You’re about to Learn Real Quick How Vikings GM Feels about RBs

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The Minnesota Vikings ran the football the third least in 2022, preferring a pass-happy approach. And when they rushed the pigskin, the franchise ranked 26th in yards per carry.

Therefore, in 2023, head coach Kevin O’Connell will either change his ways and feed not-yet-known running backs a little more — or double down on the pass-pass-pass mantra from 2022. A verdict will be available in seven months.

You’re about to Learn Real Quick How Vikings GM Feels about RBs

In the meantime, Vikings fans are about to learn just how fond O’Connell’s boss, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, is of paying running backs.

Vikings GM Feels about
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Why is it a mystery? Well, when Adofo-Mensah inherited the team, Dalvin Cook lived on the roster, and he’s one of the top-paid tailbacks in the world. The Vikings seemed to “let it ride” with Cook in O’Connell’s and Adofo-Mensah’s maiden voyage. The result was mostly successful — when they used Cook.

But now, in Year Two, folks expect Adofo-Mensah to sculpt the team in a manner more aligned with his ideals. Adofo-Mensah is renowned for an “analytics background,” and that philosophy typically doesn’t endorse paying halfbacks the megabucks. Something’s gotta give.

Well, the Vikings Now Have a 2x4.
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Cook, the team’s unabashed RB1, is on deck for a $14.1 million cap hit in 2023, the fourth-most in the NFL. The cash-strapped Vikings may look to Cook’s contract for restructuring, trade, or outright release. It’s one of the offseason’s largest mysteries.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted last week, “Vikings’ Pro-Bowl RB Dalvin Cook, who is second in the NFL in total yards since 2019, underwent surgery today to fix the broken shoulder he suffered in that same year, 2019.”

Schefter concluded the tweet by quoting Cook’s agent as saying, “Dalvin has been absolutely dominant and we cannot wait until September.”

So, Cook is getting all fixed up — for something. Some believe that’s Chapter Two with his next team. Others maintain the procedure helps Cook guarantee an extra $2 million in his bank account this offseason. Cook tweeted after the Schefter post, “Everything great !! Now let’s get a Super Bowl !! ??.”

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That tweet sure sounds like a man who wants to win a chip with the Vikings. Yet, here’s the deal — a decision on his contract is up to Adofo-Mensah. Will the “Wall Street guy” executive really employ the fourth highest-paid running back on the team that runs the ball the third least? It’d be funky if so.

In addition, Cook’s running mate, Alexander Mattison, is a true-blue free agent. He can sign anywhere in the league on March 15th. He could be on tap for a second contract with the Vikings, especially if Cook departs, or perhaps get showcased as a different team’s RB1. If Adofo-Mesah parts ways will Cook, will he grant Mattison a Cook-lite contract? You’re about to find out.

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Wait, there’s more. Adofo-Mensah also has two other running backs on the roster, and they are affordable. One is kick returner and RB4 Kene Nwnagwu, who is faster than a Bugatti; the other is Ty Chandler from the University of North Carolina, a man personally chosen by Adofo-Mensah in the 2022 NFL Draft. Those two are cheap. Cook is not. And Mattison is somewhere in the middle.

Finally, a nifty graph:

Super Bowl-winning teams don’t pay running backs large contracts. They just don’t — like ever. If the Vikings continue to pay Cook, Mattison, or a free agent on the open market more than $3 million per season, they’re cognizantly telling themselves, “we will be the team to defy RB logic from the last 15 seasons.”

Does that sound like something an “analytics guy” would do? You’ll get a verdict in mere weeks.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by