Although the Minnesota Vikings have signed running back Dalvin Cook to a five-year contract that extends over the year 2020, he becomes eligible to be extended as early as this off-season.
In his third season, Dalvin Cook is the most dangerous running back in professional football. He is both the NFL’s leading rusher with 991 yards and the leader in total yards from scrimmage with 1415.
Without him, the Vikings would be a .500 team in 2019.
As he plays through this third year, electrifying fans in Minnesota and across the country, the inevitable question of Cook’s NFL salary in regard to his NFL value has reared its head. Despite missing most of his rookie season due to an ACL injury in game four of 2017, Cook soldiered through a tough rehab and made himself available for 2018.
Last year saw him struggle with other pains, no doubt due to his body’s compensation to the earlier injury. Still, his 920 total yards from scrimmage clearly indicated this was a back with great talent and great potential.
In his third-year, Cook is seriously in the stratosphere of NFL MVP candidates.
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The Dotted Line
“Why would a franchise extend a player with two years remaining on their deal? It seems risky to award a player more money in the short term when you don’t exactly have to. A first round pick is generally considered inexpensive in year four and five of their rookie deal compared to what they’ll command on the open market.
However, some teams believe that getting a deal done early has its benefits.
The Dallas Cowboys are well known as of late for extending their players once they’re eligible. By signing a player prior to them becoming an unrestricted free agent, teams can actually save money in the long term with the salary cap rising yearly (the salary cap increased to $188.2M this offseason) as well as avoiding the high price of the franchise tag.”
Big Backs, Big Paper
These are the salaries of the top five highest-paid running backs in the league, their average yearly salaries, and their total yards from scrimmage in 2019:
1. Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott: $15M (980 yards)
2. Rams RB Todd Gurley: $14.4M (509 yards)
3. Jets RB Le’Veon Bell: $13.1M (725 yards)
4. Cardinals RB David Johnson: $13M (625 yards)
5. Falcons RB Devonta Freeman: $8.3M (653 yards)
Of these five athletes, only Elliott and Bell have not suffered consistent setbacks by injury after signing their big extensions.
Retrospectively, only one of these backs, Ezekiel Elliott, would most likely get the contract they did sign if the GM’s of each team had to do over.
Cooking With Gas
Cook is 24 years old. If he stays healthy, he might run through his prime years as a happy Viking. But Rick Spielman may need to put him at the head of the line and contract extension this offseason.
Cook hardly seems the type of athlete that is worried about breaking the bank. Instead, he appears to be an intimately “coachable” back that leads by example. That example has been the best the NFL has to offer at the running back position in 2019.
However, if Ezekiel Elliott became the league’s highest-paid running back this year at an average of $15 million dollars a season with $50M of it guaranteed–where does that leave Dalvin Cook?
It’s hard to argue anything less, and it’s not likely that Cook and his agent would want more considering he has not achieved the success that Elliot has in three seasons.
The Vikings do indeed have other free agents to worry about this offseason, yet all of them pale in comparison to the value that Cook has for this team in 2020 and beyond.
Is it possible that the Vikings would let Cook play into his fourth year without an extension? Of course. But in some way that’s betting on a statistical negative and seems to be bad business.
A smart way to think about it is asking yourself the question that may be making its way through the executive minds in Eagen:
Would you extend Dalvin sooner or later?