Dalvin Cook

Vikings To Re-Sign RB Alexander Mattison

The first few days of free agency have seen a number of running backs switch teams, but one free agent is staying put. Alexander Mattison is re-signing with the Vikings, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter).

[RELATED: Vikings Considering Dalvin Cook Trade?]

Mattison is inking a new two-year deal with Minnesota, per Pelissero. The new contract is worth $7MM and can hit $8MM via incentives. The deal includes $6.35MM in guaranteed money.

The 2019 third-round pick has established himself as one of the NFL’s top backup running backs, but considering the presence of Dalvin Cook, it was uncertain if Mattison would stick around Minnesota. Last offseason, there were reports that the Vikings were open to moving the backup RB, and that same report hinted that Mattison would be open to a move that offered more playing time.

The Vikings ended up holding on to their running back depth for the 2022 campaign, and it was a surprise when they got 17 games from the oft-injured Cook. As a result, Mattison was limited to a career-low 374 yards from scrimmage, although he did contribute a career-high six rushing touchdowns.

Mattison proved his value in previous seasons, topping 500 yards from scrimmage each season between 2019 and 2021. The 24-year-old has also compiled 693 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns in his six career starts, showing that he’s more than capable of replacing a player of Cook’s caliber in the lineup.

Recent reports indicated that the Vikings could be shopping Cook, who is under club control through 2025 thanks to the five-year, $63MM extension he signed in September 2020. Mattison’s new deal certainly isn’t unreasonable for a high-caliber backup, but you’ve got to wonder if the Vikings will be willing to commit all that money to the RB position.

Vikings Considering Dalvin Cook Trade?

Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah recently stopped short of guaranteeing that RB Dalvin Cook would be back with the team in 2023, and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com says multiple clubs believe Minnesota has entertained trade discussions on the four-time Pro Bowler (subscription required).

Cook, 27, is under club control through 2025 thanks to the five-year, $63MM extension he signed in September 2020. That accord makes him the fourth-highest-paid RB in the league in terms of AAV, but his production has justified the splurge on a generally devalued position. Over the past four seasons, which all culminated in Pro Bowl acclaim, the Florida State product has averaged 1,256 rushing yards per year while maintaining a YPC rate over 4.6. He has also added roughly 350 receiving yards per season, and he amassed 30 total touchdowns across the 2019-20 campaigns.

On the other hand, the Vikings are in a difficult salary cap situation despite the recent cuts of Cameron Dantzler, Adam Thielen, and Eric Kendricks, and trading Cook would result in a cap savings of nearly $8MM (though it would also come with a dead cap charge of over $6MM). Plus, Cook’s YPC dropped to 4.4 in 2022, which is a solid mark but which nonetheless represents the lowest single-season average of his career. He did suit up for all 18 of Minnesota’s games in 2022 — the first time he ever enjoyed perfect attendance — though he typically misses at least some time due to injury and could be sidelined for much, if not all, of the offseason program and training camp due to shoulder surgery.

Longtime Cook backup, Alexander Mattison, is eligible for free agency for the first time in his career. As Fowler notes, Mattison is in line for a role as a full-time starter somewhere, and that might just be in Minnesota. The 2019 third-rounder would doubtlessly be much less expensive than Cook, but he has shown promise as an understudy and is obviously already familiar with the team’s offense. Fowler reports that the Vikes are indeed attempting to re-sign Mattison.

Cook is the second high-profile, well-compensated back whose name has surfaced in recent trade rumors. Last week, we heard that the Titans were shopping Derrick Henry, though a subsequent report suggested otherwise.

RB Rumors: Mixon, Cook, Dolphins, Jaguars

Emphatically announcing that Tee Higgins was not available for a trade, Bengals VP of player personnel Duke Tobin was less declarative regarding Joe Mixon‘s future. The seventh-year running back, one of a few 2017 backfield draftees who entered the offseason with an uncertain place on his team’s roster, has a fairly manageable 2023 cap hit ($12.8MM). Mixon, 26, is still unlikely to be with the team too much longer, considering the payments that will need to be made to the offense’s other high-profile players. His deal runs through 2024.

