The Tennessee Titans should make adding Minnesota Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon in free agency an offseason priority.
Last week, I discussed the importance of the Tennessee Titans making potential upgrades to the interior offensive line. That isn’t the only area in need of an upgrade. The Titans reportedly will move on from RB DeMarco Murray before the season. If so, soon-to-be free agent RB Jerick McKinnon would be a quality replacement, as the Minnesota Vikings will likely be without him after this past season.
Initially, beginning the season buried in the depth chart behind rookie RB Dalvin Cook and free agent acquisition RB Latavius Murray, McKinnon found himself in a familiar role he’d been in before. Getting drafted to a Vikings team featuring RB Adrian Peterson as the primary ball carrier usually means spending a lot of time on the sidelines.
However, due to Peterson’s injury, McKinnon found himself in the starting role and did fairly well in his rookie campaign. A back injury ended McKinnon’s rookie season prematurely. In 11 games, McKinnon compiled 538 yards on 113 attempts, but didn’t manage to find the end zone. Peterson later returned to the featured role, and McKinnon’s touches were few and far between.
McKinnon put up his lowest numbers (naturally) during his sophomore season. In his third season, Peterson went down with another injury. McKinnon split the workload with RB Matt Asiata. McKinnon led the team in rushing and was fifth in receiving. The following year, the Vikings running back stable suffered the departure of Peterson and welcomed the arrival of Murray and Cook, but that did not rattle McKinnon.
When Cook went down for the season, Murray and McKinnon became the one-two punch in the backfield. McKinnon would finish the season with 46 more yards from scrimmage than Murray despite having 30 less touches. McKinnon did more damage than his counterpart in the postseason.
According to McKinnon, he will be moving on and will likely be in a different uniform next season. The Titans must pursue McKinnon.
He’s athletic and his versatility makes him much more than just a ball carrier. He can catch, make plays, run hard and would be a nice weapon for QB Marcus Mariota should DeMarco be gone. McKinnon could be featured in spread sets as a receiver and has demonstrated he is capable of making plays through the air. The only knock on McKinnon has been ball security. If he can keep that under control, he would be a nice addition to the Titans backfield.
McKinnon emphasized that he wants a bigger role on offense. If he finds a suitor looking to make him the featured back, Tennessee could lose out on acquiring McKinnon. One team who could make it difficult is the New York Giants. With Pat Shurmur taking over, he may want to provide QB Eli Manning with a back familiar with his offense. It would also give Shurmur the option to draft a back without being forced to inject him in the starting lineup. If Shurmur can entice McKinnon to consider taking his talents to the “Big Apple” to be “the guy”, the Titans may not be able to compete.
If the Titans do miss out on the McKinnon sweepstakes, New England Patriots RB Dion Lewis is also set to be a free agent. If Lewis is looking for a change of scenery, GM Jon Robinson may inquire about adding another football guy from Foxborough.