The Minnesota Vikings decided to release Dalvin Cook on Friday even though it cost over $5 million in dead cap space in 2023. This was not a move to help their team compete in 2023 but a long term move to reduce their salary cap problem. With superstar Justin Jefferson needing a new contract that would break the bank, the Vikings are trying to stay ahead of the salary cap curve. They (of course) picked up Jefferson’s 5th year option, but they need to make a long term contract team friendly as possible.
A chronic shoulder injury has bothered Cook. He played the last few years with that painful shoulder injury which affected his play somewhat. He had surgery in February. The Vikings called the surgery successful. They said Cook is expected to make a full recovery prior to the start of the regular season. He is still a dynamic back with good vision, superior intelligence, and valuable experience as a RB in the NFL.
Cook is entering his 7th season in the NFL in 2023, but he is still only 28 years old. His usage has not been exorbitant for a lead back. He’s had only a single season where he handled over 303 touches (rushes + receiving) which is under 18 touches a game. Also he played in every game in a season only once and that was last year in 2023. He has had his share of injuries in recent years but still has played in at least 13 games in the last four seasons. In that time he has started 58 of 65 games which is excellent for a bell cow type back.
Cook is closing in on 1,300 carries for a career with a average rush of 4.7 yards a carry. Over the last three years the Jets have averaged (per rush) 4.2 in 2022, 4.4 in 2021 and 4.1 in 2020. In 2022 the two most used running backs (Michael Carter and Bam Knight) each averaged only 3.5 yards a carry. Also if you take away Bam Knight’s longest carry (48 yards) he averaged only 3 yards a carry on his other 84 running attempts.
Breece Hall had a nice year up until he was injured. He played in 7 games before his injury that took him out for the year. He only had 4 carries in that 7th game. He had 20 carries in a single game only once (against the Packers). He had a total of 19 receptions which is about 3 catches a game. If you take away his monster 79 yard reception he averaged 7.7 yards a reception which is about average for a RB.
If the Jets were to bring in Cook it would be a solid move to bolster a roster whose feature back is coming off a serious, season ending injury. It also takes away a possible featured player from a conference opponent if he was to sign with Miami or the Bills. Of course the sticking point of any potential veteran signing would be the salary considerations. The Jets need to save as much cash this year so they can stay under the salary cap next year. Every nickel counts.
Obviously no one but Cook knows where he would like to play. He did grow up in Miami and won a state football title at Miami Senior High School. Yet the Dolphins have a crowded backfield with Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr. and 3rd round rookie De’Von Achane vying for snaps. Cook may not want to be part of a RBBC situation.
With the Jets Cook would be the featured back to start the year which would give Breece Hall time to work his way back from the injury. Most RBs who come back from season ending knee injuries will tell you it takes time to mentally adjust to playing again. Even though you are structurally healthy there is always fear of reinjury while playing such a violent sport. You almost have to train your brain to trust in your knee’s stability to handle the rigors of the game. Cook’s presence would allow Hall the time for this to occur.
Cook is not some average player that is brought in at the end of his career. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl each of the last four years. He had four rushes for over 40 yards last season. He gives the Jets another true game changer for the defense to worry about. He has amassed over 1,100 yards rushing in each of the last four years while handling under 16 carries a game on average. He also has over 220 career receptions so he is a true three down back. Aaron Rodgers used RBs liberally as he targeted them over 100 times in each of the last two seasons.
With the Jets bringing in Aaron Rodgers they are all in for the 2023 season. Why not add a Pro Bowl veteran RB as well? Doing so definitely increases the talent on the team immediately. The Jets are not in the mode of selecting and growing with players. They are in win now mode, and Dalvin Cook would only increase your chances of winning. The Jets don’t know completely how Breece Hall will come back from his injury so why not reduce the need for Hall to be a huge force right away? Besides adding Cook decreases pressure on Breece Hall since he wouldn’t have to shoulder a huge responsibility after a rather debilitating injury. Also I’m sure Breece could learn from a 4-time Pro Bowl player on how to best use his talents in the NFL. Players always learn more from contemporary peers than they do from coaches.
Again it will depend on the salary situation, but adding a talent like Cook at $3 to 4 million contract would be prudent. He brings veteran leadership along with solid talent. The Jets haven’t had a selling point like Aaron Rodgers on the team to lure top players to the team. Use that asset (You paid enough for it.) now while you have it. It won’t be here forever.
If the Jets are truly in a win now mode then adding a talent like Cook is a solid move in my opinion. He checks all the boxes you need to become a viable Super Bowl contender. It’s not like defensive coordinators are going to lose sleep before playing against Michael Carter, Bam Knight, or rookie Israel Abanikanda. Davin Cook changes that situation. When a defensive coordinator has to change what he does because of fear of an offensive player it makes the defense vulnerable in other areas. Play action works a lot better when a dynamic RB is in the backfield. When Cook slides out of the backfield he needs to be covered which takes coverage away from somewhere else. Aaron Rodgers will be better with Cook in the backfield. Cook draws eyes on the defense. That’s exactly when Rodgers can exploit the defense that is eyeballing Cook. You want Rodgers to have all the weapons possible. To me the move just makes sense.
That’s what I think...
What do you think? Do you want Cook added to the Jets’ kitchen or not?