Swift, coming off his first Pro Bowl season with the playoff-bound Philadelphia Eagles, is poised to reach free agency in the offseason. After three seasons with the Detroit Lions, Swift was traded for a fourth-round pick last offseason and has shined with the Eagles — tallying a career-high 1,049 yards rushing and adding 39 catches for 214 yards receiving.
The 2020 second-round pick is a true dual-threat out of the backfield with 195 receptions and 1,912 yards receiving in his four seasons as a pro. Often stalled at the line of scrimmage, the Vikings offense could have benefited from more screen passes to get their running backs in space in 2023 — and that happens to be Swift’s forte.
He caught all 24 of his targets he was thrown behind the line of scrimmage and gained 9.4 yards per reception, per Pro Football Focus. An effective screen game is reliant on strong run-blocking, but Swift is also one of the best at making defenders miss in open space as well.
Ty Chandler flashed late in the season and should contend for the starting reigns next season. But beyond Chandler, the Vikings don’t have any backs that match his speed and receiving ability.
Last season, it was clear that the running game was built around Mattison’s strengths. Adding Swift would signal a shift in run-game philosophy that would emphasize wide-zone runs that benefit speedy backs like Swift and Chandler.
Spotrac projected Swift to garner a contract worth $5.6 million a year in free agency after he’s earned $8.6 million across the four years of his rookie contract.
Vikings Are Unlikely to Cut Alexander Mattison
Vikings running back Alexander Mattison during a Week 11 matchup with the Broncos in 2023.
When the Vikings signed Mattison to a two-year contract in March 2022, it was a sign the team would move on from Dalvin Cook given the details of the contract.
Mattison received $6.35 million of the $7 million deal fully guaranteed, making it difficult to simply cut him if the Vikings find a replacement back. The Vikings would have to eat $4 million in dead cap and would free up only $600,000 by releasing Mattison this offseason.
A trade would make parting ways with Mattison more palatable. The Vikings would only be on the hook for $1.25 million and save $3.35 million in cap space by trading Mattison at any point in the offseason.
Once coveted as a reliable between-the-tackles runner who would often fall ahead for extra yardage, Mattison wasn’t the same in 2023.
He broke the fewest tackles (5) in his career last season despite seeing a career-high 180 carries. His 36 carries per broken tackle was the seventh-lowest rate in the NFL. He is also only the second running back since 2003 to have 180 rushing attempts and not a single rushing touchdown.
Mattison is most likely here to stay in Minnesota, but there must be some changes in the running game if the Vikings hope to be more successful in time of possession.
D’Andre Swift Could Fit the Mattison Role With Vikings
Despite his shiftiness, Swift is pound-for-pound one of the bigger backs in the league, weighing 215 pounds at just 5-foot-9. He’s shorter, yet weighs the same as Mattison.
Through his final seasons in Detroit, the Lions coaching staff was trying to coax more physicality out of Swift, which fits their running style with David Montgomery this season.
Although Swift isn’t quite a brawler, he has the frame to and lower center of gravity to win in short-yardage situations as well.