Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is officially holding out until he gets an extension. Cook will "no longer participate in any team-related activities until and unless he receives a 'reasonable' deal," according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
“He’s out,” said Schefter's source. “Without a reasonable extension, he will not be showing up for camp or beyond.”
This was always a possibility, given that Cook has yet to receive a new contract as he enters the final year of his rookie deal. Now it's official. Until a deal gets done, Cook won't be showing up for any further Vikings-related activities. Up to this point, he had been participating in the team's virtual offseason program.
A few weeks ago, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported that the Vikings and Cook had been engaged in "productive talks" about a contract extension, but added that the two sides weren't close at the time. It sounds like they haven't gotten any closer since then.
According to Schefter, the Vikings' offers to this point have not been satisfactory for Cook.
The two sides, the Vikings and Cook, have not spoken since last week and have no further talks scheduled. Cook has presented what he has thought are "reasonable" proposals this offseason, only to see the Vikings unwilling to meet his price.
Schefter added that Cook wants to "match or exceed" the $13 million per year that Texans running back David Johnson is making. Another factor in negotiations is the $16 million per year the Panthers gave to Christian McCaffrey on a four-year extension this offseason. Cook's camp paid close attention to the McCaffrey situation and may want a deal in that range.
Cook stayed healthy in 2019 and posted a breakout season with 1,654 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns in 14 games. Through the season's first ten games, he averaged 141.5 yards from scrimmage per game and established himself as a top-five running back in the NFL. Cook's dual-threat ability makes him a crucial piece of the Vikings' run-heavy offense.
All throughout the offseason, it has seemed like the Vikings were preparing to extend Cook, despite the risks associated with signing a running back to a major second contract.
"I put Dalvin in the same class as I have all of our other young guys...we've always tried to keep our core young talent that we draft and develop," GM Rick Spielman said at the combine. "I consider Dalvin as one of those core group of players that we definitely want to try to keep."
Spielman seemed to double down on that stance later in the offseason:
"We've always had history in the past of once we got through the draft, a lot of the extensions we've done, our philosophy has always been [that] hopefully we're drafting well enough that we reward our own players," he said on ESPN radio. "Dalvin Cook's a critical part of our offense and not only is he a great football player, but he's a great human being off the field on how he represents our organization out in the community."
However, it's going to come down to money, and there are a couple reasons why the Vikings might be hesitant to give Cook a massive new contract. The main one is that the recent history of second contracts for running backs is pretty ugly. Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, Jerick McKinnon, and Johnson are just a few of the notable examples of backs who didn't return value for their teams.
There's also Cook's injury history to take into consideration. The 2017 second-round pick missed most of his rookie season with an ACL injury and dealt with a hamstring injury in 2018. He was slowed by multiple upper-body ailments last year down the stretch. In total, Cook has only played in 29 of a possible 48 games through three seasons.
The Vikings have a much cheaper replacement available in Alexander Mattison, the 2019 third-round pick who was impressive as a rookie. This whole situation is emblematic of the dilemma teams currently face when it comes to talented running backs. The position just doesn't seem to be valuable enough to make it worth extending those players.
Right now, the two sides have yet to come to an agreement on what Cook is worth. He clearly wants to be paid like a top-five running back, and even if the Vikings believe that's an accurate assessment of his ability, they have reasons to be concerned about paying him as such.
Another factor here is that the Vikings only have around $8 million in 2020 cap space, excluding the money needed to sign their rookie class. They could theoretically create more by signing safety Anthony Harris to a back-loaded extension that would decrease his cap hit for next year (which is currently the franchise tag of $11.4 million).
There's also the concern of a dramatic reduction in the 2021 salary cap because of the coronavirus pandemic. NFL Network's Ian Rapaport recently reported that the cap could decrease by as much as $40 million per team next year.
Until the two sides agree on a number, the Vikings won't have their star running back. Cook is following the path of players like Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, and Melvin Gordon, all of whom held out in recent years. We'll see if the two sides reach a compromise soon or if this is a situation that won't be resolved for several months.
Everything seems to be on the table at this point, from Cook signing a new deal before training camp to the Vikings working out a trade.
- The cases for and against signing Dalvin Cook to a major extension
- Vikings running backs preview: will Dalvin Cook get paid?
- What does the Christian McCaffrey extension mean for Dalvin Cook?
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