Every day we’ll take a look at one of the Minnesota Vikings heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before and a prognosis on whether or not he’ll be back with the club in 2014.
Free agent to be: Toby Gerhart
Position: Running back
Years in the league: 4
What he made last season: $1,013,500 (cap number); $642,500 (cash value)
What he did last season: Gerhart continued to prove himself a reliable backup for Adrian Peterson, carrying eight times for 91 yards in a Nov. 24 tie with Green Bay and capping a 15-carry, 89-yard afternoon with a 41-yard touchdown run against Baltimore on Dec. 8. Gerhart strained his right hamstring on the touchdown, and didn't carry again for the rest of the season, but still managed 283 yards on a career-low 36 carries, which works out to an impressive average of 7.9 yards per carry.
His potential market value: Gerhart turns 27 this spring, but has carried just 276 times in his NFL career. That's one light season for Peterson, and in those 276 carries, Gerhart has gained 1,305 yards. He was a Heisman finalist in college, and there might be a team that takes a look at Gerhart and determines he can have a bigger role in an offense than he's had with the Vikings.
Will he still fit the Vikings? Yes. But the question is, will the Vikings fit him? They could likely offer him a few more carries as Peterson gets older, but they probably won't be as focused on the run as they'd been with Bill Musgrave running the offense. And if you're Gerhart, looking at a contract that could carry you through the rest of your prime as a running back, would you want to come back for another tour as Peterson's understudy? The Vikings' problem might be that they can't dissuade Gerhart from wanting to ply his trade somewhere else.
What happens: The guess here is Gerhart leaves, even though the Vikings would like to keep him. In the end, they might only serve to boost his market value for another team. San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh coached Gerhart at Stanford. With Frank Gore turning 31 in May, might Harbaugh angle for a reunion in San Francisco? It's a possibility.