Sources: Vikings planning to release RB Mattison

INDIANAPOLIS – Less than a year after they gave him a two-year, $7 million deal that made him their top running back, the Vikings informed Alexander Mattison they plan to release him.

The team delivered the news to the running back on Thursday, putting an end to Mattison's five-year career in Minnesota after a disappointing 2023 season. The deal the Vikings gave Mattison last March effectively spelled the end of Dalvin Cook's time in Minnesota; Mattison, the former third-round pick who had backed up Cook for four seasons, was set to become the featured back in a revamped running game the Vikings hoped would be more efficient in 2023.

But his season was marked by turnovers; he fumbled three times, including costly fumbles against the Eagles and Broncos, and had a fumble overturned by review against the Chargers. Mattison finished the season with 700 yards, averaging only 3.9 yards per attempt, and though he scored three touchdowns as a receiver, he finished the year without a rushing TD. By the end of the season, he'd lost his starting role to Ty Chandler, and his future in the Vikings' backfield seemed in question.

Mattison was set to make $3.3 million in 2024, with $2.75 million guaranteed against injury at the time he signed the deal on the first day of free agency last March. The amount was set to become fully guaranteed if Mattison was on the Vikings' roster as of March 15. By releasing Mattison, the Vikings will save $3.3 million in salary cap space for 2024, giving them more than $39 million in cap space before any moves with veterans like safety Harrison Smith.

With Mattison on the way out, Chandler is the Vikings' top running back at the moment, with Cam Akers recovering from a torn Achilles and set to be a restricted free agent. The team was expected to pursue backfield upgrades in the draft this spring, though, and a running back could become an even more obvious need for the Vikings before the 2024 season.

The team finished the year ranked 29th in the NFL in rushing, and struggled in short-yardage and goal-line situations on the ground. The Vikings finished the year with just seven rushing touchdowns; Joshua Dobbs, who played five games at quarterback, tied Chandler for the team lead with three.

Mattison, a third-round pick out of Boise State in 2019, becomes a free agent after rushing for 2,370 yards and 11 touchdowns in his five seasons with the Vikings.