Matt Asiata looked like a candidate to carve out a bigger backfield role with a new team in free agency, but the 28-year-old running back is reportedly returning to the Minnesota Vikings after testing his value on the open market.
Asiata put together a strong 2014 season as he assumed a heavier workload with Adrian Peterson on the commissioner's exempt list, but he watched his numbers drop quite a bit throughout the 2015 campaign.
With Peterson back in the fold and change-of-pace speedster Jerick McKinnon evolving into a bigger piece of the team's backfield rotation, Asiata was left to play the role of short-yardage bulldozer and reliable pass protector.
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But as the Star Tribune's Matt Vensel explained, Asiata still has value as "the team’s best backfield pass protector, a reliable goal-line runner and brings value on special teams."
And while he may not possess McKinnon's speed in space or Peterson's ability to slip through small spaces and break off big gains, Asiata is the sort of low-maintenance back who can keep the chains moving for a Vikings offense that had serious trouble picking up yards through the air last season.
"I think Asiata is a good, tough runner that has good feet," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said, per Chris Corso of the team's official website. "I think he does a lot of good things for this football team and not just running the ball – pass protection. But when he’s in, he usually has positive yards when he’s rushing. That’s the biggest thing."
The biggest thing with Asiata is there seems to be a strong sense of role acceptance on his part that the Vikings appreciate. In that regard, it makes plenty of sense that the two sides would want to extend their commitment to one another.
With Peterson operating as the bell cow and McKinnon being groomed for the starting gig, Asiata should seamlessly slide back into a familiar spot in Minnesota's backfield.