In case you thought the NFL was about to quiet down, think again. At about the same time the 2023 NFL regular season schedules were released, it was reported that all signs are pointing to the Minnesota Vikings parting ways with four-time Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook, according to ESPN’s Dianna Russini.
When recently asked about his running back, Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell expressed his appreciation for Cook, who rushed for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns last season. O’Connell did, however, offer any assurances that Cook would still be on the Vikings when they open the regular season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It appears that money would be what would break up Cook and the Vikings. The team reportedly asked Cook to adjust his salary this season, a request Cook — who has a $10.4 million base salary and $14.1 million cap hit for the 2023 season — balked at. While they surely want to keep him, the Vikings appear to be ready to part with Cook in order to free up cap space while leaning more on fellow backs Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler and rookie DeWayne McBride. Should they deal him, the Vikings would most likely sign a free agent to help replace him. Kareem Hunt and Ezekiel Elliott are among the notable running backs still available.
Injuries limited Cook to just 15 games during his first two seasons in Minnesota. Since then, the former second-round pick has been a consensus Pro Bowler. He’s gained 6,423 total yards since the start of the 2019 season and has scored 46 touchdowns over that span. Cook did undergo surgery back in February to repair the shoulder he broke back in 2019.
His contract would likely limit his options, but there are still plenty of teams that would be interest in adding Cook to their roster. With that in mind, here are five possible landing spots for Cook should he and the Vikings part ways.
OK, this doesn’t make the most sense given that they’re already paying Tony Pollard $10 million for this season. The Cowboys also picked running back Deuce Vaughn in the sixth-round of last month’s draft to help complement Pollard and fellow veterans Malik Davis and Ronald Jones.
Now that we’ve covered reality, let’s take a visit to Jerry World. Everyone knows that Jerry Jones loves to make splashy moves, and acquiring Cook would certainly be one. Headlines aside, the move does make sense from a personnel standpoint. The Cowboys would definitely benefit from having a player of Cook’s caliber to play alongside Pollard. Cook would also offer insurance in the event that Pollard leaves after the 2023 season.
For starters, the Bears have the cap space to acquire Cook, who has given Chicago plenty of headaches during his time in Minnesota. Cook would be an upgrade over the Bears’ current group of backs that includes D’Onta Foreman, Khalil Herbert, and rookie Roschon Johnson.
Cook would fit like a glove inside the Bears’ offense. He’d get a chance to run behind a revamped line that includes rookie first-round pick Darnell Wright. Cook would also play alongside quarterback Justin Fields, who is poised to have a breakout season.
Arizona has the cap space to acquire Cook. They also have a need at running back behind James Conner, who given his injury history would benefit by having a back of Cook’s caliber to share a backfield with.
The addition of Cook would give the Cardinals one of the NFL’s top offenses as far as personnel is concerned. Like Chicago, the Cardinals acquired one of the top linemen in the draft in Paris Johnson Jr.. Arizona also has a talented young quarterback in Kyler Murray along with a talented receiving corps, led by Deandre Hopkins and Marquise Brown.
Despite his trade request, it appears that Austin Ekeler is staying in Los Angeles for the time being. But adding Cook would give the Chargers flexibility at the position beyond 2023. Cook would also serve as a nice complement for the versatile Ekeler, who could be used even more as a receiver with Cook in two. Cook would provide much-needed depth to the Chargers’ backfield.
Cook in the 49ers’ offense would be like playing Madden on rookie level for coach Kyle Shanahan. Along with giving him an embarrassment of riches on offense, Cook would also give Shanahan desired depth at running back given Christian McCaffrey and and Elijah Mitchell’s injury history.
A quarter century ago, Shanahan has an up-close look at Terrell Davis running roughshod en route to winning two titles with Kyle’s dad, Mike Shanahan. Cook would do similar magic with the younger Shanahan while playing in the same zone blocking scheme as the one Davis enjoyed.