The Best Trade Fit for Dalvin Cook

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

While there has been no shortage of trade speculation, Dalvin Cook remains a Minnesota Viking.

The well-paid RB – he’s carrying a $14,101,272 cap hit – is set to begin his 7th NFL season once September arrives. Somehow, he’s still only 27, so there’s good reason to believe that he still has productive football ahead of him. Will that football be played for the Purple & Gold?

The Vikings Could Be Shaking Things Up in Their RB Room
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs on the field during warmups before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

That remains to be seen.

If Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell decide that it’s time to move on, there’s one team that makes a ton of sense: the Buffalo Bills.

The Super Bowl-contenders are led by none other than Josh Allen and former-Viking Stefon Diggs. Defensively, they boast players like Von Miller, Matt Milano, Tre’Davious White, and several others. Last season, the team finished 2nd in the NFL in points per game, averaging an impressive 28.4 points per contest. Oh, and their defense also came in 2nd, allowing an average of 17.9 points against per game.

Buffalo, in short, is a top-notch team that is looking to win a Super Bowl in 2023.

Currently, the Bills have a three-headed monster at running back: Nyheim Hines, Damien Harris, and James Cook. That’s right, Dalvin’s younger brother is employed by the Bills.

Buffalo is thus a team to monitor for 3 main reasons:

  1. They’re legit Super Bowl contenders.
  2. Dalvin Cook’s younger brother is on their team.
  3. The last major trade between these two teams (the Diggs/Jefferson deal) worked very well for both sides.

Recently, CBS Sports put together a piece considering the NFL’s trade candidates leading into the draft. Dalvin Cook finds his name on the list, and his main landing spots are in Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Baltimore. Take a look at the rationale:

At full speed, Cook is still one of the NFL‘s best pure runners, fresh off a fourth straight 1,000-yard campaign. But he’s going on 28 with a history of nagging injuries, has racked up 1,500 career touches and is due at least $14M in each of the next three years. Minnesota hasn’t been shy about bidding fan favorites farewell to free up money this offseason. Cook’s departure would save the Vikings almost $8M via trade, allowing Alexander Mattison to headline the next backfield rotation.

Buffalo would benefit from a more dangerous backfield. Gaining more yards on the ground – their leading rusher in 2022 went for 819 yards – would lessen the burden that’s placed on Allen’s shoulders. Cook’s age means he fits with Buffalo’s win-now approach. Uniting him with his little brother would likely be viewed as a positive, as well.

Currently, the Bills are working with just under $9 million in cap space. They have enough in the budget to bring Cook aboard, especially since GMs can always carve out more room through trades, restructures, and/or extensions. Plus, an acquiring team could always negotiate a new deal for Cook, bringing his 2023 cap charge down.

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs with the ball against the New York Giants during the first quarter of a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The financial savings are appealing for Minnesota. At present, the salary cap doesn’t offer too much wiggle room, for there is a mere $1.4 million in cap space. As a result, the Vikings don’t even have enough to sign their impending draft class. We thus know that something has to give since the team needs to be able to sign their selections from the NFL Draft.

As the above quote suggests, Alexander Mattison would become the new RB1 in Minnesota (unless Bijan Robinson gets taken 23rd). The former Boise State RB would lead a committee with Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu, with the former having the main shot of being the RB2.

In 2022, Dalvin Cook played a full season for the first time in his NFL career. He had 264 carries, 1173 yards, and 8 TDs. A mid-round selection could be enough to pry him away from the Vikings.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Over the Cap helped with this piece.