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Vikings May Not See Four-Time Pro Bowler Back In Purple

Vikings’ running back Dalvin Cook earned his fourth Pro Bowl selection this season and broke off some key big plays during the Vikings’ 13-4 season. But, can the Vikings afford to keep him for next year?


The Vikings have been blessed in recent years to have Dalvin Cook leading the team’s backfield. While his durability has not been perfect, he has more than made up for missed time with his production in purple.

Let’s Start With Appreciation

This article is what fans like me write about because we are football addicts. In the off-season, the business side of the game gives us a lot to ponder and discuss. But before I get there, let’s remind ourselves why this is going to be tough if we have to see Cook leave; he has been a great Vikings running back.

We recently learned that Cook has earned his fourth Pro Bowl selection as he takes the place of injured Dallas RB, Tony Pollard. Dalvin now ranks third all-time in rushing yards for the Vikings with 5,993. He is only behind Robert Smith and Adrian Peterson. His 82.1 rushing yards per game for his career is good for second-best behind AP. And with statistics aside, he has always been a unique player capable of clutch catches out of the backfield and completing long touchdown runs.

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This run shows how, even now, Cook possesses break-away speed.

But Running Backs Age Differently

Unfortunately, in today’s NFL, running backs do not do much once they are north of age 28. While there are exceptions, the beating RBs take every week takes a toll on even the most elite athletes. Our colleague John laid out some alarming statistics regarding the decline of Dalvin on the last episode of The Daily Skol podcast.

The fact of the matter is that Cook is in the part of his career where his elite playmaking ability has started to decline, and the Vikings are now forced with a conundrum regarding Cook: how valuable is he to this team going forward? Again, I led this piece with appreciation; I am nothing but grateful for the work Cook has put in here in Minnesota. That said, the smart business move appears to be to move on from Four.

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Money Is Everything (Unfortunately)

Dalvin Cook’s 2023 salary ranks him as the sixth-highest-paid RB in the league. While he has earned the pay he has received, can the Vikings afford to keep him at that cost? Or, would another team be willing to take on his contract in a trade?

These are the questions that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and the Vikings’ staff should already be pondering intensively. If the Vikings cut or trade Cook by June, they will save eight million dollars in cap space. With this team desperately needing offensive line and defensive improvements, all available cap space could become vital this off-season.

Alright, Do We Just Say Goodbye, Then?

Yes. Or no? Maybe? There is always the possibility of restructuring Cook, who is still under contract through the 2025 season. I highly doubt he stays on this contract until then, but a restructured deal might work.

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Dalvin struggled in some pretty key metrics this past season but also proved he could make big plays when needed.

As a fan, I would be content with him back on a team-friendly deal, and if the understanding is that there is more of a committee in the backfield. The Vikings’ running game was not at championship standard last year, and they need to do something to make it better.

So It’s Goodbye, Then?

Most likely, at least in my opinion. I see the Vikings either cutting Cook or finding a trade partner. Again, though, his contract will not be enticing to all teams. Also, in the modern NFL, running back by committee (RBBC) is a strategy very much en vogue, and it’s hard to imagine a team taking on Cook’s contract before June.

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With a trade seemingly unlikely, I guess that the Vikings will attempt a restructuring, but that Dalvin will not want to take the pay cut (rightfully so). The Vikings, then, say goodbye before June to save some cap money, and then Cook will sign with the highest bidder as training camps get underway. Or, he will wait and see which teams get hit hardest with the injury bug at RB, and sign somewhere that needs him in a pinch. For the record, I do not like the business side of things, and I wish it were irrelevant.

How Would The Vikings Address Cook’s Departure?

If Cook leaves, the Vikings would presumably hand the reins over to Alexander Mattison, who has been quite effective when given the opportunity. The issue here, though, is that Mattison is a free agent. He will earn a pretty good paycheck somewhere, and it’s hard to envision the Vikings getting into another long-term, expensive deal with a running back.

That leaves the Vikings with a young backfield consisting of Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu. While both of these guys have shown flashes and will hopefully get a lot of opportunities, the Vikings would still do well to bring in someone else. Here are my three best options:

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  1. Devin Singletary. Singletary has been a reliable and effective weapon in Buffalo and will be a free agent in 2023. And while he has been effective, he has never been a true bell cow. This, to me, says that he will be affordable, and a good, experienced option to bring in.
  2. Kareem Hunt. Hunt is 28 years old but has never led a backfield. He has been one of the NFL’s elite pass-catching running backs in his career, and I think he would be a perfect weapon to have on the Vikings’ committee.
  3. Draft well. Of course, the cheapest option here would be to draft a guy the Vikings think is going to be great and then run a young, athletic committee in 2023. This would be a great option, but there will be uncertainty about whether or not they make the right pick.

Why Didn’t I Mention The Big Names?

I think this list does a good job of laying out the top RB free agents in 2023. There are plenty of good names here, as well, but Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Tony Pollard are a tier above the guys behind them on this list. And while all three of these players are great, I think they will be too expensive to go after.

All three are 26 years old and younger and should command the top of the market value for RB. It doesn’t make sense for the Vikings to pursue one of these guys when their main motivation from moving on from Dalvin Cook should be to add cap space. I think they should avoid all three, but I would potentially make an exception for Pollard. He is explosive, and probably very eager to get more snaps going forward. Also, having to share with Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas has limited some of the wear-and-tear on his body.

Other Off-season Questions?

The Vikings will have a lot more decisions to make regarding some of their older core players. Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, and C.J. Ham are a few names that come to mind as well. The good news is that I do not think this squad needs to go full rebuild, and handling the Dalvin Cook situation smartly is definitely one of the top priorities.

What do you think? Let me know, @Jlime8 on Twitter, and make sure to come back to Stadium Rant all off-season for mock drafts and rampant speculation!

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Written By

I am a lifelong Vikings fan who ascribes to the maddening cliche, "There's always next year." As an eternal optimist I fully expect the Vikings to win the Super Bowl each and every year, so that should give you some understanding as to the level of my delusion. This delusion may, at times, sneak into my articles. If that's bothersome, my apologies. I am also a passionate husband, father, and teacher, and I enjoy writing about the Vikings for Stadium Rant!

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