The Minnesota Vikings contract negotiations’ with Dalvin Cook have been quiet through July as training camp approaches on Tuesday.
Cook missed the final two weeks of virtual team meetings and has held to the initial report that he won’t participate in any team-related activities until he receives a “reasonable” deal, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
It was believed that the Vikings had all the leverage under the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) which would make it much more costly for Cook to holdout, but a recent development in the ongoing discussions between the league and NFL Players Association may have just pushed the ball back into Cook’s court.
Players Can Fulfill a Full Season of Their Contracts In a Single Game
Under the CBA that was passed back in February, players who missed the first day of training camp would lose an accrued season to their contracts. Cook, if his holdout stretched into training camp, would not fulfill the fourth year of his rookie contract and become a restricted free agent next season, which would likely lead to the Vikings keeping him for another season at a discount before he could reach unrestricted free agency the following season.
But now, players can accrue a full season to their contracts under two conditions: they are rostered for Week 1 of the regular season and play in at least one game, according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano.
“Players were told on NFLPA rep call that, as long as you’re on the Week 1 roster and you play at least one game, your contract this year won’t toll and you’ll still get an accrued season and benefits,” Graziano tweeted.
Graziano also said that there are provisions for in-season opt-outs. If the season is canceled, any player rostered in the regular season would receive a $300,000 stipend.
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Would Dalvin Cook Opt-Out?
In theory, Cook could play in Week 1, then opt-out of the season and become an unrestricted free agent in 2021. Some fans had knee-jerk reactions to Graziano’s news that, after Week 1, there could be a flood of players who opt-out.
It’s plausible, although I concede unlikely. You don’t think Jamal Adams or Yannick Ngakoue would love the chance to stick it to ownership right now though?
— Common Sense Squirrel (@justthemesseng4) July 24, 2020
But is it likely in Cook’s case? If his character and relationship with the Vikings are any indications, no.
Cook has come from a troubled past in Florida to become a team leader and captain of the Vikings and a role model in the community. He’s shown a love for the game and opting out, due to a contract dispute and not from the risk of illness, would be uncharacteristic.
The short shelf-life of NFL running backs could also play a factor. Cook could see this season as his chance to prove he is an elite running back in the league and deserves to be paid like one, or he could see it as a year to avoid the damage and protect the longevity of his career.
Regardless of whether Cook plays or opts-out after one game this season, if he does not agree to a long-term contract with the Vikings, he would enter one of the most competitive free-agency markets among running backs seen in recent years that includes Alvin Kamara, Leonard Fournette, Aaron Jones, Joe Mixon and several other upper-echelon backs.
The Vikings currently have $9.45 million in cap space this season, per Sportrac, after signing all 15 drafted rookies. For comparison, Tennessee Titans running back and NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry carries a $6 million cap hit this season on his new his four-year, $50 million contract.
Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.