I’m not gonna predict the offseason because I don’t have the answers. In the words of the great Kevin Malone, ‘I don’t know,’” Tobin said, borrowing a line from one of The Office‘s accounting staffers, when asked about Mixon. “We’ll all see as the offseason goes what we’re able to get done and how the resources are spread around, but Joe’s been a vital part of our team, a successful part, a contributing part. My job is to try to keep as many of those pieces around as I can.

The Bengals could save more than $7MM by releasing Mixon and just more than $10MM if he is designated as a post-June 1 cut. The team also has the likes of Jessie Bates, Vonn Bell and Germaine Pratt set to hit the market. The Bengals are near the top of the league in cap space, at over $35MM, and after being aggressive in adding outside talent from 2020-22, they plan to restore their offseason focus on attempting to retain their own players. Releasing Mixon would be a way to create more space, but the Bengals would then need help at running back. Backup Samaje Perine is set for free agency, though he could be retained cheaply if the Bengals decided to cut the cord on their longtime starter.

Here is the latest from the running back scene:

  • Both Mixon and Dalvin Cook signed extensions just before the 2020 season; Cook’s Vikings pact was for five years, however. Entering Year 3 of that contract, the Vikings are not certain to move forward with their Pro Bowl ball-carrier. While calling Cook a “great player, great leader,” Minnesota GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (via ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert) joined Tobin in stopping short of guaranteeing the former second-round pick would be back. “In the NFL you have a lot of constraints, salary cap, different things, and we’re trying to figure out how we can operate in those things,” Adofo-Mensah said. The Vikings could save $9MM by designating Cook a post-June 1 cut; the team is currently $24MM over the cap. Cutting the four-time 1,100-yard rusher would obviously come with risk. Going into his age-28 season, Cook has been one of the NFL’s best backs in recent years. Though, he has battled injuries and recently underwent shoulder surgery. Longtime backup Alexander Mattison is also on the cusp of free agency.
  • The Dolphins want to keep at least one of their free agent backs — Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson — and NFL.com’s Cameron Wolfe notes the team has discussed the prospect of re-signing both (Twitter links). The ex-49ers cogs fared well in Miami last season, and each should be affordable thanks to a flood of starter-level backs being set for free agency. Mostert, who will turn 31 next month, signed a one-year, $2.1MM Dolphins deal in 2022. Wilson, 27, re-signed with the 49ers on a one-year, $1.1MM accord — one the 49ers traded at the deadline.
  • Fellow former 49ers back JaMycal Hasty is staying in Florida, having re-signed with the Jaguars. The Jags gave their backup running back a two-year deal that can max out at $3.2MM, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets. Hasty will return to spell starter Travis Etienne, who has two years remaining on his rookie contract.

NFC North Notes: Fields, Pack, Vikes, Lions

Going into the Combine, the Bears are leaning toward keeping Justin Fields in place at quarterback. They are viewed as likely to trade out of the No. 1 overall draft slot, and Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports reinforces that the rebuilding team is leaning against exiting the first round with a quarterback. Fields finished a historically successful season as a running quarterback, but significant questions remain about his potential as a passer. The Bears will still meet with just about every top quarterback at the Combine, Jones adds, noting questions also exist about whether the team view this draft class as having a QB option head and shoulders above Fields. While the belief is Fields will have a shot at a third season in Chicago, questions will persist until the Bears trade the pick. Doing so would make them the first team to move out of the No. 1 spot since the Titans did so in 2016.

Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • Aaron JonesPackers restructure will ensure he plays a seventh season in Green Bay — rare territory for modern Packers backs — and it will create considerable cap space for the team. Jones’ cap figure will drop from $20MM to $8.2MM, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com tweets. Jones’ base salary will drop from $8.1MM to $1.1MM. Jones took a $5MM salary cut in exchange for a $8.5MM signing bonus, keeping him tied to the four-year, $48MM extension he inked before free agency in 2021. In 2024, the final year of Jones’ deal, Demovsky adds (via Twitter) his cap number will rise from $16MM to $17.7MM. The void years from Jones’ 2022 restructure remain on the contract.
  • Shifting to another 2017 running back draftee still on his second contract, Dalvin Cook will miss time this offseason because of shoulder surgery. The Pro Bowl Vikings back, whom Adam Schefter of ESPN.com notes underwent surgery this month, played shoulder pain for the past three-plus seasons, initially injuring it in 2019. Cook, 27, suffered a broken shoulder in 2019 and missed time in 2019 and 2021 as a result; he played all 18 Vikings games last season but battled a shoulder dislocation he sustained in Week 3. This surgery will likely knock Cook out for much of the offseason, with the Vikings announcing he is expected to make a full recovery “by the start of the regular season.” Two years remain on Cook’s five-year, $63MM contract.
  • Dalvin Tomlinson‘s two-year Vikings pact was set to void last week, but the team bought more time on this front. The Vikes pushed Tomlinson’s void date to March 15 — Day 1 of the 2023 league year — according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). This keeps $7.5MM from hitting Minnesota’s cap, though that amount will move onto the payroll if no extension is reached by March 15. If an extension occurs before that date, the Vikings will only be charged with $2.5MM in dead money, Yates tweets.
  • If Tomlinson does return, he will be a part of another 3-4 scheme. Minnesota had gone decades in a 4-3 alignment, but new DC Brian Flores confirmed (via the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson) the 3-4 look installed under previous leader Ed Donatell will remain in place. Although teams’ increased sub-package usage diminishes the importance of base sets, this is certainly notable given how long the Vikes were a 4-3 team prior to 2022, when their switch yielded disastrous results.
  • Shaun Dion Hamilton will move up from defensive assistant to the Lions‘ assistant linebackers coach, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Hamilton is just 27, being one of the Lions’ cuts last summer, but moved quickly into coaching. Rather than hit the workout circuit, the former Washington sixth-round draftee opted to enter coaching early.
  • The Packers‘ run of extensions last offseason included executive VP Russ Ball, Demovsky tweets. Green Bay quietly extended Matt LaFleur and GM Brian Gutekunst, and Ball — a veteran cap guru elevated during the same offseason Gutekunst took over as GM — remains a key part of the franchise’s equation. Ball, 63, has been a critical part of the Pack’s front office since 2008.

Vikings RB Dalvin Cook Dislocates Shoulder

OCTOBER 1: As noted (on Twitter) by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio on Sunday, Cook is expected to wear a brace, allowing him to suit up for tomorrow’s game. Pelissero tweets that the 27-year-old has since been taken off the injury report, which should clear him to handle a full workload against the Saints.

SEPTEMBER 25: The Vikings veteran running back Dalvin Cook suffered a familiar injury this week versus the Lions, dislocating his right shoulder, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Cook has long dealt with an unrepaired torn labrum that he’s been able to play through in the past. He wasn’t wearing a harness today, which led to the dislocation, but he should be okay to play next Sunday against the Saints with a harness. 

Cook has made a habit of missing time each season, having not played for the entire regular season in any of his six years in the league, so the fact that he shouldn’t miss anything time due to the injury should be a relief for Minnesota. Despite routinely missing two to five games per year, since losing most of his rookie season to an ACL tear, Cook has been extremely productive with his time on the field, earning Pro Bowl appearances in each of the last three seasons.

Even if shoulder pain does force Cook to miss some time, or even just to take a smaller share of snaps, the Vikings have a reliable backup running back in Alexander Mattison. In three years with the Vikings, the 24-year-old has amassed rushing totals of 462, 434, and 491 yards. In addition to his consistency running the ball, Mattison has improved as a pass catcher each season. When Mattison was asked to start four games last year, the Boise State alumnus delivered for his team. As a starter last year, Mattison totaled 356 rushing yards for two touchdown and 19 receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown in those four games.

Cook should be fine to contribute next week and, if not, the Vikings will be completely comfortable trotting Mattison out there. Behind those two, Minnesota rosters kick returning ace Kene Nwangwu and rookie fifth-round pick Ty Chandler.

Vikings Extend QB Kirk Cousins Through 2023

New Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell wanted a chance to build an offense around quarterback Kirk Cousins. Well, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, he will get his chance as the Vikings will sign Cousins to a one-year, $35MM extension that will keep him in Minnesota through the 2023 NFL season. 

The Vikings reportedly had been receiving calls on Cousins, but the new coaching staff and general manager are declaring their commitment to the veteran quarterback and gaining some much needed cap space in the process.

