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Minnesota Vikings star Dalvin Cook could be a potential cap casualty in 2023

Minnesota Vikings, Dalvin Cook

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook has served as a workhorse in their offense and looked like one of the best offensive weapons in the NFL for years. As the franchise now heads into a pivotal offseason, Cook’s future with Minnesota might not be guaranteed.

The Vikings head into the offseason with several critical impending free agents, including center Garrett Bradbury, defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and cornerback Patrick Peterson. All three starters proved integral to Minnesota’s success last season and there should be interest in retaining them for 2023.

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However, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah must also think about the future. All-Pro receiver Justin Jefferson will want a contract extension that makes him one of the highest-paid players in the NFL. The same can be said for tight end T.J. Hockenson, with both offensive weapons nearing the end of their rookie contracts.

Vikings’ beat writer Alec Lewis of The Athletic covered the team’s cap situation and how they can maneuver around their current issues. He also profiled the Vikings free agents, highlighting how Cook’s large cap hit might make him a candidate to be released or traded.

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While cutting ties with a four-time Pro Bowl selection would seemingly hurt the offense immediately, there is a case to be made parting ways with Cook would be the right call.

Why the Minnesota Vikings might move on from Dalvin Cook

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Minnesota Vikings
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

On the surface, Cook’s numbers are in line with his production from previous seasons. He earned his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl selection after playing in all 17 games, averaging 86.4 scrimmage yards per contest.

Minnesota’s offense certainly benefitted from having Cook on the field, too. The Vikings ranked eighth in scoring (24.9 PPG), seventh in offensive touchdowns per game (2.8) and finished sixth in total yardage (349.8 total ypg).

However, there are also signs of talent regression. According to Next Gen States, Cook ranked 32nd in yards created per touch (2.4), 30th in breakaway run rate (4.5%) and 37th in true yards per carry (4.1). Furthermore, his yards after contact per attempt dipped from 2.4 (2020) to 1.9 (2021) and finally 1.8 this past season.

There are benefits to releasing Cook. According to OvertheCap.com, Minnesota would gain $7.9 million in cap savings if he is designated a pre-June 1 release. If the Vikings declare him a post-June 1 cap casualty, it frees up $11 million in cap space.

It’s important money for a franchise that is more than $20 million over the 2023 NFL salary cap. While Cook played very well this season, his yards per carry average has dropped in each of the past three seasons and he’ll be 28 years old in August.

  • Dalvin Cook stats (2022): 1,468 scrimmage yards, 10 total touchdowns, 4.4 ypc

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Part of the Vikings’ decision might come down to Alexander Mattison. If he is being offered an opportunity to start for another team, Minnesota needs to weigh if it would rather have Cook or take Mattison with extra cap space. It’s part of the reason why the Vikings are a team to monitor closely this offseason.

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