The 3 Pros and Cons of Trading Dalvin Cook

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Trading Dalvin Cook is a distinct possibility.

Going into free agency, Minnesota’s RB1 was a common part of the cut rumors. The thinking was simply that Minnesota ran the ball very sparingly in 2022, instead opting to hyper-emphasize the passing game largely due to Justin Jefferson’s remarkable abilities.

Head Coach Rule
Dec 20, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs the ball during the third quarter against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Obviously, that rumored possibility didn’t occur. Cook survived the cuts even as longtime stalwarts Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks were let go. Even still, his future in Minnesota is precarious. After retaining Alexander Mattison – which is to say nothing of the underused C.J. Ham – the Vikings have a lot of talent in the RB room.

Presumably, the NFL has at least a team or two interested in bringing Cook aboard, so a trade makes some sense. Marrying these two realities suggests that a trade is very possible, especially since we know the team has to do something with the budget in order to sign their draft class.

in 2023 Offseason
Jul 27, 2022; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The NFL Draft is very near and it’s an event that often functions as the spark that lights the trade fire. In the leadup to the event, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah may once again assert himself as one of the NFL’s preeminent traders. What are the benefits and drawbacks of moving on from #4?

Trading Dalvin Cook: 3 Pros

Moving on from Cook does have its appeal. Take a look at some of the top benefits:

  1. Added Cap Space
  2. Added Draft Capital (Probably)
  3. The Kwesi/Kevin Effect

Right now, the team is working with less than $1.5 million in cap space, dead last in the NFL. A trade would cause that number to jump by just under $7.9 million. All of the sudden, the Vikings would be dealing with more than $9 million in cap space, a workable number.

The assumption is that the acquiring team would send along a draft pick to bring the talented RB aboard. Truth be told, it’s hard to envision Cook commanding anything more than a mid-to-late-round selection.

In 2017, he was chosen in the 2nd round and has had injury issues in every season except for the most recent one. Partnering that reality with his reasonably advanced age (he’ll be 28 before September), price tag, and somewhat inefficient 2022 season means a team would likely be reluctant to send a boatload of draft capital to Minnesota.

A Win-Loss Prediction for the 2022 Vikings
Nov 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and running back Dalvin Cook. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Oh, and the draft contains some pretty notable talent at RB, so the acquiring team would need to justify onboarding Cook instead of a younger, cheaper option.

Finally, we consider how Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell have been conducting business. Clearly, there has been an ongoing effort to shape the roster in their own image. We saw that last season when draft picks from the old regime were cut en masse. We’ve seen it with some of the cuts (Kendricks, Thielen). Will Cook be part of that roster exodus?

At the end of the day, the Vikings’ organization wants O’Connell and Adofo-Mensah to construct a team that fits their specifications. Moving on from the RB1 may be a next step in their pursuit of a Super Bowl in Minnesota.

Trading Dalvin Cook: 3 Cons

Moving on from a highly-skilled, top-10 NFL running back isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. On the contrary, there are actually a lot of negatives to consider.

Take, for instance, these 3:

  1. Subtracting a Legit RB1
  2. Disrupting the Adjusted Vision
  3. The Captain Exodus
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

It can be easy to overlook an important reality: the man truly is one of the NFL’s best running backs.

When he’s on, he’s a supremely elusive runner who glides on the football field. Don’t let the elegant running fool you, though: he can lower his shoulder to bulldoze a defender. True, he’s not Derrick Henry, but he’s very tough and competitive.

During the offseason, Minnesota suggested they’d like to run the ball more based on their actions. Josh Oliver – a blocking specialist at TE – was signed to a lucrative deal and C.J. Ham was retained. These moves indicate that running the ball more is incoming. Wouldn’t it make sense to keep Cook in town to help actualize the plan?

Finally, it’s worth noting that several of the subtractions have been to team captains and well-respected vets. Patrick Peterson, Thielen, and Kendricks all had a “C” on their chest last season. All 3 have proven to be excellent NFL players who are well-liked by their teammates. There is still a lot of veteran talent on the roster so it’s not like we’re discussing a team completely devoid of leadership. Nevertheless, the point remains: subtracting Cook would mean 4 of the team’s captains are no longer in town.

A case can be made that retaining Cook is, in fact, the best path forward.

Looking Ahead

While Mike Zimmer was in charge, the mandate was clear: play stellar defense and run the ball effectively. Doing both created the necessary conditions for winning a lot of football games. Of course, the team’s defense cratered in 2020 and 2021, so the approach wasn’t successful.

Questions Answered: Zimmer-Packer Theories, Playoff Chances, Rookie RB Out
Oct 13, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports.

Kevin O’Connell pursued a different strategy in his opening season. The upcoming re-emphasis on a more balanced offense presents the opportunity to keep Cook even as the budget yearns for increased financial flexibility.

The NFL Draft begins in a little more than 2 weeks. As a result, we may soon get some firm clarity about the plan for Cook in Minnesota.

Cook had 264 carries, 1173 rushing yards, and 8 TDs last season. He added 295 yards and 2 TDs through the air.

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