Cousins’ scheduled cap hit for 2022 was set to be the largest in NFL history at $45MM. The extension reduces his 2022 cap number to $31.42MM, granting Minnesota a little over $13.5MM in cap space. In addition, Cousins will see a raise, making $40MM this season and $30MM in 2023. The deal includes phantom, voidable years in 2024 & 2025 that allow them to reduce the cap hits in ’22 and ’23.

Say what you will about Cousins pay and performance, but after receiving two consecutive franchise tags in Washington, a three-year fully-guaranteed contract to join the Vikings, and two fully-guaranteed extensions to stay in Minnesota, Cousins has secured eight-straight seasons of guaranteed contracts.

There are expectations for Cousins to thrive under O’Connell. With offensive weapons like running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, wide receivers Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn, and tight end Irv Smith Jr. all returning, the familiarity of personnel should make up for the new playbook. The bookends of the offensive line seem set with Christian Darrisaw showing promise after a delayed debut and Brian O’Neill making the Pro Bowl last year. There are some questions to be answered on the interior of the line, but the pieces, for the most part, are there.

The onus will now be on the coaching staff and front office to make offseason improvements to a defense that struggled mightily last year. The Vikings defense allowed the third-most yards in the league and the ninth-most points. If the new leaders in Minnesota can turn around that unit, look for Minnesota to make a play for a playoff spot and potentially even challenge the perennial NFC North power from Green Bay for the division.

Latest On Vikings’ Cap Situation

The Vikings are looking to reset their cap, and their quarterback could end up being a casualty. According to Jason La Canfora (via Twitter), the Vikings are “eager to move big contracts,” and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they end up moving on from Kirk Cousins.

With the Vikings changing regimes, the status of their four-year starting quarterback has understandably come up. Cousins carries the NFL’s third-highest 2022 cap hit at $45MM, and he’s going into a contract year. If the organization is truly looking to reset their books, it’d make sense to move on from the veteran QB. It would help the Vikings a bit if Cousins agreed to another extension, which would allow the team to reduce his 2022 cap hit. However, Cousins’ camp hasn’t been receptive to that idea.

La Canfora also mentions wideout Adam Thielen, linebacker Eric Kendricks, defensive tackle Michael Pierce, and even running back Dalvin Cook as sizable cap hits that the organization could look to move on from. These four players and Cousins represent five of the team’s seven highest cap hits, joining defensive end Danielle Hunter and safety Harrison Smith.

The Vikings entered the offseason with one of the worst cap situations in the NFL, so it’s not surprising that the team is looking to move around some money. Per OverTheCap.com, the Vikings are currently $15MM over the cap, so moves are certainly coming.

Eight Georgia Bulldogs Declare For Draft

After wrapping of the 2021 football season with a National Championship win over the Crimson Tide, Georgia is ready to send a couple players to the NFL. So far, we’ve seen declarations from running backs Zamir White and James Cook, wide receiver George Pickens, offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer, defensive linemen Travon Walker and Devonte Wyatt, linebacker Nakobe Dean, and safety Lewis Cine.

White was a 5-star recruit out of North Carolina and the consensus top-ranked running back in the 2018 graduating class. White was forced to red-shirt his true freshman season after tearing his ACL, his second such injury in about 9 months. After healing, he took snaps behind D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien before taking over as the lead back in 2020 rushing for 1,635 yards and 22 touchdowns over the next two seasons. Dane Brugler, of The Athletic, has White ranked as the 7th-best running back in the class and he should expect to hear his name on Day 2 or 3 of the draft.

James Cook, the younger brother of Dalvin Cook, came into Georgia the same year as White but didn’t have to sit out his freshman year. Cook has sat just below White on the depth chart for the three years they were both active, racking up 1,031 rushing yards along with 10 touchdowns in the past two seasons. He is ranked the 5th-best running back on Brugler’s list and should also expect to hear his name in the middle rounds.

Pickens arrived at Georgia as a 5-star recruit after flipping from a commitment to Auburn. He led the team in receiving his freshman year with 727 yards and 8 touchdowns. He improved his yards per game average the next year but missed two games in an already shortened COVID-season. Pickens tore his ACL in March 2021 but returned to contribute to the Bulldogs’ National Championship run catching 2 passes for 61 yards in two playoff games. Brugler has Pickens as the 9th-best receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft. It’s expected that some team will take a flyer on the big-bodied receiver on Day 2 or early into Day 3.

