one of the most popular and respected players in the locker room.

Mattison had 25 attempts that went for negative yardage, according to Sportradar data, tied for the ninth most in the NFL, and his average of 3.86 yards per carry ranked 34th among running backs in the league with 100 or more attempts. The 2019 third-round draft pick out of Boise State had only one rush that gained 20 or more yards.

Mattison was charged with seven dropped passes, per Sportradar, and also lost a critical fumble in a 21-20 defeat at Denver late in the third quarter with the Vikings leading by nine points and in field-goal range with a fresh set of downs.

Chandler had 123 touches for 620 yards from scrimmage last season and will figure heavily into the game plan for 2024, but the Vikings will likely look hard at their options in free agency with numerous accomplished players on the market at the league's most undervalued skill position. The draft will be another place to assess their options for upgrading the backfield.

The Vikings ranked 29th in the NFL in rushing yards per game and 24th in rushing yards per attempt.