The fact that the Saints and running back Alvin Kamara are working toward a long-term contract has gotten plenty of attention. The fact that the Vikings and running back Dalvin Cook are doing the same thing has gotten less attention.
But it’s happening; Minnesota and the fourth-year tailback are trying to strike a deal on an extension before the season starts.
The problem is that the Vikings and Cook have been and continue to be at a financial impasse. The Vikings have calculated their number based on the position Cook plays, and they’re sticking to it. Cook wants more than that.
The Vikings seem to be banking on the fact that, when push comes to shove, Cook will take the best offer that’s on the table. Cook has to decide whether to assume the injury risk in 2020 for a base salary of only $1.3 million this year or to embrace the long-term security, even if it’s less money than what he wants and/or believes he deserves.
The Vikings don’t seem to be inclined to go beyond their strictly-business evaluation of the situation. The franchise tag has been dropping for the tailback position. If the cap is flat next year, the running back franchise tag is expected to be in the range of $9.4 million. If the cap drops to the minimum of $175 million, it would be $8.3 million.
So the Vikings can tag Cook twice and pay out, at a cap of $198.2 million next year, a total of $21.98 million over the next three seasons. At a cap of $175 million next year, that’s $19.56 million over the next three seasons. Regardless of what the Vikings think of Cook (and they think enough of him to make him a captain this year), the labor deal allows them to go year-to-year at a very affordable amount.
Cook was asked earlier this week whether he understands the difference between the team valuing him as a person and the business realities of paying a running back.
“Seeing it from a standpoint that I’m seeing it now, and being in a negotiation and seeing it from this side, you kind of put both of them together,” Cook told reporters. “It’s just like if I value you as a person, I will treat you such as I value you. So it’s the same thing with me. I’m gonna give 1,000 percent on the field every time I walk in the building, every time I’m in the community. So you know it’s kind of the same thing. Like I said I just hope both sides come to an agreement so they can value Dalvin Cook on and off the field.”
In other words, Cook wants the Vikings to set aside the business realities of the position he plays, and to compensate him in line with how they view him as a player and person.
The Vikings have actually benefited from Cook’s excellent nature. He hasn’t held out. He hasn’t held in. He’s said he’ll do whatever is asked of him. Asked point blank by reporters whether he’ll play without a new deal, Cook said, “If Coach Zim calls my name, I’ll be out there.”
Coach Zim definitely will call his name. The question is whether Mike Zimmer will be calling the name of a guy working under the fourth year of a slotted, second-round rookie contract or whether he’ll be in the first year of a long-term contract that he’s happy to sign.