One tweet sent Minnesota Vikings fans and football commentators until a frenzy after an already turbulent offseason in Minnesota.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Dalvin Cook won’t participate in any team activities until he receives a “reasonable” contract offer, as the 24-year-old enters the final season of his rookie deal.
The 2017 running back class has taken the NFL by storm, and after the Carolina Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey became the highest-paid running back in NFL history (signing for $16 million a year), many in his class, including Cook, are seeking a payday in the next year.
And while these claims should be taken seriously, signs are pointing that the Vikings will reach an agreement with Cook for several reasons.
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New CBA Makes it More Costly to Hold Out
Cook’s potential holdout takes a play out of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s book. Elliott did not show up to most of the Cowboys training camp in 2019, which put the pressure on the Cowboys to eventually sign him to a $15 million a year contract.
But the new NFL collective bargaining agreement approved by a majority of players in March will make it much more costly for Cook to hold out. If Cook misses the first day of training camp, he would not fulfill his fourth accrued season under his rookie contract and could not reach unrestricted free agency in 2021.
Instead, Cook would become a restricted free agent, allowing the Vikings to use a restricted free agency tender and keep him at a reduced rate for the 2021 season. If a team offered Cook more than the Vikings, that prospective team would also have to give up a draft pick in order to sign Cook.
Given running backs shorter careers in the NFL, Cook’s second contract could be his biggest, and hitting restricted free agency could hurt his value in the long run.
Cook’s Becoming of a Team Leader
After a troubled past in Florida, Cook coming to Minnesota has brought many positive changes. He’s become a team captain, is looked upon as a leader in the locker room and has remained a role model in the community.
Vikings General Manager Spielman has a reputation for rewarding the players he drafts, and Cook is no expectation when Spielman spent a second-round draft pick on the Florida State product.
His 2019 production speaks to his value as not just a running back but as a receiving threat as well. Cook rushed for 1,135 yards and was second on the team in receptions, catching 53 passes for 519 receiving yards.
No, he is not going to match McCaffrey’s numbers in the air, but he has the intangible home run hitting ability among many of the league’s elite.
The Star Tribune Vikings beat writer Ben Goessling laid out a common trend among the team’s signings entering the first week of training camp:
”Mike Zimmer’s first camp in 2014 brought a new deal for tight end Kyle Rudolph. The team announced a contract extension for kicker Blair Walsh on the first weekend of its 2015 camp. The 2016 camp started with a two-year extension for Zimmer. Their 2017 camp began with a flurry — new deals for Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes and Linval Joseph — and 2018 was highlighted by a five-year contract for Stefon Diggs.”
Goessling added that despite concerns over the salary cap taking a hit in 2021 due to coronavirus and affecting contract negotiations, he’s optimistic Cook and the Vikings will reach an agreement:
”Still, despite what was said Monday, there’s a sensible wager to be made that if training camp opens on time next month, the Vikings and Cook will mark the occasion with a festive announcement that’s become almost an annual tradition.”
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