Vikings Drop Major Hint on Futures of Dalvin Cook, Za’Darius Smith

Dalvin Cook, Vikings

Getty Running back Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings warms up prior to the NFC Wild Card game against the New York Giants in January 2023.

The Minnesota Vikings may end up making multiple trades on or before draft day, including two involving running back Dalvin Cook and edge rusher Za’Darius Smith.

Both players were early topics of conversation during a press conference on Thursday, April 13, which featured general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell. Media members inquired as to the statuses of both Smith and Cook, specifically whether either will be on the roster in 2023.

“Again, conversations are always ongoing with [Cook],” Adof0-Mensah said. “We’re trying to be solutions-oriented and always trying to put the roster together within our constraints, and we’ll continue those conversations.”

The Vikings opened said conversations by asking Cook to take a discount ahead of what will be the third season in a five-year deal worth $63 million in total. Cook declined the pay cut, shortly after which his agent Zac Hiller ridiculed the Vikings offense, particularly the play calling. Not long after those developments, news broke that Minnesota received a trade offer for Cook.

A reporter followed up with a question about whether the Vikings would have committed two years and a guaranteed $7 million to Cook’s backup Alexander Mattison if the team was sure Cook would be returning to the roster in 2023.

“Yeah, I think in theory they could exist [together], of course,” Adofo-Mensah responded. “We talk about the systems we’re trying to play together, they’re different styles of backs. They could fit complimentary together, for sure.”

Cook rushed for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, as well as caught 39 passes for 295 yards and two scores on his way to a fourth consecutive Pro-Bowl season, per Pro Football Reference.

Vikings Face Tough Choices After Smith’s Request For Release

Za'Darius, San Francisco 49ers

GettyOutside linebackers D.J. Wonnum (left) and Za’Darius Smith (right) of the Minnesota Vikings celebrate a sack during a game against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 9, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

The media’s question about Smith and whether he would be in the building on Monday, April 17, for the official first day of the new NFL season actually preceded the discussion on Cook.

Smith’s status with the team has also been up in the air after he put his Minnesota home up for sale then subsequently asked for his release in early March, a request which the Vikings denied in short order.

“We’re in ongoing communication with [Smith] and his representatives,” Adofo-Mensah said. “[Monday] is voluntary, so those aren’t things that we’re necessarily concerned with. But we try and be solutions-oriented here. … Sometimes those solutions come from different places or whatever but, you know, he [was] a great member of our team last year, and we’ll keep the communication ongoing.”

Smith finished the season with 10.5 sacks to lead the team, though he slowed down considerably during the second half of the year. Despite a meager finish to the 2023 campaign, Smith earned his third Pro-Bowl nod in the last four seasons.

Vikings May Trade Top Pick in NFL Draft, Select QB to Replace Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins, Vikings

GettyQuarterback Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings reacts during a game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on October 6, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Cook and Smith may not be the only starters on their way out of Minnesota, as the team remains non-committal to a long-term future with quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Cousins isn’t likely going anywhere prior to, or during, the upcoming season. However, his contract expires in 2024 and the two sides have made little to no progress on any kind of extension.

Adofo-Mensah refused to say definitively whether the Vikings will select a signal-caller in the upcoming NFL Draft, though all signs point to that being the most likely outcome as Minnesota seeks a successor to its soon to be 35-year-old starting quarterback.

Depending on which player(s) they target, the Vikings may be required to trade up a significant number of spots in the first round to guarantee they get their man under center. However, Adofo-Mensah said on Thursday that he is less concerned the the number of picks Minnesota makes than he is with the quality of those selections.

“To me it’s not necessarily about the number of picks, it’s about the impact of those picks that you have,” Adofo-Mensah explained. “So if you can find an impact player with your first pick or whatever, you don’t have to trade back to get two players who might not add up to that same impact. We’re going to do it the way we’ve always done it, trying to make decisions to find impactful players that fit our culture and the way we’re trying to go about business.”

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