The New York Jets have signed former Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook to a one-year contract reportedly worth up to $8.6 million, including incentives. The signing concludes a lengthy free agency process for Cook.
Dalvin Cook earned Pro Bowl honors each of the last four years. At his best, Cook has been a dynamic and explosive runner — an elite playmaker that any team in the NFL would be fortunate to have. If that is the player the Jets are getting, this will be an excellent addition to the team. A Dalvin Cook near his peak allows the Jets to bring back Breece Hall slowly and cautiously as he returns from a torn ACL, without worries about a diminished backfield. If necessary Hall can spend some time returning to form, getting fully healthy, and come back strong to form a formidable backfield duo with Cook for the stretch run. That is the ideal scenario. However, it is not necessarily the way things will work out.
Dalvin Cook turned 28 on August 10. It is an age at which many NFL running backs begin to show signs of being past their peak. There are some statistical signs Cook is on the downside of his career. Last year was not his best season. It was probably Cook’s worst season in the NFL. Now, players can and do have down seasons, then bounce back the next year. And Cook still had more than 1400 yards from scrimmage in a down year for him. But a 28-year old running back with nearly 8000 yards from scrimmage on the tires should be looked at with at least a modicum of caution.
For now Cook slides in as RB1 for the Jets as long as Hall is out of action. When Hall returns Cook will almost certainly be RB2 behind Hall. This means in principle that Michael Carter, Zonovan Knight and Israel Abanikanda are fighting for at most two roster spots amongst the three of them. Some have concluded that means at least one of those three backs will not be on the 53-man roster by opening day, whether that means somebody gets traded or cut. However, that isn’t necessarily so. It is possible Breece Hall starts the season on the PUP list, leaving open the possibility that Carter, Knight and Abanikanda all make the team out of training camp. Once Hall returns something will have to give. However, given the high injury rate among NFL running backs, it is not all that unlikely that a back goes down at some point and is placed on injured reserve, keeping the entire set of five backs on the team or on injured reserve. That of course is just speculation, but there is no need now to be saying goodbye in your mind to any of the Jets top five backs. We’ll just have to wait and see how this plays out.
In the meantime, welcome to New York, Dalvin Cook. May you grace us with a performance that reminds everyone of how good you can be.