The Vikings have a proven history of rewarding the players they draft and develop, and G.M. Rick Spielman has made it clear that the intend to do that with running back Dalvin Cook.
“We believe in paying our own players,” Spielman said in a post-draft visit to the #PFTPM podcast. “Those are the guys that we develop, we know them the best, we know where they are from a work ethic standpoint, we know what type of players they are, but we also know how much they mean to our community and how involved they are. And Dalvin checks all those boxes. He is a very good football player, but he is even a better human being. So we take the whole picture in and how philosophy and history has been, develop them, and hopefully we are drafting well enough we have to give long-term extensions to guys that have come in and helped us win ball games and fit everything we are looking for and build our culture.”
But what the Vikings will offer and what the player will accept must match, and Monday’s developments make it obvious that the Vikings and Cook currently aren’t there — and that they’ve apparently reached an impasse.
So Cook has disengaged, and he reportedly will stay away until he gets his deal. If, like the Cowboys did last year after a protracted holdout from running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Vikings eventually plan to blink, they should blink now or, at the latest, before camp opens.
Elliott seemed to lack burst at times last year, possibly due to his holdout. So while he eventually got what he wanted, the Cowboys didn’t really get what they were paying for, because they waited too long to pay him.
The Vikings should learn from that. They should put their best offer, whatever it is, on the table with the understanding that it either gets accepted or the Vikings move on, with Cook under contract for 2020 at $1.3 million — and with Cook losing his shot at unrestricted free agency or the franchise tag if he fails to show up for the start of camp and fails to earn his fourth year of service.
The Vikings would have to be willing to move on to Alexander Mattison, and they’d have to be confident that he can provide the same kind of production in the running game as Cook. With play-action passing such a key part of the offense (last year, quarterback Kirk Cousins used the fake handoff to set up 34.7 percent of his throws), it won’t work if the running threat doesn’t lure the defense to lock on to the tailback.
Whatever the decision, it needs to be made and implemented before the start of camp. If the Vikings inevitably will pay Cook anyway, it’s in the team’s interests and the player’s interests to do it before he undermines his preparations for a season that will give him a chance to prove that he’s worth the money.