49ers Could Sign 4-Time Pro Bowl Running Back Before Playoffs

John Lynch

Getty 49ers general manager John Lynch could bring in Dalvin Cook.

With Christian McCaffrey sidelined until at least the NFC Divisional Round, the San Francisco 49ers could find help at running back.

Dalvin Cook, waived by the New York Jets on January 2, could fill that void in Week 18 and add depth for a playoff run. San Francisco could use another playmaker in an offense where they abound.

Signing Cook wouldn’t hurt the 49ers’ salary cap situation because they have $38 million in cap space available. Cook, who had a one-year, $7 million deal with the Jets, forfeited his remaining guarantees, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Cook, a four-time Pro Bowler and four-time 1,000-yard rusher, and the Jets “mutually agreed upon” the breakup so he could find a playoff team, according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini. A longtime Minnesota Vikings running back, Cook didn’t get much playing time in New York — 214 yards on 67 carries.

Minnesota never saw that little from Cook — even in his 2017 rookie year, which got cut short due to injury. Cook rushed for 354 yards and two touchdowns on 74 carries in four games that year.

He only took off from there, averaging 1,127.8 yards and 9 touchdowns per season. Even in 2022, Cook remained a home-run hitter for the Vikings with runs of 81, 53, 40, and 30 yards.

Part of why New York used Cook so little stemmed from the success of running back Breece Hall, who posted 816 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns through the first 16 games.

Dalvin Cook: ‘You Want to be Productive’

Cook had a strong 2022 season with 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns on 264 carries, a 4.4 yards per attempt average. Minnesota released him because of salary cap space over his five-year, $63 million deal with the team.

He signed with the Jets in August 2022 with visions of pairing with quarterback Aaron Rodgers for a Super Bowl run. Rodgers tore an Achilles in Week 1, and the Jets’ season sputtered and crash-landed after that.

“For any guy that has produced in this league, it’s frustrating,” Cook said on December 3, according to Cimini. “You want to be productive.”

Cook could find that late-season surge with the 49ers, a team that scores 29.4 points and tallies 141.5 rushing yards per game. He could also help a backfield that has a significant drop off after McCaffrey.

Elijah Mitchell has 61 carries for 229 yards and a touchdown in 10 games as the second-most productive back on the roster. Jordan Mason also had productive moments amid 34 carries for 170 yards and three touchdowns, but the Niners only play him on 7% of all offensive snaps.

Dalvin Cook Would Add Another Pass Catcher for Brock Purdy

Signing Cook would also give San Francisco one more solid pass catcher for quarterback Brock Purdy going into the playoffs.

Cook averaged 42 receptions for 340.8 yards and a touchdown in his final five seasons with the Vikings. The Jets didn’t enjoy that success with Cook as he caught 15 passes for 78 yards, but Jets also had a carousel at quarterback after Rodgers’ injury.

Purdy has utilized McCaffrey often in the passing game amid 67 receptions for 564 yards and seven touchdowns. That’s fourth among 49ers receivers this season behind Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, and Deebo Samuel.