Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook has been on the cutting board for weeks, but a more favorable resolution to his tenure with the team has now presented itself.
Darren Wolfson of KSTP reported on the Thursday, March 9, edition of SKOR North’s Mackey and Judd show that a competing NFL franchise has reached out to Minnesota with an offer to trade for Cook.
“I did hear that there’s an offer in on Dalvin Cook,” Wolfson said.
Wolfson added that he is unclear on which team made the offer and is also unaware of the specific details of the trade proposal, but confirmed again that at least one has been made.
Trading Dalvin Cook After June 1 is Best-Case Scenario For Vikings
Cook’s production for the Vikings isn’t so much the problem as the amount the team must pay him to continue receiving it.
The running back signed a five-year extension worth $63 million back in 2020 that keeps him under contract through 2025. If the Vikings cut Cook prior to June 1, the team will save $5.9 million against the salary cap and incur an $8.2 million dead money hit. If they cut him after June 1, the savings will be $9 million with a dead money hit of only $5.2 million, per Over The Cap.
However, a trade is the better scenario for several reasons. Making a trade after June 1 would save Minnesota $11 million against the salary cap and cost just $3.1 million in dead money. Furthermore, the Vikings would get something back for the four-time Pro-Bowl running back.
Even if it’s a late-round pick, the return is far superior to the nothing Minnesota will get by cutting Cook. The Vikings have needs all over the roster and currently own just five draft selections in 2023, including one sixth-round compensatory pick.
Bears a Good Guess as Team That Offered Vikings Trade For Cook
The other solution would be to keep Cook on the books and hope he can continue to produce 1,000-yard seasons, which he has done the last four campaigns while averaging nearly 11 rushing touchdowns per season. However, Cook will cost more than $14 million against the Vikings’ cap in 2023 if he plays in purple and gold, with hits of $15.6 million and $13.5 million in the two seasons to follow.
Cook has been in the league just six years and will in 2023 at the age of 28, finishing up his current contract at age 30 should he remain in Minnesota. That age marker is generally viewed as the edge of the cliff over which running backs tend to plummet precipitously, which actually aligns Cook’s current contract exactly with a reasonable expectation of production.
However, paying an aging running back huge money is not generally a recipe for success in the contemporary NFL and does not fit with the analytics-driven style of management that governs the decision making of Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah — especially when his team is currently $15.8 million over the cap less than a week ahead of the start of free agency.
The facts render the logical exercise of trying to determine which team made the trade offer for Cook a fascinating one. What franchise is enthusiastic enough about the sport’s most devalued position to take on one of the heftiest running back contracts in the league?
The answer is likely a team with significant cap space that relies heavily on the run game. One good guess, then, is the NFC North Division rival Chicago Bears who have a decision of their own to make when it comes to paying pending unrestricted free agent David Montgomery.
Montgomery is just two years younger than Cook with two fewer years of NFL tread on his tires. But while talented and reasonably productive, Montgomery hasn’t played himself into Cook’s class of the top tier of professional running backs.
Chicago has a run-based attack with quarterback Justin Fields under center and may look to supplement that by being one of the few teams to actually spend big and long-term on the running back position — while competitors like the New York Giants and Las Vegas Raiders are using the franchise tag to keep top-flight backs like Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs in their respective uniforms next season, as the franchises attempt to configure feasible long-term plans.