The Minnesota Vikings extended Alexander Mathison’s contract on Wednesday night, seemingly reducing the chances of starting RB1 Dalvin Cook returning in 2023.
Both could still headline the Vikings RB room in September, but with a glaring $14.1 million cap hit slated for 2023, the likelihood of his return — at the same price — is slim.
Dalvin Cook trade sweepstakes can be reduced to 1 team
Accordingly, Cook, 27, has been the subject of more frequent trade rumors over the past week, though the Vikings’ compensation for such a deal is unclear. Cook could bring 3rd rounder; he could go for a 7th round pick. The NFL trade market is fun and unusually fickle.
And if the Cook lottery is still alive — a decision on his future with the Vikings must be made by Friday — one team could be the final bidder. Atlanta Falcons. Take a look at each team’s depth chart with four days of free agency in the books and Atlanta is one of the few, if only, with a fairly unfavorable RB situation. The team is recruiting Tyler Allgaier and former Viking Cordarrelle Patterson, in addition to some somewhat anonymous linebackers.
If the Falcons aren’t intrigued by a rookie RB in April’s draft, Cook could charm Atlanta, especially if his trade price is less than that of Austin Ekeler, who requested a trade from the Los Angeles Chargers earlier this week.
Former Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott is also available to sign as a free agent on the open market.
Commenting on possible trade partners for Cook on Monday, KSTP Darren Wolfson mentioned the Miami Dolphins and Falcons as dance partners. And after the deal between Cook and the Dolphins may have fallen through earlier this week — the Dolphins effectively re-signed their 2022 running backs on Tuesday and Wednesday — the Falcons could be the “it” for trade candidates.
The Vikings ran the football the third-fewest in the business last year, preferring to run away with former quarterback head coach Kevin O’Connell. The playcalling split left fans wondering about the upcoming 2023 season — will the Vikings hire the fifth-most expensive running back in the league and run the ball at a relatively low rate?
The answer feels like probably not. Still, every day that Cook remains on the roster, fans grapple with new theories about whether Cook can improve financially again in 2023 — a restructured contract or a pay cut? While speculating about a trade with the Dolphins or Falcons, the aforementioned Wolfson also suggested, “I still see it [Cook] here right now in 2023.”
In theory, Minnesota could release Cook before June 1 and save $5.8 million in cap space, or after June 1 and get back $9 million. Because those savings are somewhat huge, Cook has been nominated as a possible salary cap casualty for two months.
With Friday almost a deadline for Cook’s sentencing, keep an eye on the Falcons, a team with roughly $33.6 million in cap space as of March 16.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinney, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sauh and Sal Spice. His obsession with the Vikings dates back to 1996. Guilty pleasures listed: peanut butter ice cream, The Sopranos and The Doors (the band).
All statistics provided by Pro Football Guide / Stathead; all contract information provided by OverTheCap.com.