Amid an ongoing contract dispute with Dalvin Cook, the Minnesota Vikings have begun to fade the star running back from their image.
The Vikings media team unveiled the 2023 schedule with various graphics featuring the team’s most popular playmakers. Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson are all pictured while Cook is not.
In his place is Alexander Mattison, who signed a two-year $7 million contract this offseason that is nearly fully guaranteed. While omitting Cook from promotions isn’t a nail in the coffin, it is a sign of the murmurs going on inside the organization as moving on from Cook has become more likely.
Mattison signing a second contract in Minnesota after he played a career-low 25% of offensive snaps is a sure sign the Vikings intend to use the fifth-year running back more this upcoming season and potentially in a feature back role.
His return is also a leverage point for Minnesota to move on from Cook if he doesn’t take a pay cut.
Approaching the age of 28, Cook is due $14 million this season on the contract he signed in 2020 — a bill the new regime appears unwilling to pay with the transition to a more pass-happy offense under Kevin O’Connell.
Minnesota has had trade talks for Cook throughout the offseason, while June 1 is looking to be the cutoff date before the team cuts him and saves $9 million against the cap in 2023.
Dalvin Cook Throws Shade at Vikings
Cook is currently holding out from voluntary team activities this spring and has also thrown subtle shade at the Vikings, recently posting an Instagram photo of himself at the Pro Bowl and covering up the Norseman logo with an emoji.
Cook’s agent has also publicly bad-mouthed the Vikings, calling the team “mediocre” and questioning their ability to call plays.
Last season, Cook played all 18 games and posted a season-high 819 offensive snaps. However, his efficiency fell off a cliff. Cook led the NFL with 62 rushes of zero or negative yards, nearly a quarter of his total carries, per ESPN. According to Pro Football Focus, Cook left plenty out on the field, gaining 200 yards fewer than an average running back in the league on his opportunities — the most of any starting running back.
Whether that was due to blocking or Cook losing a step as an explosive runner remains to be seen and a question the front office has had to weigh throughout this offseason.
“It will be up to [Kwesi] Adofo-Mensah to determine if that [regression] was because he was slower to hit the hole, if his explosiveness has faded, or if the Vikings’ offensive line and scheme were largely to blame,” ESPN’s Kevin Seifert wrote in a January 26 article. “Anecdotally, he faced numerous instances of backfield penetration, and first contact with a defender came after 2.8 yards on average — the lowest mark of his career.”
Vikings 2o23 Schedule Release
The Vikings’ 2023 schedule release officially starts the countdown to the season.
A few quick hits for this year’s schedule:
- The Vikings are scheduled for five primetime games — the most since 2010 — and could have their season finale on the road against the Detroit Lions flexed dependent on the status of the NFC North title chase.
- Week 2 at the Philadelphia Eagles is a repeat of last year’s second game of the season.
- The Vikings open the division schedule in Week 6 at the Chicago Bears.
- The Vikings will have their bye on Week 13, their latest bye week since 1991.
- The Vikings host the Lions on Christmas Eve.
- The Vikings host the Green Bay Packers in primetime on New Year’s Eve.
Here’s the full schedule:
Week 1, Sept. 10: vs. Tampa Bay
Week 2, Sept. 14: at Philadelphia (TNF)
Week 3, Sept. 24: vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Week 4, Oct. 1: at. Carolina
Week 5, Oct. 8: vs. Kansas City
Week 6, Oct. 15: at Chicago
Week 7, Oct. 22: vs. San Francisco (MNF)
Week 8, Oct. 29: at Green Bay
Week 9, Nov. 5: at Atlanta
Week 10, Nov. 12: vs. New Orleans
Week 11, Nov. 19: at Denver (SNF)
Week 12, Nov. 27: vs. Chicago (MNF)
Week 13 Bye
Week 14, Dec. 10: at Las Vegas
Week 15, Dec. 17: at Cincinnati
Week 16, Dec. 24: vs. Detroit
Week 17, Dec. 31: vs. Green Bay (SNF)
Week 18, TBD: at Detroit