If the Minnesota Vikings returned to team activities tomorrow, star running back Dalvin Cook wouldn’t be present.
At least not according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who said he will “no longer participate in any team-related activities until he receives a ‘reasonable,’ deal.”
He’s coming off of the best season of his young career, with over 1,600 scrimmage yards and 13 touchdowns; but does have an history of injury. He played just four games of his rookie year out of Florida State before tearing his ACL against the Detroit Lions in October 2017.
A bum hamstring cost him four games in 2018; and he missed the final two games of the 2019 regular season with a shoulder sprain. All told he’s missed 18 games since his second round selection in the 2017 draft.
Despite that time missed he has been extremely productive while on the field; and his success has correlated to the success of the team. The Vikings are 12-3 when he surpasses the century mark, while just 6-9-1 when he fails to reach that milestone.
“I consider myself the best back in the game,” he said in April.
“The things I do coming out of the backfield, the things I do in between the tackles, I block, I pretty much do it all. I don’t have to come off the field. I think some guys just don’t do as much as I do, and I think that’s why I’m today’s (top) back.”
Following the Precedent
Cook isn’t the first star running back to play hardball while negotiating a new contract.
With running back being one of the most physically taxing positions, most good running backs make the majority of their money in their second contract. As a result, multiple big names have resorted to sitting out in an effort to get the deals they want.
One of the earliest and most dramatic examples is that of Le’Veon Bell; who sat out the entire 2018 season after the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to make him a satisfactory offer. The now-28-year-old veteran back signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract with the New York Jets with $27 million guaranteed.
“I’m back in the green baby, let’s get it,” he Tweeted to announce the news; alluding to his college days at Michigan State.
In 2019 Melvin Gordon III of the Los Angeles Chargers decided to follow in Bell’s footsteps. Gordon has also been one of the better backs in the league since joining the NFL, but not quite the stud of his counterpart’s stature. After sitting out four weeks, Gordon rejoined the team without a contract extension.
For the games he did play he took a back seat to his former back-up Austin Ekeler. The Chargers extended Ekeler in the offseason as their feature back in the 2020 offseason, and Gordon signed a two year deal with the Denver Broncos.
The Dallas Cowboys and multi-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott faced a similar dilemma heading into the 2019 season as well; but Jerry Jones and company inked Elliott to a massive six-year, $90 million extension one week into the regular season.
Cook will likely hope his situation ends up more like that of Zeke’s in Dallas than Gordon’s in Denver; but it is clearly a risk he’s willing to take.