MINNEAPOLIS -- Latavius Murray has never carried the ball more than 266 times in a season, and he's been asked to run a route on more snaps in his career (626) than he's been handed the ball (543).
He's 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, but he attracted interest by running a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. Roughly 43 percent of his career touches have come out of shotgun or pistol sets. He's an effective pass-blocker, and he joins the Minnesota Vikings on a three-year deal that can be voided after one season, likely at a price befitting a running back who won't be the center of the offense.
Essentially, in signing Murray, the Vikings are modernizing their treatment at running back.
That's a significant development for a team that has relied on Adrian Peterson for the better part of a decade, and it comes during the first offseason in seven years when the Vikings know they'll have a quarterback making more than $10 million. It also comes in the middle of what appears to be a philosophical shift for the Vikings on offense, and it all but signals the end of Peterson's time in Minnesota.
The Vikings' scheme is fully under the direction of Pat Shurmur now, and his running backs need to be able to line up in the shotgun and catch passes out of the backfield. Murray is at least functional there, having caught 91 passes the past three years with the Raiders (including one where Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano served as the team's interim head coach). Jerick McKinnon caught 43 passes last season, and seemed to be catching on as a part-time slot receiver at the end of 2015.
Though Shurmur stressed the need to improve the running game last month, it no longer figures to be the centerpiece of their offense. It will be a complementary element, as it is for most NFL teams; it can help keep defenses off guard and put the Vikings in position to extend a drive on a short Sam Bradford pass on third-and-4, rather than punting after a short throw on third-and-7. But the Vikings' budget is now fixated on a quarterback, and their scheme will be, too.
Time will tell whether the approach works, and the Vikings' results will depend on whether they have the right players to build a more efficient offense by throwing the ball more. Neither Murray nor McKinnon, for all of their physical gifts, has proved to been an electrifying player on the field, and the Vikings will have to see if their personnel will indeed make them more explosive on offense. But the arrival of Murray, and the likely departure of Peterson, means the Vikings are likely headed toward modern NFL orthodoxy on offense. Their transformation could be fascinating to watch.