Last month, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported that the Minnesota Vikings could look to move a handful of their star players to create more cap space. Among those names was Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook.
According to Over The Cap, Cook is slated to have a cap hit of $11.8 million in 2022, the fourth-highest cap hit of any player in Minnesota. Trading Cook before June 1 would incur a dead cap hit of $9.3 million while only saving $2.5 million. A post-June 1 trade would be much more ideal for the Vikings, as they would only take on $3.1 million in dead cap while saving upwards of $8.7 million.
Cook is still viewed as an elite running back in the NFL. Last season, he totaled 1,158 rushing yards on 249 carries (4.7 yards per carry) and found the end zone a total of six times. It was a step back for Cook production wise. In 2020, Cook racked up over 1,500 rushing yards while averaging five yards per carry and scoring 17 total touchdowns. His Pro Football Focus grade of 89.0 in 2020 dropped all the way down to 65.8 this past year, which ranked 42nd out of 62 qualifying backs.
When it comes to trading top tier running backs in the NFL, it’s always better to trade the back a year too early as opposed to a year too late. Right now, Cook could have some real value on the trade block. Hoping for a first-round pick in return for Cook would be a bit optimistic. The last time a running back was traded for a first-round pick was back in 2013 when the Indianapolis Colts traded a first-round pick to Cleveland for Trent Richardson. But a second-round pick along with another late round selection could be on the table.
While it would be interesting to see how Cook fits into the Vikings new-look offense under new head coach Kevin O’Connell, the team already has some insurance at the running back position. Alexander Mattison proved to be a very capable back in 2021 whenever Cook was unavailable. In his four starts last year, Mattison averaged 89 rushing yards and a hair over four yards per carry, while finding the end zone twice.
There’s no denying Cook’s talent, but making a running back one of the top-five highest paid players on a team has always been a risky proposition. Of the top-eight highest paid running backs in the league (Cook is the fourth-highest paid back), only one them won a playoff game in 2021, Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon. Only two running backs out of the top-20 highest paid won a playoff game last year, Mixon and Tampa Bay’s Leonard Fournette.
The sad reality for running backs in today’s NFL is that they’re a dime a dozen. Even if a team has one of the elite guys, it rarely translates to team success.
The Vikings have several holes to fill heading into next year. Adding another draft pick or two with a Dalvin Cook trade could help the front office fill those needs, while still having Mattison as a reliable replacement for Cook.
If there’s a suitable offer on the table, Minnesota should absolutely consider pulling the trigger.