After a prolific four-year stretch where Dalvin Cook totaled at least 1,135 rushing yards and six touchdowns for the Minnesota Vikings, a divorce may be in store for the pairing. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Vikings have been exploring trades with their star and “want to do right” by Cook in any potential deal.
Let’s dive into Cook’s four best fits if the Vikings release or trade him.
Dalvin Cook’s Free Agency Best Fits
Cook’s $14 million cap hit in 2023 is an issue for a team that has spent the offseason trimming their massive allocation of cap space to aging veterans. While Cook has been a star for the NFL franchise, he turns 28 this summer. Releasing Cook would clear $9 million in 2023, $12.5 million in 2024, and his full $14.5 million cap hit in 2025.
Miami Dolphins Add To Track Team With Cook
The Miami Dolphins are a team naturally linked to Cook. Cook is from Miami, attending Miami Central High School, and we’ve seen several stars in Tyreek Hill and Jalen Ramsey basically force their way in trades to South Florida. Fowler already linked Miami to Cook before the 2023 NFL Draft, saying they “could get aggressive” in pursuit of him.
We don’t know if that happened, but Miami did draft a player who has been compared to Cook in the third round: Devon Achane. Achane is much lighter than Cook, weighing about 30 pounds less but nonetheless shows similar explosiveness and solid contact balance. Adding Cook wouldn’t be just a minor upgrade, even if Achane does end up being a super-efficient satellite back.
Miami’s current backfield is fine but unspectacular. Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. can get the job done as a rotation, but there’s certainly room to improve. And there’s no doubt Cook is an improvement.
Cook ranked second in the NFL last year in routes run, evaded 62 tackles, and averaged 4.8 yards per carry despite facing a light front on only 42.4% of touches. His ability to handle the workload as a lead back and still have great efficiency would be just another boost to a loaded offense.
Buffalo Bills Add Cook To Prioritize the Running Game
How about uniting Dalvin with his brother, James Cook? The Bills opted against investing heavily into the position this offseason, allowing incumbent starter Devin Singletary to walk in free agency and replacing him with Damien Harris. With the current setup, James Cook and Harris would be in some sort of rotation, with Latavius Murray and Nyheim Hines spelling them.
That’s not an overly attractive backfield as it is. Quarterback Josh Allen could use more help on offense, so why not go back to the Vikings to pillage one of their stars? Dalvin Cook is much more impactful as a runner than his brother, though both are considered excellent receivers.
Consider that James Cook faced the most light fronts in the NFL last year, with a whopping 65% of snaps against four defensive linemen. Dalvin Cook would be a far greater threat to run out of these looks next to Allen, and Allen would still have the option to audible to take advantage of pre-snap mismatches.
It’s imperative that the Bills offer Allen more options so they can avoid becoming predictable. Though their mother said the Cook brothers are incredibly competitive with each other, the Bills can benefit from the camaraderie and sheer talent upgrade by adding Dalvin.
Washington Commanders Finally Find Star in Cook
Pinning full blame on Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson for the Washington Commanders’ run game failure isn’t fair. The Commanders had a makeshift line for much of 2022, and the results showed. Despite attempting the fourth-most runs in the league, the Commanders were 12th in yards and 29th in touchdowns, thanks to a 4.0 per-carry average.
Cook can’t completely overcome line issues, but the Commanders put some work in to help improve the unit this offseason. They drafted center Ricky Stromberg in the third round and signed veteran right tackle Andrew Wylie. Adding offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy may lead to more varied looks that open creases for backs to find more space.
The biggest perk of adding Cook on top of getting a quality rusher is there’d be no more committee in place. Commanders head coach Ron Rivera has often utilized multiple backs throughout his career, but when there’s a star, he rides them hard. Cook has proven capable of being a three-down back who can help sophomore quarterback Sam Howell embrace being a starter.
Arizona Cardinals Give Kyler Murray a True Partner
The Arizona Cardinals are projecting star quarterback Kyler Murray to return from his torn ACL around midway through the 2023 season, so they have an interesting decision to make. They could tear down prior to his return if they start slowly with Colt McCoy under center. That includes looking to deal veterans like Budda Baker, DeAndre Hopkins, and Zach Ertz.
However, the Cardinals could also double down and try to win in a tough NFC West. Maybe it’s not wise, but being outright bad with Murray isn’t a great option, either. Adding Cook to start over James Conner could be a move that boosts Murray’s motivation to return and play well. Arizona hasn’t had a back run for more than 782 yards since the 2020 season.
New Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon just came from an Eagles organization that clearly favored utilizing a star back in Miles Sanders to help relieve pressure off the quarterback. Especially with Murray off an injury, Cook can be a more reliable presence to overhaul this offense in the short term.