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The Minnesota Vikings have a choice now with Dalvin Cook. And it’s as simple as treading softly and seemingly capitulating to a player who has called their bluff.
Or acting like a salary cap assassin.
The Vikings now have the opportunity to use the NFL’s post June 1 salary cap rule that allows them to save some $9 million of cap room and carry only $5 million in dead money by simply cutting their dynamic but highly paid running back after Thursday.
Had they cut Cook before June 1, the Vikings would have saved only $5.8 million on their cap and carried over $8 million in dead money for a player no longer on the team.
Dalvin Cook Fate Still Uncertain
The Vikings months ago asked Cook to take a pay cut from his current $10.4 million base salary and got turned down. They’ve also tried (so far to no avail) to trade Cook. But the club has a new opening for dealing with Cook now.
The whole scenario is intriguing because while no team has stepped up aggressively enough to trade for Cook, he most definitely would have suitors if he is simply cut this week or sometime soon after.
Count the Miami Dolphins, who gain some $13.6 million in cap space from a post-June 1 cut of cornerback Byron Jones, as one of the leading candidates to be interested in Cook if he’s suddenly a free agent.
Cook is from Miami. Has has made it known through sources he’d like to play either for the Dolphins or with his brother James Cook on the Bills. And the Vikings have let it known Cook probably isn’t in their future.
Dolphins Still Could Be Bidders For Cook
The Dolphins meanwhile are eagerly anticipating their $13.6 million salary cap windfall.
“So that has been planned and we are aware that that’s occurring,” coach Mike McDaniel said, “and we typically do everything we can to have the best team possible within the guidelines of the salary cap.
“So not sure where, but I’d feel confident to say that we’ll make good use out of that salary cap room when it comes to the start of the regular season.”
That’s all intriguing. But what if I told you the Vikings can crash and burn the entire dream of any team getting Cook now unless they make a trade?
All they have to do is play hardball with Cook.
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah Could Play Hardball
If Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was of the mind, he could easily decide to do absolutely nothing now. No matter that June 1 has arrived.
Cook would remain on the Vikings.
And the Vikings could continue to hold out hope some team in the coming months might decide to actually trade for Cook. That decision could come in training camp in July. That way the Vikings would still get something for Cook.
But even if no one steps up, the Vikings could still win by keeping Cook until the day before final roster cuts are made prior to the regular season.
The Vikings could then get to that final cut day and, absent a trade, cut Cook then.
Waiting Could Help Vikings
The team would lose nothing in the transaction it wouldn’t lose in making the move this week. But waiting could potentially give the Vikings an advantage they don’t enjoy now.
If the Vikings tell Cook they will hold onto him, as is their right, until just before the season and then cut him, it would seriously affect his ability to sign with a new team. More importantly to Cook, it would affect his ability to get a near comparable contract to what he currently has scheduled for 2023.
The fact is teams a week or two out of the regular season aren’t typically in a cap situation healthy enough to add a high-priced free agent. They are in a much better stance to do that now.
So Cook would understand that the Vikings could basically hold his rights and crash his free agent market in late August.
Cook Might See Logic In Pay Cut
It gets better for the Vikings.
They can make the case to Cook that is their intention. They could then explain the odds of him getting a big multi-year deal in last August are slim, and instead convince him it’s in his best interest to accept the pay cut now after all.
The Vikings could, using a hypothetical example, tell Cook they would cut $4-$5 million from his base salary. The remaining $5-$6 million could still be more than he’d likely get on a one-year deal as a free agent in August.
This approach would have the added advantage for Minnesota of actually keeping Cook if the player’s agent or advisors agree not to gamble on testing the market in August.
Yes, definitely hardball.
But potentially it could be a very effective approach for the Vikes that not many around the NFL have pondered as a serious possibility. So waiting to cut cook Cook well past June 1 might be a sound approach.