Salyer was a 5-star recruit and the consensus top-ranked guard in the 2018 graduating class. Salyer saw his first start late in his sophomore year before securing his spot as the blindside starting tackle for the next two seasons. He missed a couple games with an injury this year, but he surrendered no sacks in eleven starts this year. Brugler has Salyer as the 7th-best interior offensive lineman and we should expect to hear his name on Day 2 or early into Day 3.

Walker came in as a 5-star recruit from west Georgia and dominated as soon as he arrived. Walker became an instant presence on the line with an elite get-off. After starting at defensive tackle for every game this season, Walker led the defensive line in sacks as an interior lineman with 6.0. Despite his size and placement in the Georgia defense, Brugler has Walker as the 4th-best edge rusher in the draft. Whether or not that’s where NFL teams see the junior Bulldog playing, he’s expected to hear his name called late in the first-round or early in the second.

Wyatt initially attended Hutchinson Community College to help meet the academic requirements needed to play Division I football. After transferring to Georgia, Wyatt rotated on the defensive line for two years before becoming a starter in 2020. Wyatt decided to use the extra year of eligibility, granted due to COVID-19, to come back for the 2021 season and it certainly paid off. Brugler has Wyatt as the 4th-best interior defensive lineman and he’s expected to be selected in the middle rounds of the draft.

Dean was a 5-star recruit and the consensus second-ranked inside linebacker in the 2019 graduating class. The much-ballyhooed linebacker made an immediate impact in his freshman year before nabbing the starting job for his entire sophomore and junior seasons. He culminated his final season not only with a National Championship trophy but also with the 2021 Butkus Award trophy given to the top linebacker in college football. He finished the season second on the team in tackles (behind fellow draft hopeful, Cine) and with the team lead in tackles for loss. Dean is the 2nd-best linebacker on Brugler’s list and is widely expected to go in the first round.

Cine was a Top-100 recruit in the 2019 graduating class. Cine played every game his freshman season before taking over as the starting safety for the next two seasons. Cine led the team in tackles for the season and made a few big plays to help the team clinch their National Championship. Brugler has Cine as the 3rd-best safety in the draft and he’s expected to hear his name called on Day 1 or early in Day 2 of the draft.

These eight aren’t the last Bulldogs expected to declare for the draft, either. Although no announcements have been made, defensive tackle, and winner of the 2021 Outland Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award, Jordan Davis, linebackers Channing Tindall and Quay Walker, and cornerback Derion Kendrick all are expected to be weighing their options and could set their sights on the NFL.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 12/29/21

Several key players returned to practice Wednesday. Here are the latest COVID-19 updates from around the league:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Activated from practice squad/COVID-19 list: WR Rico Bussey

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Vikings Move Dalvin Cook To Reserve/COVID-19 List

Another playoff contender will be without a key weapon in Week 16. The Vikings placed Dalvin Cook on their reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday.

This will sideline the Pro Bowl running back for Sunday’s game against the Rams, with the door open to a Week 17 absence against the Packers. This news points to Alexander Mattison starting in the backfield. The third-year Cook backup tested positive for the coronavirus last week but was activated Wednesday.

Cook’s virus-list placement adds another Pro Bowler this week, following the likes of Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and J.C. Tretter. While the Chiefs are uncertain about their skill-position stars’ availability, the Vikings are certain to be without Cook. He is unvaccinated, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. That requires a 10-day isolation period, which will keep Cook out of practice ahead of Minnesota’s Week 17 matchup against Green Bay. Cook tested positive, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. He is out 10 days.

The Vikings have seen Mattison play well in Cook’s stead during his three-year tenure. They will count on another strong performance in a pivotal matchup. Mattison has two 100-yard rushing games and another 90-yarder in three starts. The former third-round pick is, however, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry; Cook exited Week 15 at 4.7.

Cook is two games removed from a 200-yard performance against the Steelers, and he earned his third straight Pro Bowl nod on Wednesday. The fifth-year standout has gained 1,067 rushing yards, doing so in just 11 games during a season in which he has missed more time due to injury. This virus positive will run Cook’s absence count to four games this year.