There might be no Cook in the kitchen for Minnesota come training camp.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is prepared to sit out until he gets a “reasonable extension,” something that could throw the Vikings a major curveball for 2020 and beyond. Per Schefter, Cook and the Vikings haven’t seen eye to eye on what exactly is “reasonable.”
Cook spent a lot of time feasting on opposing defenses in 2019, going for 1,654 scrimmage yards in 14 games as the Vikings’ No. 1 back, so it’s fair to expect the fourth-year man who is entering the last year of his deal to want a raise. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be simple.
Paying running backs in today’s NFL isn’t always an ideal situation given the wear and tear the position experiences. While the Vikings’ offense runs through the run, paying Cook, regardless of his production in 2019, presents something of a greater challenge.
The top four running backs in the NFL make $13 million or more a year, with Texans RB David Johnson making $13 million per season and more than $31 million guaranteed. Any deal that Cook wants would likely start there. That’s not going to be easy for Minnesota. Per Spotrac, the Vikings are projected to have roughly $29 million in cap space in 2021, leaving some room for Cook’s “reasonable extension” request. But how much is reasonable?
According to Schefter, Cook would likely want to surpass Johnson’s $13 million per year, putting the Vikings in a precarious spot: Do you give a raise to an oft-injured but explosive running back, or do you hope that Cook plays fair in negotiations in the midst of potential future cap issues?
It’s not an easy question to answer. Alexander Mattison had a solid rookie year behind Cook, averaging 4.6 yards per carry in 13 games, but the depth chart falls off after that. For a team that relies heavily on the run to support quarterback Kirk Cousins, entering the year with an unhappy, underpaid RB1 could be a recipe for disaster.
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