Why Dalvin Cook May Stay with the Vikings

3 Vikings You Gotta Watch at DET
Oct 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

As of May 28th, the Minnesota Vikings are paying running backs the fourth-most dollars leaguewide in 2023, per OverTheCap.com.

Why Dalvin Cook May Stay with the Vikings

Spending $19.3 million on Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, Kene Nwangwu, and [soon] rookie DeWayne McBride is only topped by the Dallas Cowboys ($30M), Tennessee Titans ($21M), and the Cleveland Browns ($19.4M).

And since early March, virtually every Vikings fan, pundit, and website (this one included) has projected Dalvin Cook to head elsewhere as an inevitable cap casualty. But with Cook still on the roster nearing Memorial Day, perhaps that theory is incorrect. Here’s why.

A Paycut with Vikings May Not Be ‘Bad’

There Is a Dalvin Cook Plot Twist
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.

Ezekiel Elliott might’ve screwed this one up for Cook, or more realistically, the NFL has. Running backs aren’t too valuable anymore, and after Elliott’s release from the Cowboys, it’s crickets on his free agency. No team will hand the man a fat satchel of cash.

Of course, Cook won’t want to take a paycut in Minnesota — would you enjoy it at your job? — but the dollars and cents could make more sense than signing a dinker contract with a team such as the Denver Broncos or Buffalo Bills. For example, if Cook agrees to slash his pay to $7 million or so, well, that might be more money than some other team would give him in free agency.

Perhaps Cook and his agent believed he’d be a hot commodity on the open market. If the market doesn’t agree, he could earn more money via a Vikings paycut, if that can be believed.

Vikings No Longer Need Cap Space

Why Dalvin Cook May
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New York Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence (97) tackles Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Listen, Minnesota desperately needed cap space to sign free agents when the trade-Cook and release-Cook theories ran roughshod on the internet in March. Then, the team’s front office did nothing with Cook, released many expensive and aging veterans, and conducted a cap conversion on Kirk Cousins’ contract.

Currently, Minnesota has $9.5 million in cap space to extend Danielle Hunter, sign extra summer free agents, or save for a rainy day. Cutting or trading Cook is no longer required — plain and simple. Folks just assume they will do it because for the Moneyball + Wall Street general manager, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, paying running backs out the wazoo doesn’t seem logical.

Still, Minnesota’s summer salary cap is in decent shape, and retaining Cook is financially feasible.

Cook Loves the Vikings

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.

A source told VikingsTerritory this week that Cook could remain on the roster until training camp. At that point, the Vikings could examine the lay of the land in the NFL. A premiere non-Viking running back could get hurt — and boom — Cook’s trade value would instantly become more appealing.

The same source also asserted that Cook earnestly loves the Minnesota Vikings. He’s not chomping at the bit to leave. Marry this emotion with the it-could-be-smarter-to-take-a-paycut logic above, and Cook could keep wearing purple and gold clothing for another year.

Moral of the story? This isn’t a nasty or resentful standoff.

A Dinky Trade Market for RBs

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.

Cook will turn 28 this summer, and in NFL-speak, that means he could have 1-3 quality seasons left. When the San Francisco 49ers swung a mammoth deal for Christian McCaffrey, they probably believed he had about four years left on the internal clock.

The Vikings trade conversations with potential suitors are likely underwhelming. If a team offers a menial 6th-Rounder for Cook, at what point would Adofo-Mensah convince himself that retaining Cook is a better value? He could be at that inflection point now.

Trading a running back isn’t what it was, say, in 2015. RBs’ value lives in Hades.

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.