Craving Clarity: Weariness Besets Vikings Fans as Cook Decision Looms

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

Several months. That’s how long Vikings fans have been seeing regular Dalvin Cook speculation flash across their computer screens. Is weariness starting to set in? I think so.

Though, to be sure, there’s good reason to be paying attention. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah certainly sounded lukewarm about bringing Mr. Cook back, noting that #4 could “in theory” be a “complementary” talent in the backfield with Alexander Mattison. The 24-year-old Mattison is fresh off a brand new 2-year deal, one that places him among the NFL’s middle class for running back contracts. Paying Mattison while also retaining Cook would be odd.

A Look at All 6 Wild Card Matchups
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) celebrates with Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. (84), back, after he scores a touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

As the calendar ventures into June, there is some belief that Vikings fans will get the clarity they crave. On Vikings Territory, Dustin Baker takes on the topic, noting the potential for financial savings that flow from where we are:

June 1st has long been a day circled by Vikings fans as ‘what will happen with Dalvin,’ so if you’re reading this Thursday, you’re mere hours away from a possible verdict.

The three-month-long saga started for one reason — Cook’s contract as orchestrated by former general manager Rick Spielman. Late in the summer of 2020, just before kickoff of the pandemic season, in fact, Cook was extended by the Vikings for five years and $63 million. That was almost three years ago.

Based on the contract’s structure, June 2nd, 2023, was always the date Cook could be traded or released without exorbitant financial pain.

Now, it’s worth remembering that a cut would be very strange. A cut has always been a possibility and yet it hasn’t occurred. The Vikings could have, say, cut Cook on March 14th and simply designated the move as occurring post-June 1 (something they did with Kyle Rudolph a couple years ago).

Oct 20, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph (82) celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports.

I suppose it’s possible there was some optimism that a trade during the NFL Draft would reward Minnesota’s patience, but the event has come and gone without any deal materializing. And, perhaps, there was optimism that something would come to fruition in the days and weeks that follow. So far, that hasn’t been the case; or, at least, a deal hasn’t been offered that has prompted Minnesota to make a decision.

Regardless, the overarching point remains: a cut would be odd given that Kwesi could have travelled down that path for months.

Dalvin Cook Trade
Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) looks on during training camp at US Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, Vikings fans have grown weary from the speculation. Firm news? Oh yes, there’s an appetite for that. More speculation, though, has grown tiresome for some.

Cap space is always a precious commodity, but the Za’Darius Smith trade has breathed new life into the budget. At $9.5(ish) million in space, the Vikings are in a nice spot, all things considered. Those who really are looking for some sort of firm resolution – retaining Cook, cutting Cook, trading Cook – may need to wait a touch longer as a result of the financial reality. Minnesota can afford to be patient since they’re not in dire straits financially.

Cook, who will turn 28 in August, is coming off his first ever complete NFL season. In every other year, he has missed time. He once again surpassed 1,000 rushing yards, continuing his streak of four-straight seasons of eclipsing the mark.

If a trade occurs, the Vikings are unlikely to get much beyond a late-round selection. The GM likes to trade, so I’ve got my eye on a similar outcome to the Za’Darius situation.

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