Dalvin Cook Had a Rough Day, and It Wasn’t His Fault.

AFC East Arms Race
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) during warmups before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Monday marked the deadline for NFL teams to finagle deals with franchise-tagged players.

And the day whimpered.

Dalvin Cook Had a Rough Day, and It Wasn’t His Fault.

Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants, Tony Pollard from the Dallas Cowboys, and Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs did not come to terms on new contracts, and a mysterious months-long period of ‘now what?’ appears underway.

Rough Day
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (97) during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

ESPN Adam Schefter tweeted, “With no long-term deals for Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard, the last time a RB signed a long-term contract worth $10 million or more per year was Nick Chubb in 2021 — 716 days ago.”

Meanwhile, Monday was a bad day for former Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who is currently a free agent. Here’s why.

The Money Won’t Be There

Crickets So Far
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs the ball during the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

Per the Schefter tweet, a running back hasn’t been afforded a contract north of $10 million annually in about two years.

Ten million is the number reportedly sought by Cook amid his free agency, and he flat out won’t be ‘the guy’ to break the streak. Barkley, Pollard, or Jacobs would’ve broken the ice — if anyone was going to do so in the first place.

With no halfbacks getting their way, Monday’s deadline was a severe chin check on the reality of Cook’s free agency. He won’t fetch $10 million annually — and he was never going to. Now, he must readjust his mindset and merely hope for a respectable deal, or he’ll be waiting for a long time to play football again.

Dangerous Territory for RBs

Dec 18, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (28) warms up before a game against the New England Patriots at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

Out of frustration, Derrick Henry said it best Monday via tweet, “At this point, just take the RB position out the game then. The ones that want to be great & work as hard as they can to give their all to an organization, just seems like it don’t even matter. I’m with every RB that’s fighting to get what they deserve.”

The NFL has a large problem. Teams emphatically don’t need high-priced running backs to win Super Bowls. Try to find the last time a team needed a famous bellcow tailback to win the chip. You’ll be searching for quite some time.

Still, running backs deserve to be paid — at least in fairness compared to other players — but general managers are very wisely opting not to break the bank on such players. Some WR3s are earning more than RB1s.

Cook’s first free agency is transpiring at a historically-bad low point for the vitality of running backs in the sport.

Now What for Cook?

a Dalvin Cook
Dec 9, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) looks on and smiles during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Well, Cook will have to pause, reflect, and accept an offer from the highest bidder — that will likely pay him close to $5 million or so. If teams won’t pay Barkley, Pollard, or Jacobs more than $10 million, no team will magically think, “Wait, let’s just pay Dalvin Cook a huge contract instead.”

Cook has suitors. The Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, and Dallas Cowboys have headlined the Cook rumor mill for about four months.

There is a place in the NFL for Cook, rest assured. But Monday proved he won’t gain the hefty contract he desires. He’ll have to sign a modest deal with a team of his choosing — or return to the Vikings at a price his original paycut suggested months ago.

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.