Vikings Included in June ‘Trade List’

about Dalvin Cook
Nov 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) and offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw (71) and wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) and guard Ezra Cleveland (72) in action against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

A saga nearing three months, the Dalvin Cook sweepstakes, if rumors are to be believed, could climax in a few days.

Since the beginning of March, Cook has been a component of the NFL’s trade rumor mill machine, and if that quest theoretically failed, the 27-year-old tailback could be released.

Vikings Included in June Trade ‘List’

That’s the working theory, anyway, as Minnesota re-signed RB2 Alexander Mattison in March, a move seeming to imply an RB1 job for the Boise State alumnus. His deal was worth $7 million over two years, and for some NFL teams, that’s RB1 cash.

And as June 1st nears, the day when Minnesota can trade or release Cook for a lesser 2023 penalty, Cook’s inclusion in the rumor mill has increased, according to some. CBS Sports‘ Cody Benjamin compiled a list of the five most likely ‘cut and trade’ candidates, and Cook made the list.

Included in June
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) celebrates the win against the Indianapolis Colts after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the win, the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Benjamin explained, “Probably the favorite among all the big names listed to be cut loose, Cook has a sterling resume with four straight 1,100-yard rushing seasons to his name. It’s very possible he’ll eventually take a pay cut to stick in Minnesota, where the offensively minded Kevin O’Connell adores his natural athleticism.”

Cook tallied 1,173 yards in 2022, with 10 total touchdowns. His yards per carry dipped to a career-low. So did his yards over expected per-carry metric. But he incorporated long touchdown scampers that inarguably saved 3-4 Vikings games from oblivion.

Is There a Dalvin
Nov 16, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) during warms ups before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports.

“Still, going on 28 and due $14M+ in each of the next three years, with Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah pivoting to a younger setup, his release would save an instant $9M,” Benjamin concluded.

If the Vikings release Cook before June 1st, the club would save $5.9 million with an $8.2 million cap penalty. After that date, it’s $9 million in savings with a $5.1 million cap penalty. For a trade, sending Cook elsewhere before June 1st would save $7.8 million and fetch a mid-to-late round draft pick. Offloading Cook after June 1st via trade would save $11 million with a $3.1 million penalty.

The club has about $9.5 million available cap funds as of May 29th that could be spent on a Danielle Hunter contract extension, newcomer summer free agents, or simply carried over to the regular season or 2024 budget.

Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) looks on before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Cook could also reverse course and accept a paycut to stay with the Vikings if he learned his free-agent worth would be less than the hypothetical paycut. Ezekiel Elliott’s recent free agency has proven teams aren’t in a hurry to acquire aging tailbacks.

Too, when the Cook rumor mill boomed in March, Minnesota needed cap space to sign new free agents. But free agency came and went, Minnesota onboarded players like Byron Murphy (CB) and Marcus Davenport (OLB), and now has cap space without any movement at all on Cook’s deal. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah can actually afford to keep Cook if he sees fit.

Other players in the cut-or-trade zone per Benjamin? Ryan Tannehill (QB, TEN), Zach Ertz (TE, ARI), Patrick Queen (LB, BAL), and Shaquil Barrett (OLB, TB).

The Vikings also employ Ty Chandler, Kene Nwangwu, and rookie DeWayne McBride at running back in addition to Cook and Mattison.

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,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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