Dalvin Cook enters the last season of his rookie deal looking for a new contract and the Minnesota Vikings should think twice before proceeding.
This offseason, the Minnesota Vikings have a big decision to make with running back Dalvin Cook. Heading into the last year of his rookie contract, Cook is set to make $1.3 million in base salary and count just over $2 million against the team’s salary cap in 2020. After leading the Vikings in rushing last season, he is set for a major pay raise.
The question is should Minnesota ante up and make a hefty commitment to the Florida State alum?
Since joining the Vikings in 2017, Cook has steadily improved his performance each year, mainly due to the fact he has played in more games each season. Despite this improvement, Cook has yet to remain healthy for an entire year.
His 2019 season started well enough. He gained more than 100 yards in each of the first three games and was leading the NFL in rushing.
However, over the final 11 games he played, only once more did reach the century mark in rushing yards. He still finished last season ranked 10th in the league in rushing with 1,135 yards and seventh in the NFL with his 1,654 total yards from scrimmage.
Unfortunately though, during the second half of the year, Cook managed only 538 total yards from scrimmage in six of Minnesota’s final eight matchups.
In his three seasons, Cook has played in only 29 of 48 games. With 457 rushing attempts, he has gained 2,104 yards on the ground for a healthy 4.6-yard average per carry.
Cook’s 1,654 total yards in 2019, was not only the seventh-most in the league, but also the 10th-most by a running back in Vikings franchise history. His average of 118.2 yards from scrimmage per game was also the fourth-most among running backs franchise history.
He currently finds himself alongside some pretty great company behind Chuck Foreman (1975, 1976) and Adrian Peterson (2012). The problem with these comparisons is that they are normalized for the number of games played, which makes Cook’s number look better.
This is where the concern lies. In his three years in the NFL, Cook has yet to play an entire 16-game schedule. Looking back at his three years at Florida State, the most games he ever played was 13.
In the six years of his collegiate and pro career, Cook has only played every game in a season once—13 in his junior year at Florida State in 2016.
Instead of investing long term in Cook, the Vikings might want to copy the strategy the San Francisco 49ers employed last season when they split running back duties pretty evenly across three players.
Raheem Mostert led the 49ers in 2019 with 772 rushing yards on 137 carries. Behind him was Matt Breida with 623 yards on 123 carries and Tevin Coleman with 544 yards on 137 carries. Only one member of this trio played all 16 games and no one started more than 11 of them.
Minnesota already has Alexander Mattison and Mike Boone sitting behind Cook. Last season, Mattison finished with 462 rushing yards on 100 carries with a 4.6-yard average per attempt and Boone finished with 273 on only 49 carries and an impressive 5.6-yard average per attempt.
Instead of extending Cook ahead of the 2020 season, the Vikings should look to add another running back in the mid to late rounds of this year’s NFL Draft. No doubt Minnesota can find another player capable of contributing in the same way Mattison did last season as a third-round selection.
After last season, Cook will be looking to get paid like one of the top backs in the league. An extension for the running back could result in a salary-cap hit between $10 and $13 million for the 2021 season—money better spent elsewhere on the roster.
Right now, according to Spotrac, the Vikings’ cap space for the 2021 season sits around $47.8 million. Tying up almost 25 percent of that on Cook would not be money well spent.