Shortly after the news hit that Cook would be released by the Vikings, Smith took to Twitter to rev up the rumor mill. Smith tweeted the eyeballs emoji, the universal sign that something could be going down. Speculation ran wild in the comments.
“Dalvin boutta sign that vet minimum and win a championship in CLE,” one fan tweeted.
“Oh boy! Looks like Cook will be a Brown very shortly,” another said.
Others were not so keen on the idea of Cook landing in Cleveland.
“Last thing we need is another running back, I’m riding with 24,” another commenter wrote, referencing Nick Chubb.
Perhaps it’s just Smith trying to rile up the fanbase with speculation, or maybe the powerful pass-rusher knows something. Either way, the timing is interesting.
The Browns restructured the deal of tight end Harrison Bryant on Thursday, which will add to their $15.84 million in cap space for this season.
Browns Are in Need of Reliable Backup to Nick Chubb
If Cook did indeed land in Cleveland, there’s no doubt it’d be in a complimentary role to Chubb, who is one of the best backs in the league and is coming off a 1,500-yard season. However, with Kareem Hunt out of the picture, the Browns are in need of a proven backup with pass-catching ability. Cook would be overqualified but a tremendous get if the Browns could convince him.
Cook has notched three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, including a 1,557-yard, 16-touchdown campaign in 2020. In six seasons, Cook has recorded 221 catches for 1794 yards and eight touchdowns. He is only 27 years old and still has some tread on his tires despite some injury concerns.
The Browns are expected to rely on second-year back Jerome Ford to be the primary backup to Chubb. He was selected in the fifth round of the 2022 draft out of Cincinnati. Ford had just eight carries for 12 yards last season, per Pro Football Focus, but also returned kicks and is a capable pass-catcher.
If it’s indeed a championship or bust mindset in Cleveland for general manager Andrew Berry and Co., they’ll explore what it will take to get Cook.
Browns Have Linked Up With Multiple Ex-Vikings
The Browns executed a trade with the Vikings for Smith earlier this offseason, snagging him for a pair of fifth-round picks. Cleveland also got 2025 sixth and seventh-round picks in return.
Cleveland also inked former Vikings defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson to a hefty deal in free agency. The big lineman joked about Smith wanting to follow him to Cleveland.
“Super excited. I used to joke with him, like he was going to miss me that much he had to come follow me out here,” Tomlinson said at Browns minicamp on Wednesday, June 7. “Super excited to have Z back out here with me.”
Smith has notched double-digit sacks in three of his last four seasons. The lone time he did not was in 2021 when he missed all but one game with a back injury. He is coming off an impressive Pro Bowl season in Minnesota where he had 10 sacks, 44 tackles (15 for loss), a career-high five passes defensed and one forced fumble. His production slowed in the second half of the season due to a knee injury but Smith says he’s healthy heading into his first season in Cleveland.
“I felt like Z is a super tough person and he just kept fighting and just kept playing some great football throughout the whole season,” Tomlinson said. “And as long as he stays Z, I feel like he’ll be fine no matter what.”
Smith and Tomlinson will link up with All-Pro Myles Garrett on the defensive line, who is coming off back-to-back 16-sack campaigns.