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‘Samaje Perine Season’ Begins for Minnesota

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Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) hands off to running back Samaje Perine (34) in the fourth quarter of the NFL divisional playoff football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. © Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The Minnesota Vikings have plenty of decisions to make this offseason regarding roster construction. The defense will likely be watching some very notable names leave, and so may the offense. Needing to sort out the running back room, Samaje Perine could be a name that emerges as a replacement.

Following their heart-wrenching loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game, the Cincinnati Bengals season is over. That means, following his two-year, $3.3 million contract, Samaje Perine will be a free agent. Joe Mixon has been the bell cow back for the Bengals in recent seasons, and that has limited Perine’s usage, but he looks the part of a consistent NFL runner.

‘Samaje Perine Season’ Begins for Minnesota

For Minnesota, it seems more and more likely that Dalvin Cook could be on his way out. Leaking oil as he ages and producing to the lowest levels of his career in 2022, Cook could be a cap casualty for the Vikings. Looking to offload his salary would free up necessary dollars for other improvements, and Kevin O’Connell has worked with far less at running back while winning.

Samaje Perine Season
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) flips the ball to Cincinnati Bengals running back Samaje Perine (34) in the first quarter during a Week 15 NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Perine put up just shy of 400 yards this season for the Bengals. He played in all 16 games but made just two starts. In both games in which Perine took over for Mixon, the Bengals won, and his 21 carries against the Kansas City Chiefs racked up 106 yards. His usage this season was more than it had ever been in Cincinnati, and he got run, unlike any point since his rookie season with Washington.

Playing next season at 28 years old, it’s not as though Perine is incredibly young. What he does have going for him is that he hasn’t taken a ton of hits and should have plenty of wear left on his tires. Across 76 NFL games, Perine has started just 11 times and has carried the rock on just 401 attempts. To say he should be relatively fresh would be a fair assessment.

Jan 22, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Samaje Perine (34) runs on the field during warmups before an AFC divisional round game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

Like Cook and other backs O’Connell has utilized in the past, Perine can also catch the ball out of the backfield. His 51 targets in 2022 were a career-high, and he turned the 38 receptions into nearly 300 yards with an additional four touchdowns. Knowing that the Minnesota offensive gameplan will look to remain dynamic next season, there is no reason why that type of production can’t work.

In pushing out Cook and Alexander Mattison, the Vikings could opt for a more fluid running back situation. Perine has never truly been the lead back, and he could allow Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu to filter in behind him. Although Chandler missed plenty of time last year, a second development season could take shape quickly with a veteran leading the charge.

Cincinnati Bengals running back Samaje Perine (34) catches a pass in the red zone before the play is called back for holding in the first quarter during an NFL wild-card playoff football game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. The Ravens led 10-9 at halftime. © Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Perine shouldn’t carry a bank-breaking price tag, and that also represents a bonus for Minnesota. Rather than paying for a big name or frontline back, finding a way to extract value from this type of addition makes a lot of sense. Minnesota may be tempted with a running back in the draft, but this avenue may make navigating things easier.


Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.



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