Vikings 4-Time Pro Bowler Tops List of June Cut Candidates

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Vikings

Getty General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah of the Minnesota Vikings speaks to the media during the NFL Combine in February 2023.

The Minnesota Vikings are on the precipice of parting ways with one of the franchise’s biggest stars in a generation.

Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports on Tuesday, May 30, named four-time Pro-Bowl running back Dalvin Cook among his top trade and cut candidates after June 1. Minnesota can bump its salary cap savings to $9 million by waiting until after that date to release Cook, or raise them to $11 million by trading the rusher at that point, per Over The Cap.

“Probably the favorite among all the big names listed to be cut loose, Cook has a sterling resumé with four straight 1,100-yard rushing seasons to his name,” Benjamin wrote. “It’s very possible he’ll eventually take a pay cut to stick in Minnesota, where the offensively-minded [head coach] Kevin O’Connell adores his natural athleticism.”

“Still, going on 28 [years old] and due $14 [million-plus] in each of the next three years, with Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah pivoting to a younger setup, [Cook’s] release would save an instant $9 [million],” Benjamin continued.

Vikings Shouldn’t Rush to Cut Dalvin Cook, Should Seek Trade

Dalvin Cook, Vikings

GettyRunning back Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings participates in warmups prior to a game against the Green Bay Packers in January 2023.

The conversation around the Vikings star running back has been cooking for months, and the math hasn’t changed. If the team is unable to find a compromise that allows Cook to remain in Minnesota at a less-than-prohibitive cost, the most favorable scenario for the Vikings is to trade him.

A post-June 1 trade saves more money against the 2023 salary cap than any other conclusion while also bringing back some kind of draft asset(s) in return. The problem is Cook’s contract.

Running back becomes more devalued as a position in the modern NFL with each passing year. A guy like Cook is among a handful of players talented and versatile enough to buck the trend of looking to younger, cheaper options once a team’s starter becomes eligible for a second contract and starts hunting bigger dollars.

That’s why Cook earned his five-year, $63 million contract with Minnesota in the first place. But that deal originated under a different regime, with a different general manager and a different head coach calling the shots.

Trading for Cook now costs another team something like a fifth-round pick, not to mention that franchise would have to take on the running back’s contract as it is. Waiting for the Vikings to cut Cook allows a competitor to sign him to a new, less prohibitive deal without forfeiting an asset in return.

As such, the only way it makes sense for a trade partner to talk with Minnesota now is if the market of good teams that are arguably one playmaker away from a Super Bowl is wide enough that a franchise bites on a trade for Cook out of fear that the running back lands elsewhere.

Vikings Betting Big on Backup RB Alexander Mattison

Alexander Mattison

GettyRunning back Alexander Mattison of the Minnesota Vikings.

While it behooves the Vikings to exhaust all potential trade avenues, the likelihood is that the team ends up cutting Cook over the next several days or weeks. If that happens, long-time Vikings backup Alexander Mattison will step into a starting role.

Minnesota signed Mattison to a two-year contract worth $7 million this offseason. The running back will enter his fifth NFL campaign in 2023 at the age of 25.

Since the Vikings drafted him out of Boise State in the third round back in 2019, Mattison has tallied 1,670 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns to go along with 526 receiving yards and three scores, per Pro Football Reference.

Read More