Ham Boned: Is O’Connell’s Scheme Trashing a Top 3 Full Back’s Career?

C.J. Ham is the most recent Minnesota Vikings fullback to make a Pro Bowl in 2019. Oddly, the Vikings have had a knack for getting Pro Bowl fullbacks, but in an age of increased awareness of how much these players affect the offense, Ham will probably be remembered above others. Even with this notoriety, Ham saw heavily reduced usage last season and is in talks of being released. Does this mark the end of an underrated era?

Ham was born and raised in Duluth, Minnesota, playing football at Duluth-Denfeld High School. After going to Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Ham declared for the 2016 NFL Draft. While 1,000+ yards rushing and 400+ yards receiving is nothing to scoff at, it’s not exactly eye-catching, especially at a Division II school. Those stats weren’t enough to get selected in the Draft, but he’d be invited to Vikings rookie minicamp soon after. One move to being a full-time fullback later and Ham would quickly rise from practice squad fodder to starter, becoming a major cog in Minnesota’s rushing attack, acting as a lead blocker most times for Dalvin Cook. In 2020, Ham signed a three-year, $12.25 million deal that runs to this day. However, that contract is in jeopardy.

Despite being one of the best non-offensive line blockers in the NFL, Ham might be on his way out. He was hardly ever on the field this past season, some snap counts reaching as low as three snaps for an entire game. I understand that O’Connell has a different offensive scheme, but to almost completely delete a Pro Bowler from the playbook? Ridiculous. I think one of the worst parts of these trade/release rumors is that Ham gets paid a pittance compared to others on the team. With a base salary of $2,950,000 and a cap hit of $3,800,000, I really don’t understand prioritizing dumping him over other older and worse veterans. Maybe I’d understand if he was older, but he’s not even 30 yet. This overall seems like a bottom-of-the-bucket-list item this offseason, and I hope the front office considers all options before putting Minnesota’s favorite fullback out of a job.
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