Has Dalvin Cook Played His Last Down in Minnesota?

Vikings Might Pounce
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Slipping to the 2nd round in the 2017 NFL Draft, Minnesota selected Dalvin Cook at 41st overall. Since entering the league, he has been one of the most dynamic backs in football, and his ability to both run and catch has made him a consistent weapon. Having played his age-27 season, have we seen the last of him with the Vikings?

Coming out of Florida State, there was never a doubt about how talented Dalvin Cook was. He slipped in the draft for off-field reasons, and the Vikings were confident they could help work through that narrative. We have seen them be right in that regard, and Minnesota has been rewarded with one of the most consistently productive running backs over the past six seasons.

Has Dalvin Cook Played His Last Down in Minnesota?

If there has been a bugaboo in Cook’s game, it has been availability. Four of his six years in the NFL have accumulated less than a full regular season of games. He accomplished a complete season of health for the first time this year, and it came with the most substantially diminished returns. He has also had fumbling issues in the past, but nothing to the same level of concern as his ability to stay on the field.

Has Dalvin Cook Played
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. © JAMIE GERMANO / USA TODAY NETWORK.

When on the field, there has rarely been uncertainty about what Cook would bring to the table. In 2022 the Vikings running back cleared the 1,000-yard mark for the fourth straight season. Being named to his first Pro Bowl in 2019, Cook also was given substantial consideration as the AP Comeback Player of the Year. His 13 touchdowns in 14 games were tallied alongside 1,135 yards. 2020 was certainly Cook’s best season for Minnesota. He was again named to the Pro Bowl and surpassed 1,500 yards for the first time while racking up 16 touchdowns on the ground in just 14 games.

Under new offensive mind head coach Kevin O’Connell, the assumption was that Cook would be more dynamically integrated into the offense. It is fair to say that the Vikings were substantially less predictable than in recent seasons, but Cook’s production fell off a cliff. In 17 games, he averaged under 70 yards per game, and despite being touted as a receiving threat, his 2.3 receptions per game were a career low.

Big Things Cooking for Dalvin Cook
Sasquatch and Dalvin Cook.

There is definitely no way to spin it and suggest that Cook has nothing left in the tank. However, the reality is that he is an aging running back with considerable tread on the tires and a lengthy injury history. For Minnesota, there is an opportunity to feature the likes of Alexander Mattison alongside Kene Nwanwgu and Ty Chandler if they choose to move on from Cook.

From a contract perspective, this is the time for the Vikings to move on. Should general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah see this offseason as the point to part ways, Minnesota would be on the hook for just over a $6 million dead cap hit. Conversely, rostering Cook in 2023 would incur more than a $14 million hit to the salary cap. For a team looking at drastic changes across the board, that’s a significant chunk of change to be wrapped into a replaceable running back.

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There is no denying that Cook will represent a player hard to move on from. He has become a fan favorite and consistently performed in a purple uniform. It will be weird to see him somewhere else a year from now, but it certainly looks like that is the most logical way to go. If the Vikings can extract a pick from anyone in exchange, that would be the preferred route, but cutting him can’t be out of the question.

It’s probably safe to assume Cook played his last snap for the Vikings.

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.