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 he’ll be back with the club in 2016. You can find the entire series here:
Free agent to be: Matt Asiata
Position: Running back
Years in the league: 4
What he made last season: $800,000 (cap number); $800,000 (cash value)
What he did last season: Asiata, who scored 10 touchdowns in 2014, moved back into a smaller role following the return of Adrian Peterson in 2015, but still found a niche in the offense as a third-down back. He caught 19 passes for 132 yards -- posting more yards as a receiver than he did as a runner -- and played 162 of his 209 snaps on pass plays, according to Pro Football Focus. He didn't score a touchdown, as Peterson went back to getting the goal-line carries. But as his role on offense was reduced, Asiata went back to being a valuable blocker on the Vikings' kick return units, helping spring Cordarrelle Patterson for two touchdowns.
His potential market value: He'll be 29 in July, and he's best as a niche player -- a third-down back, a special teams contributor and a goal-line option. That's not going to command big money, but Asiata is a reliable, hard-nosed player who'd fit in a number of places.
Will he still fit the Vikings? Yes. If Peterson improves as a pass blocker and receiver to the point where he's on the field on third downs more often next year, Asiata might not have much of a role. But he'd return cheaply enough, and the Vikings think highly enough of him, that it's easy to see him back in 2016.
What happens: The Vikings will give Asiata a one- or two-year deal with a modest amount of guaranteed money. He could have to fight for a roster spot in training camp -- it's hard to see the Vikings not bringing in a young running back or two, possibly a rookie free agent -- but Asiata's value on special teams and his reliability on offense should keep him around.