The Vikings’ Signing that May End Up Punching Above its Weight Class

Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell celebrates after Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandlers (32) touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Oftentimes, the headlines in NFL free agency can be dominated by the major money. Kirk Cousins and his staggering deal — 4 years and $180 million — certainly stand out, but the agreements for Christian Wilkins (4 years, $110M), Brian Burns (5 years, $141M), Jaylon Johnson (4 years, $76 million), and others got plenty of airtime.

The Vikings’ signings were no different, with the Jonathan Greenard (4 years, $76M) deal inspiring no shortage of digital ink being spilled.

However, one deal that may be a bit under the radar, both locally and nationally, is the deal for Aaron Jones. The former Packers running back is older and playing on just a single-season contract. The total financial commitment is just $7 million, but Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made a shrewd decision by onboarding the talented runner.

Aaron Jones is The Vikings’ Signing Who Can Spark Minnesota’s Offense

Before free agency got going, the Vikings moved on from Alexander Mattison. Doing so freed up $3.35 million in cap space.

Conveniently, Jones’ cap charge in 2024 — $3.5 million — basically functions as a dollars-in, dollars-out scenario. Part of the cost of doing business is taking a bite out of next year’s money to finance the operation; the 2025 budget is scheduled to have a $3.2 million dead money charge. Even still, it’s a pretty tidy bit of business for Minnesota’s GM.

Nov 5, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) celebrates with teammates after a touchdown catch against the Atlanta Falcons in the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

In an earlier piece for PurplePTSD, Bryce Lazenby gives the Vikings an A+ assessment for the Jones decision. Lazenby is impressed by the finances while also pointing toward the efficiency and the production: “Jones has had no trouble getting into the end zone in his career. Jones averages 5.0 yards per carry for his career and is also one of the most prolific receiving backs in the league.”

Injuries took a bite out of Jones’ 2023 season but the numbers were still impressive. The RB had 142 carries turn into 656 rushing yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns. In 2022, Jones was involved in all 17 games. His 213 carries went for 1,121 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Oct 29, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) tackles Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) during their football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Wm. Glasheen-USA TODAY Sports

In the past, Aaron Jones has pushed things to some insane totals for touchdowns, running the pigskin across the goal line 16 times back in 2019. And that was just while running the ball. He added on a trio of touchdowns through the air.

At no point in Jones’ career has he ever dipped below a 75.0 grade in the PFF scoring system. Mattison, in contrast, has only surpassed that mark once: back in 2020 when he snagged an 80.9 grade.

January 20, 2024; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) celebrates after a two point conversion against the San Francisco 49ers during the third quarter in a 2024 NFC divisional round game at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Very reasonably, most onlookers are preoccupied with who is going to play quarterback in Minnesota. No one within the current trio — Sam Darnold, Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall — inspires widespread confidence. Seeing as how the Vikings are armed with a pair of opening-round selections in a QB-rich draft, the speculation about bringing in a highly-regarded young passer is running rampant. Again, it all makes sense.

Just remember that Aaron Jones is the team’s new RB1. He is an efficient, powerful runner who promises to do damage to defenses that exaggerate their focus on Justin Jefferson.

Whoever is throwing the football is going to benefit from sharing a field with Jones.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference, PFF, and Over the Cap helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.