Dalvin Cook “Not Inclined” to Take a Pay Cut. What Does It Mean?

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With little else to discuss about the Minnesota Vikings during Super Bowl week in the NFL, we’ve reached the point in the team’s offseason where the rumors will begin swirling.

One such conversation surfaced early this week as a report from Darren Wolfson on Purple Daily referenced the current situation surrounding running back Dalvin Cook and the Vikings.

Wolfson shared that he had a conversation Tuesday morning that led him “to believe that right now…Dalvin [Cook} is not inclined to take a pay cut” from the Vikings.

Take a Pay Cut
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Cook, who is scheduled to make $14.1 million for the 2023 season, has three years left on his $63 million extension he signed back in 2020. As the Vikings are assessing all options to cut salary and rebuild a quickly aging defense, the running back in a passing offense with the sixth-largest cap hit next season will likely find himself with a target on his back.

Dalvin Cook “Not Inclined” to Take a Pay Cut. What Does It Mean?

So, this conversation — like any good reporter would do, Wolfson did not disclose the source of information, but let’s run with it as it seems to make enough sense.

There’s really no point in Cook taking a pay cut. He stayed healthy this season, performed decently well, and can always point the finger at a shifting offensive scheme and underperforming offensive line for any drop in metrics. So, the conclusion makes sense.

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But what does all of this mean for Cook and his future with the Vikings?

First, it means that there have likely been some conversations behind the scenes about a proposed pay cut. Whether these were just internal communications with the team or whether Cook’s agent was involved is what we don’t know. But it tells us, at the very least, the Vikings would like Cook to return, but it needs to be on their terms. What those terms are could dictate how seriously they want him back. If it’s fair but not accepted — so be it. Nobody wants to take a pay cut.

But if it’s dramatically lowballed, it might be a tactic to push the player out of the plan and save face. The whole “we made him an offer — it was him who turned it down” play is one of the oldest tricks in the book. But to say the least, we can reasonably assume that there has been some level of conversations regarding what it would look like to keep Cook in Minnesota.

Secondly, we can also assume there have been discussions on the contingency plan if Cook were not to be back in Minnesota. Cutting him outright is likely not the preferred option, with more than $9 million dead cap still on the books. So, what would it look like to trade him?

General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah in August of 2022 at Minnesota Vikings headquarters in Eagan, Minnesota.

As VikingsTerritory‘s Dustin Baker wrote this week, Cook is only a trade candidate due to the new leadership’s regime philosophy. Normally, general managers who boast an analytics-focused approach to the sport don’t spend big bucks on running backs. It’s the antithesis of the modern way to football operations. If Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer were still in charge, Cook would probably return in 2023. But they are not.”

With the projected compensation being somewhere in the range of a mid-round draft pick, the main gain here would be the savings in salary cap heading into the future. Depending on when he could get moved, the team would look to save anywhere from $8 million to $11 million for 2023. That’s a good chunk of change to consider all options when looking to get under the cap and rebuild the defense.

Next, we can use our powers of deductive reasoning to follow this train so far to assume that the Vikings might be interested in signing and retaining free-agent running back Alexander Mattison.

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If the team is in discussions regarding a pay cut with Cook, that means that they are also exploring options for replacing him. It’s also safe then to assume they won’t cut one high-priced running back to acquire another high-priced running back, rather that the position in the backfield might hold less of a value for Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell as it did for Zimmer and Spielman. So, what might be the best bet on the market may be the most familiar bet on the market, and that would be Mattison.

At the end of the day, this whole conversation and report surrounding Dalvin and his contract tell us that we’re seeing a changing of the guard and a changing of priorities from one regime to the next.

Maybe the entire league is following this shift, but for sure, the new-look Vikings are placing less value on game-changing running backs and more on passing, receiving, and defense. At least, that’s what all signs are pointing toward.

And at least that gives us something to talk about during the week of the season where everybody is celebrating the elite of the elite in the NFL — somewhere that the Vikings hope to get to sooner rather than later.