The Tennessee Titans just came to term with their star running back Derrick Henry. Henry, who is 26 years old, agreed to a four year, $50 million deal. The deal includes $25.5 million guaranteed and an average yearly salary of $12.5 million. This comes following Christian McCaffrey’s monster deal earlier this offseason.
Henry, despite being an excellent runner of the football, isn’t nearly as versatile as Cook or McCaffrey. This leaves the Vikings in a bit of an awkward spot with another domino falling in the running back market. When healthy, Cook is a more versatile player than Henry. This will likely give Cook’s camp more ammunition to say “pay our man.”
However, Cook’s health is still a big question mark. Last season was Cook’s best and most consistent as a pro. He played in 14 games, although a couple of those he was completely ineffective due to being banged up, and put up 1135 yards on the ground, 13 rushing touchdowns, and 519 receiving yards.
The number that Henry got, $12.5 million/year, is what Cook has reportedly been asking for from the Vikings. Obviously, the Henry deal doesn’t make Cook’s deal a foregone conclusion, but it does show that there are still teams out there willing to pay a premium for running backs who aren’t also incredible receivers, like McCaffrey.
If the Vikings want their best team on the field, they need to get Cook’s deal done. Alexander Mattison is certainly a solid back and was a great change of pace last season. However, if Mattison is the starter, that leaves the Vikings with limited options for spell backs.
Ameer Abdullah is a great receiving back and veteran, but he’s not going to run the ball more than a few times a game and has a historical fumbling problem. Mike Boone has been excellent in the preseason, but had an up and down game when given his opportunity in week 17 of last season against the Chicago Bears. Tony Brooks-James is pretty unproven despite getting a few carries before coming over to Minnesota in the middle of last season.\
The Vikings do have some cap maneuverability in 2021, but if Cook does lock in for $12.5 million, that leaves the team with $20 million available in cap space. That also means that the Vikings will have $43.5 million sunk into their quarterback and running back, a huge number especially if the salary cap doesn’t bump up or even decreases due to COVID-19.
As a fan, I want to see Cook with the team. He’s incredible when healthy and even last season he was mostly available. However, I understand that this is a business and dropping that much money on a guy who is at a mostly replaceable position and has only had one mostly healthy season is a huge gamble.