Vikings Have a Glaring Need in the 2025 Offseason

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
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The Minnesota Vikings signed veteran running back Aaron Jones away from their rival Green Bay Packers in the early stages of the 2024 free agency legal negotiations period.

One Position Is a Glaring Need for Vikings In The 2025 Offseason
Dec 31, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jayden Reed (11) celebrates his touchdown with running back Aaron Jones (33) against the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

While it is widely accepted, and quite obvious, to be blunt, that he will add a layer to the Vikings’ offense, it isn’t an acquisition that will align with long-term aspirations for Kevin O’Connell and the offense he is trying to achieve in the Twin Cities.

It’s a pessimistic way of mind to insinuate that the signing of Jones, which has virtually no downside on a cool 1-year/$7 million deal, will be one that heeds little-to-no payoff in the way of the long-term vision for the Vikings’ offensive side of the ball.

That’s not to say that the signing of Jones isn’t worth it, but what is being hinted at here is that the Vikings are going to be right back in the running back market in 2025, which they found themselves in this offseason. With the healthy amount of mid-round running back prospects in the most recent NFL Draft, many hypothesized that the Vikings would look toward them to fill the need at the position.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 31, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) and Minnesota Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (23) push each other after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

They didn’t, and for this year, the signing of Jones makes it forgivable. However, with Jones being on a one-year deal and turning 30 this December, he won’t be wearing Vikings purple for a long time whatsoever. For 2024, Jones will provide something that the Vikings haven’t had since the days of prime Dalvin Cook: a truly competent all-around starting runningback. That will be vital for bridge QB Sam Darnold and possibly J.J. McCarthy if he is to lace up the cleats in his rookie season.

The Vikings have taken a “Moneyball” approach to running backs, with the $7 million commitment to Jones being their biggest investment. It’s hard to see that with their approach, they will spend one of their limited draft selections in 2025, though that is still far away, and many things can change. That being said, it is entirely possible that the Vikings dip their feet right back into the slightly cold free-agency waters.

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) leaves the field after their wild-card playoff game Sunday, January 14, 2024 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Green Bay Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys 48-32.

Naturally, Jones is the biggest name as it stands in the free agency pool of running backs. It would be foolish to outright declare that the Vikings wouldn’t even consider bringing Jones back for another one-year stint next season, but that would be a kicking the can on a position of need for another season. With their bountiful cap space next season, they could, however, look to other slightly younger names that they could technically afford to “overpay.” This isn’t a call for that to happen, as you shouldn’t overspend valuable cap space just because you have the ability.

The free agency class next season isn’t exactly fruitful when it comes to the running back position. Other than Jones, the top name of the class is current Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner, who will also be 30 years old by the time the legal negotiation window opens. Looking beyond, it doesn’t get much better.

While Nick Chubb surely is a name, it’s hard to expect he will be the player he was before the catastrophic leg injury he suffered last season, but he could prove to still be that guy this year in his final season under contract with Cleveland. Still, it would be an iffy maneuver. If Chubb displays that he still has his game this year, he will do very well and likely stay there. He will be 29 by the time he is free to negotiate with other teams.

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) rushes for yards behind Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter (64) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Cleveland, Ohio.

There are a couple of mid-level names that are interesting, like Jeff Wilson, A.J. Dillon, Samaje Perine, and, most notably, Javonte Williams. Oh, and Alexander Mattison.

All of this worry about a starting running back goes out the window if Ty Chandler continues to improve and proves he can be relied on to head an NFL run game. He was the most impressive back on the team last year, though that bar was low. Either way, the Vikings will need to look at running backs again next season, even if Chandler has some success unless Cam Akers is the same running back after his second Achilles tear.

All in all, whether or not the Vikings choose to give Aaron Jones another year after this one, the Vikings will be immediately back in conversations about the running back position. These kinds of discussions about positions you lack are completely normal when talking about a team that is in a mini-rebuild, so this isn’t all to say Aaron Jones was a bad signing or that the running back position is being mismanaged whatsoever. It would just be optimal if there was a concrete plan before J.J. McCarthy takes the reigns full-time.