Earlier today, it was confirmed by the Vikings themselves that they have moved on from running back Dalvin Cook. The move brought an end to a lengthy period of speculation and trade rumors, something which was largely a result of each party’s financial approach to the situation.
By releasing Cook, Minnesota will see $9MM in cap savings. That adds to the money they have saved by parting ways with the likes of Eric Kendricks and Adam Thielen, other veteran contributors to the team’s 13-4 season in 2022. The Vikings are resetting financially at many positions this year (with the notable exception of quarterback), which helped inform their decision to turn over starting running back duties to Alexander Mattison.
When discussing Cook’s release on the Rich Eisen Show, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero noted that the Vikings never offered a pay cut to the four-time Pro Bowler (video link). Cook, 27, was due a base salary of $10.4MM in 2023, with a scheduled cap hit of just over $14.1MM. Lowering those figures through a restructure could have extended his Minnesota tenure, but the team made a two-year commitment to Mattison in March, signaling their intent to shed costs at the RB position.
Still, Minnesota explored the idea of a re-worked Cook deal (along with a trade) for months, as detailed by Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Pelissero adds that Cook had no desire to work out a restructure as part of a trade, a stance which has now left him free to join the team of his choice. His free agent process will be worth watching, though it may not develop with much urgency.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that Cook – who is due $2MM in guranteed money from the Vikings – “plans to be patient in waiting for the right situation.” The Dolphins could very well represent that for the Miami native and Florida State alum; as was the case before, the Dolphins can be considered a strong suitor for Cook on the free agent market. The value of his next deal (wherever it comes from) will come in below the one he had been playing on, but it will have implications for the Vikings as well as his new team.
Pelissero’s colleague Mike Garafolo notes that Cook’s guarantees include offset language (Twitter link). Minnesota would thus be in line to recoup the $2MM owed to him assuming he lands a deal worth more than that amount from his new employer. The running back market was very modest at the onset of free agency, but a patient approach to the next chapter of his career could yield a favorable on-field and financial situation for Cook. The Vikings, meanwhile, will look for ways to reallocate the money saved through his release as they aim to build around their young core.