1 Vikings Domino Has Fallen. Will Another Follow?
This weekend, the Minnesota Vikings traded Za’Darius Smith to the Cleveland Browns after the veteran pass-rusher requested to be released by the team earlier this offseason. The move nets the Vikings two fifth-round picks as well as cap space for both this year as well as 2024.
Throughout the offseason, Minnesota has made a very conscientious effort to get younger across their roster. They released Eric Kendricks and Adam Thielen, presumably opening the door for Brian Asamoah and Jordan Addison to step into starting roles. Likewise, the Smith trade allows a 26-year-old (will turn 27 on September 4th) Marcus Davenport to officially take over a starting role.
With that Vikings domino officially falling, though, could we soon see another follow? There is still ongoing uncertainty with another Vikings veteran this offseason in RB Dalvin Cook.
The veteran running back is set to carry a cap hit of $14.1 million this season, the third-most among all running backs in the league. There have been reports all offseason that he won’t take a pay cut to remain in Minnesota, so could that lack of contract flexibility spell Cook’s tenure coming to an end with the Vikings?
Well, let’s take a look at what the Vikings did at running back this offseason. In a free agency period where they certainly made a concerted effort to get younger, the youngest free agent they signed was Alexander Mattison.
The 24-year-old re-signed with the Vikings for two years and $7 million back in March and was surprising because the belief was that he would hit the open free-agent market and command more money elsewhere.
There’s also the two usual youngsters behind Mattison on the depth chart in Kene Nwangwu and Ty Chandler. Neither has seen much of a role on offense to this point in their careers, but the coaching staff appears to be quite impressed by Chandler.
Finally, Minnesota made a somewhat surprising move by grabbing RB DeWayne McBride in the seventh round of the 2023 Draft. He was a bit of a one-trick pony at UAB, not offering much as a receiver, but the Blazer product was one of the more productive players in all of college football last season.
This means there are three intriguing young RBs behind another very young player in Mattison. That makes Cook a bit more expendable than he may be in another offense. That being said, the move off of Smith greatly increases the Vikings cap space (although they won’t realize the entire $12.1 million that was possible), so the need to free up money is much less urgent than it was before.
Perhaps this means Minnesota could keep Cook around for at least one more season before exploring the possibility of moving on in 2024.
Additionally, since they have the money to sign their rookie class, this opens the door to Minnesota potentially extending this Cook saga deeper into the summer. Perhaps a training camp injury could make the Vikings RB more valuable to another team in July or August. Then there are also the legal situations surrounding Alvin Kamara and Joe Mixon as well as a contract dispute with Josh Jacobs in Las Vegas.
The point is, that after this Smith trade, the need to move off Cook is far less than it would have been earlier this week.
In all, it would still be rather surprising if Cook was a Viking by the time Week 1 rolls around. However, with some potential needs for running backs popping up later on this summer, perhaps the Vikings will look to be more patient in this situation and see how things across the league play out.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.