The Minnesota Vikings are facing some tough personnel decisions over the offseason, which could mean several familiar and successful faces will not return next year.
Among them is running back Dalvin Cook, who has spent the entirety of his NFL career in Minnesota. The Vikings need to cut more than $24 million from their budget ahead of the 2023 season, per Over The Cap.
Cook signed a five-year extension worth $63 million in 2020. He is scheduled to make a base salary of $10.4 million next year and carries a cap hit of $14.1 million. The Vikings can cut Cook for a cost of $6.2 million against the cap, which would take a nearly $8 million bite out their cap deficiency.
Trading Cook for draft capital would be a more ideal outcome, as the transaction would move Minnesota closer to the black — a place the team needs to get in order to supplement problem areas of the roster and avoid an on-field regression next year.
The media asked Cook about his contract situation on Monday, January 16, just one day after the New York Giants ended the Vikings’ season during the opening weekend of the playoffs.
“That’s another question that don’t got nothing to do with me,” Cook responded. “That has something to do with Kwesi [general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah], my agent and KO [head coach Kevin O’Connell].”
WR Adam Thielen Could Also be Cut by Vikings Over Offseason
If the Vikings do cut Cook prior to the start of next season, he won’t be leaving Minneapolis alone.
There are a handful of players on whom the team will need to make difficult choices, and many of them are beloved in Minnesota. Quarterback Kirk Cousins mentioned several of those players during a difficult postgame press conference following Sunday’s Wild Card loss.
“Cousins mentioned two pending free agents that he feels close to: center Garrett Bradbury and tailback Alexander Mattison,” Kevin Seifert of ESPN tweeted Sunday evening. “The Vikings could also have salary cap decisions on Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks and others.”
Thielen, a Minnesota native and fan favorite, has already restructured his contract in two consecutive seasons to help the franchise with financial maneuverability. If the Vikings ask the receiver to do so again and he declines, it could mark the end of his time with the franchise.
Selling Early on Cook Better Strategy For Vikings Than Selling Late
Cook was excellent again in 2022, putting up 1,173 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 264 carries. He also caught 39 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference (PFR). Prior to this year, Cook was named to the Pro Bowl in three consecutive campaigns.
However, at 27 years old and entering his seventh NFL season, there is reason to expect that Cook’s gradual decline as a backfield producer could begin as soon as a year or two from now. The running back position is more replaceable than any other and the more a rusher makes annually, the less value he has statistically over a league-average replacement.
If the Vikings decide to part ways with Cook, it could mean good news for Mattison. The former third-round draft pick came to Minnesota by way of Boise State and has earned just shy of $3.5 million across his four-year NFL career.
Mattison, who has played his entire professional life behind Cook, has rushed for 1,670 yards and 11 touchdowns on a total of 404 carries. He has also caught 70 passes for 526 yards and three touchdowns over that span, per PFR.