The next player featured in our free agency spotlight is former Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon.
As the Buccaneers look to improve their backfield following the release of former first round pick Doug Martin, don’t be surprised if they double dip – signing one in free agency and grabbing one in the draft. It makes the most sense for the free agent back to be a secondary guy – unless that guy is Le’Veon Bell – while whoever they draft becomes the primary back and a player that can grow with the young core of Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, and O.J. Howard.
Jerick McKinnon seems like that viable option to share the load in the Bucs’ backfield.
McKinnon was seldom used in Minnesota, but when he was he was effective. As part of a platoon throughout his career, McKinnon has plenty of tread left on the tires to be a solid half of a one-two punch for whichever team he signs with.
Jerick McKinnon’s Career
McKinnon was a third round pick for the Vikings in the 2014 draft out of Georgia Southern. In his four seasons, McKinnon has 474 carries for 1,918 yards and seven touchdowns. On the receiving end, he has 142 receptions on 191 targets for 984 yards and five touchdowns. On the ground, McKinnon averages four yards per carry, while he averages 6.9 yards per reception. He’s started fourteen games in his career while appearing in 58.
More from Bucs Free Agency
- Buccaneers lose free agent starter to Kansas City Chiefs
- Buccaneers free agent tracker: Who’s coming and going in 2023?
- 5 Buccaneers who probably won’t be back now that Tom Brady has retired
- Buccaneers are taking first step in the right direction for the offseason
- Why the Buccaneers should consider a near roster blow-up
McKinnon is a much faster running back than Martin was, clocking a 4.41 compared to that of Martin’s 4.55. At 5’9″, 205 lbs., he’s a short, strong back that has a similar style to that of Martin or a Maurice Jones-Drew, but would likely be more effective than Martin was in four of his last five seasons with the Bucs.
Why The Buccaneers Need Him
While Peyton Barber shows promise and has likely earned a solid share of the carries, the Bucs need depth at running back. With Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers being the two backs on the team, Jason Licht will likely be looking to add two more at minimum. McKinnon will be a solid contributor without breaking the bank. I’ve been preaching it for weeks, but cost effective players are key despite all the cap space. McKinnon, according to Spotrac, has a market value at about $4 million per season, comparing him statistically to players like Giovanni Bernard, Bilal Powell, and C.J. Anderson. Bernard is getting just north of $5.1 million, while Powell is at $3.75 and Anderson at $4.5.
Signing McKinnon gives the Bucs a reliable secondary back for low overhead. He can also take on some of the goal line situations should the Bucs draft a more speed oriented player like Sony Michel. A duel back set with McKinnon and Barber inside the five could give defenses fits, not knowing which back will be called upon to punch it in, giving the Buccaneers an advantage in the red zone – a place where they struggled mightily in 2017.
What Will McKinnon Cost?
As stated above, Spotrac has him marked at around a $4 million dollar average annual value. Given the running back market, none of these guys outside of Bell are going to break the bank, so it may be a slow burn. In a buyer’s market for these backs – McKinnon, Dion Lewis, Jeremy Hill, etc – the Bucs may even be able to snag a bargain.
My guess would be if the Bucs take their time and wait it out, they may be able to get McKinnon for around the $3.75 million range, but certainly no higher than $4.25 million. You’d likely look at a two or three year deal with one of those years likely being an option. If Licht and Co. are able to strike day two gold in the running back department, they won’t need McKinnon for long.
Will It Happen?
I think this is one of the more likely running back scenarios for Tampa Bay in the free agent frenzy. I don’t see them actually being in on Bell should he hit the market – which is unlikely at best – and McKinnon would fit a role that they need. With Lewis or Isaiah Crowell out there, it almost boils down to taster’s choice as to which back they want to heavily pursue.
Be sure to check back again tomorrow morning for the next free agent spotlight and be sure you’re checking out all the other spotlights we’ve done in the free agency section to get primed and prepped for the frenzy to kick off March 12.