JUNE 9: As expected, no trade suitors emerged for Cook as teams knew that he would soon hit the open market. The release is now official, per a team announcement, meaning he will be free to sign with a new team any time after 3:00pm Central today.
“I hold Dalvin in the highest regard and am grateful for his contributions on and off the field,” a statement from head coach Kevin O’Connell reads in part. “Dalvin’s approach to the game and his commitment to sportsmanship is clearly respected across the league. We appreciate Dalvin’s positivity, energy and leadership and will be pulling for him in the future.”
Adofo-Mensah likewise praised Cook for his time with the Vikings, which has come to a close after four straight Pro Bowl campaigns. It will be interesting to monitor how his free agent market takes shape.
JUNE 8: After months of trade rumors, the Vikings plan to conclude the offseason Dalvin Cook saga with a release. Minnesota now intends to cut its six-year starting running back, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports (on Twitter).
The Vikings intend to follow through with this long-rumored separation Friday, Pelissero tweets. While this potentially opens the door to a last-ditch trade effort, Minnesota has dangled Cook in deals for several weeks now. No takers have emerged. Cook is a vested veteran and will move straight to free agency if/when cut. The Vikes, as should be expected here, will make a final effort to trade Cook, ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter tweets.
As for potential suitors, Schefter names the Dolphins — who discussed Cook with the Vikings earlier this offseason — and Broncos (Twitter link). Denver has a clear tie, with GM George Paton being in Minnesota when the Vikes drafted Cook in 2017 second round, but the team also signed Samaje Perine and has starter Javonte Williams already participating in offseason work despite tearing an ACL in October.
The Broncos are highly unlikely to make an 11th-hour trade offer for Cook, per 9News’ Mike Klis, who adds they should not be considered a lock to pursue him in free agency. But Schefter notes the team has been monitoring the talented back for weeks. The Dolphins hold nearly $14MM in cap space; the Broncos sit at just more than $10MM. Other suitors are believed to be in the mix once Cook officially becomes available at 3pm CT Friday, but these are the two known candidates at this point.
Cook’s positional value and $10.4MM base salary have almost definitely impeded strong trade offers from emerging. A release will save the Vikings $9MM, though the Pro Bowler’s dead money would be spread over two offseasons. Cook has $2MM in guaranteed salary owed; that will bump his career earnings past $34MM. His next contract will not come close to the five-year, $63MM contract the Vikings authorized before the 2020 season, but an interesting free agency sweepstakes looks likely to launch soon.
As a South Florida native who played at Florida State, Cook is believed to have interest in heading to Miami. The Dolphins are expected to make an offer, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets. This would come after the team made several moves at running back this offseason. Miami re-signed Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson and Myles Gaskin, though the trio’s combined guarantees do not top $6MM, and used a third-round pick on Texas A&M speedster Devon Achane.
With Tyreek Hill‘s $30MM-per-year contract the only notable pact attached to a Dolphins quarterback or skill-position player, Miami makes sense here. Cook, who is going into his age-28 season, could slide in as a hired gun. The Broncos, conversely, have Russell Wilson tied to a monster extension and Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick on eight-figure-per-year deals. That said, Denver did well to sign both receivers before Hill and Co. transformed that market in 2022. Unlike the Dolphins, the Broncos did not draft a running back this year.
Cook’s Florida ties could seemingly prompt the Broncos or an unknown suitor to make a trade offer before the release processes, as to keep the back from joining the Dolphins. The Vikings kept Za’Darius Smith on their roster for months, despite the edge rusher lobbying for a release in March, before agreeing to a low-level trade with the Browns. It would be interesting to see how much of Cook’s base salary the Vikings would be willing to eat to facilitate a trade. As of Thursday morning, Cook remains under contract through 2025.
Passing Chuck Foreman for third place in Vikings rushing yardage last season, Cook has reeled off four straight 1,100-plus-yard years. Despite nagging injuries that have emerged since his rookie-year ACL tear, Cook has proven fairly durable. He has only missed more than two games in a season once over the past four years (in 2021) and played all 18 Vikings contests in 2022. Cook did undergo shoulder surgery earlier this offseason, however. Only Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb have accumulated more rushing yards than Cook (5,024) since 2019.
The Vikings moving on from Cook this week will keep him away from their mandatory minicamp, where longtime backup Alexander Mattison‘s ascent is now set to take place in earnest. The Vikings re-signed Mattison to a two-year deal worth just $7MM — in line with the Dolphins’ low-level RB pacts and others on the buyer’s market that expectedly formed this offseason — but nearly all of it is fully guaranteed. With Cook in limbo, Mattison — a former third-round pick who has occupied Minnesota’s RB2 slot for four years — is set to begin his age-25 season as Minnesota’s starter.
Despite the Vikings going 13-4 in 2022 (albeit one with a negative point differential), second-year GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has already parted with Vikings mainstays Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks this offseason. This Cook move will leave Harrison Smith, Danielle Hunter and Brian O’Neill as the final ties to the homegrown core Rick Spielman built during the 2010s. The Vikings agreed to terms to retain Smith on a pay cut this offseason but have taken calls on Hunter, whose contract has been an issue for most of its duration.