Minnesota Vikings running back Matt Asiata was a restricted free agent a year ago, but the team signed him to a one-year deal. That year is now up and Asiata is once again a free agent, but this year he hits the market as an unrestricted free agent.
While Asiata’s snap count diminished this past season he still played a key role in the Vikings offense. For one, he is the most sure-handed running back on the Vikings roster and would usually be the one on the field in key points of games when the team needed to make sure the running back didn’t put the ball on the ground.
He was also on the field in a lot of passing situations because of his ability to pass block. That showed from the fact that he was on the field for 165 passing plays, compared to the 44 snaps he was on the field for running plays.
The last contract that Asiata signed was a one-year deal worth $800,000 with $100,000 guaranteed. The Vikings are likely going to try and re-sign Asiata, but there is a good chance that the offer they give him will be less than what they gave him a year ago.
In 2014, Asiata recorded 164 carries for 570 yards and nine touchdowns, while also recording 44 receptions for 312 yards and a touchdown. All those stats took a big hit in 2015 as he ran the ball just 29 times for 112 yards and zero touchdowns and also recorded 19 receptions for 132 yards and zero touchdowns.
Another thing that could affect his contract is the continued emergence of Jerick McKinnon. In 2014, McKinnon’s rookie season, Asiata was originally named the Vikings’ starting running back when Adrian Peterson was suspended. That role was eventually given to McKinnon, though, once he showed his ability to create big plays.
In 2015, Peterson returned and Asiata was the No. 2 running back, but that once again seemed to change late in the season as McKinnon’s role greatly increased, especially late in the season.
Still, Asiata provides strengths that both Peterson and McKinnon seem to lack, and that will likely lead to him receiving another contract offer from the Vikings.
Contract considerations: When trying to figure out what kind of contract Asiata could be offered, one player to look at is San Francisco 49ers running back Shaun Draughn. Both players are 28 years old and their 2015 snap count varied by just 63. Their stats from last season are also very similar, as Draughn recorded 76 rushes for 263 yards and a touchdown, while also recording 25 receptions for 175 yards and zero touchdowns.
Draughn is a restricted free agent this year, but signed a one-year deal worth $660,000 a year ago. That may be less than what Asiata made last offseason, but it is also more than the one-year $570,000 contract he signed before the start of the 2014 season.
Another player that could be looked at is Chris Polk of the Houston Texans. Polk’s 99 carries for 334 yards and one touchdown may be a bit higher than Asiata’s stats, but that is also because the Texans’ starting running back, Arian Foster, was lost for the season so Polk’s role was increased. Even with his increased snap count, Polk’s 16 receptions for 109 yards and one touchdown were still less than what Asiata recorded in the passing game a year ago.
Polk was signed to a one-year deal worth $760,000 last offseason, which is still less than what Asiata was given a year ago, but could be what he is likely to receive. That’s the minimum base salary for a player with four to six years of experience in the NFL.
Due to a decreased role in 2015, it is very possible that Asiata will be offered slightly less than what he was given a year ago, but he still offers the team a valuable skill set that they can use throughout the season.