Vikings GM Sidesteps Questions about 1 Playmaker

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Nov 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah talks with head coach Kevin O’Connell prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings will make some significant decisions in the next few weeks. Free agency, especially the first wave with big changes, is over. The focus shifts to the draft. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell must hit some of the picks in their second attempt in charge to reload the roster with some young talent.

When young players come in, older players leave the team. In the current offseason, veterans Eric Kendricks and Adam Thielen had to exit the franchise after they spent their whole careers in Minnesota. A few more guys might be on their way out.

Vikings GM Sidesteps Questions about 1 Playmaker

Vikings GM Sidesteps Questions About 1 Playmaker
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

The top two guys who might depart from the organization are Dalvin Cook and Za’Darius Smith. The latter requested his release earlier in the offseason, a request the Vikings could grant because of the signing of another edge rusher, Marcus Davenport. However, they probably scan the league for trade opportunities, as Smith is too good to lose for no compensation.

Running back Dalvin Cook didn’t request anything, but the Vikings could be ready to move on from their pricey offensive weapon. The two reasons are easy to spot. Cook will be 28 years old when the season begins. That is past the prime of most backs in today’s NFL. In addition to that, a trade would save the organization almost $8 million in cap space. The last years in the NFL proved that a cheap running back committee is the way to go instead of paying one runner a lot of money.

Vikings on Another
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before the game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

When Adofo-Mensah was asked at a press conference if Cook would be on the roster in the upcoming season, he sidestepped the question and didn’t commit to either keeping him or parting ways with the running back:

“Conversations are always ongoing with him. We’re trying to be solutions-oriented and always trying to put the roster together within our constraints, and we’ll continue those conversations.”

Of course, the goal for the team officials in those press conferences is to be as vague as possible. General managers rarely show their cards in public to keep maximum flexibility. Neither the media nor the other teams in the league are supposed to know what the team plans to do. Answers like that leave room for speculation but nothing more.

Oct 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) and running back Alexander Mattison (2) look on before the game against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The speculation, in this case, didn’t change much. Minnesota re-signed Alexander Mattison in free agency to a lucrative two-year contract. His annual salary of $3.5 million is more than a backup would usually get in today’s market for running backs. The contract suggests a bigger role for the veteran running back in his fifth season. Adofo-Mensah later added in the press conference that Cook and Mattison could exist together “in theory,” which doesn’t sound like Cook will be with the Vikings in 2023.

Only the Dallas Cowboys have a bigger cap hit on the running back position than the Vikings in 2023. The team also committed to C.J. Ham when he received a surprising contract extension a few weeks ago. Most people expected Ham to be cut because his role was declining in Kevin O’Connell’s offense.

The Vikings are still cap-strapped. The extra $8 million in a Cook trade are tempting. In addition, the Vikings could get some draft capital in return which is significant considering the team only has five draft picks.

Dec 18, 2021; Shreveport, LA, USA; UAB Blazers running back DeWayne McBride (22) breaks a tackle against the BYU Cougars linebacker Max Tooley (31) during the fourth quarter during the 2021 Independence Bowl at Independence Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

One of those picks, maybe even the pick the team gets in return for Cook, could be used for a cheap replacement or a player who could work in a true committee with Mattison. A potential candidate is DeWayne McBride, who the Vikings hosted for a visit on Wednesday.

Everything is currently on the table. A Cook trade should gain traction in the next few weeks. A trade during the draft is possible. Dealing away Cook probably nets the Vikings a mid-to-late-round selection.

The star running back has played in 73 games for the Vikings and recorded 5,993 rushing yards and 47 rushing touchdowns. He ranks third and fourth in those categories in Vikings history.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt