If Robert Smith Said It, It Cannot Be Foolish.

Oct 3, 1993; San Francisco, CA, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Robert Smith (20) carries the ball against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. FILE PHOTO; Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings released running back Dalvin Cook last week, a move expected by the NFL masses if general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could not swing a trade.

Cook is now a free agent.

If Robert Smith Said It, It Cannot Be Foolish.

Many perceived the move as a ‘tear it down’ measure for the Vikings roster, although offloading expensive players’ contracts — especially belonging to aging veterans — has been Adofo-Mensah’s modus operandi all offseason. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio even likened Minnesota’s team-building strategy to the bottom-feeding Arizona Cardinals, “Whether that’s tanking or strategic rebuilding is a matter of semantics. The Vikings aren’t prioritizing winning as many games as possible in 2023, just like the Cardinals.”

Vikings Might Pounce
Nov 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) looks on prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

As a voice of reason, though, former Vikings halfback Robert Smith opined on Cook’s release, explaining the club’s rationale. He tweeted Thursday, “Many will blame the salary cap, but cap hits can be manipulated if both sides agree on value moving forward.”

Smith is Minnesota’s second-leading rusher of all time behind Adrian Peterson — one spot ahead of Cook.

If Robert Smith
Nov 1, 1998; Tampa, FL, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Robert Smith (26) carries the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. FILE PHOTO; Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports.

“If the Vikings thought he was worth his contract, they would have kept him, if another team thought he was worth his current deal, they would have traded for him,” Smith concluded.

Cook was scheduled for a $14.1 million cap hit in 2023, a number considered too large from the onset of the offseason. The Vikings hired Adofo-Mensah 17 months ago, and he was labeled an ‘analytics’ and ‘Moneyball’ guy from his Wall Street background. Those types tend not to urge the payment of giant salaries to running backs and are part of the equation determining the lowering of RB value. Tailbacks used to be showcased as the focal points of team’s offenses — much like seven-foot centers in the NBA — but the league has pivoted to pass-happiness, dampening the vitality of pricey RBs.

Has Dalvin Cook Played
Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) and Buffalo Bills defender in overtime at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

Then, Adofo-Mensah re-signed Cook’s teammate, Alexander Mattison, in March for two years and $7 million, all but ending Cook’s existence on the roster at a $14.1 million salary cap pricepoint. Had Cook stayed, the Vikings would’ve ranked near the top of the NFL in RB salaries — a totally backward phenomenon for a Moneyball GM.

Moreover, the franchise drafted DeWayne McBride from the University of Alabama-Birmingham in April. Along with Mattison, second-year runner Ty Chandler, and kick returner Kene Nwangwu, Minnesota has running backs galore sans Cook.

Oct 13, 1996; Tampa, FL, USA; FILE PHOTO; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp (99) chases Minnesota Vikings running back Robert Smith (26) at Tampa Stadium. The Bucs defeated the Vikings 24-13. Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports.

And according to Smith — who should understand RB value to the utmost based on his resume — the decision to cut ties with Cook isn’t incredibly surprising. Had the Vikings believed Cook was worth $14.1 million, he would’ve remained in Minnesota for a seventh hurrah.

They did not, and Cook will play elsewhere during his age-28 season this September.

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).

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