With four days left before the start of the regular season, Dalvin Cook doesn’t have the new contract the Vikings have said all offseason they wanted to complete with the running back.
Despite the lack of a new deal, Cook said he’s planning to play Sunday against the Packers.
“If Coach Zim calls my name, I’ll be out there,” Cook said Wednesday in a videoconference.
The Pro Bowler, who posted 1,654 yards from scrimmage last season, will be a team captain for the first time, after coach Mike Zimmer said this offseason he wanted to recognize Cook as a leader.
He ran for 154 yards and a touchdown in the Vikings’ first game against the Packers last year, a 21-16 loss in Week 2, before missing the second one as the team opted to be cautious with him because of a shoulder injury before the playoffs. “I’m prepared enough to go play and I’m physically ready to play,” Cook said. “We’ve got a young group that I’m looking to lead and to get somewhere this season. I’ll let the business take care of the business.”
The Vikings broke off negotiations on a contract extension with Cook’s agent on Aug. 19 and then made a trade for former Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue that absorbed $12 million of cap space. According to NFLPA records, the Vikings had about $2.2 million in remaining cap space as of Wednesday, following their restructured deal with tackle Riley Reiff to clear $5 million.
Cook’s search for a new deal comes after another running back from his 2017 draft class — Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon — got a four-year, $48 million deal from the Bengals. Packers running back Aaron Jones, who was taken three rounds after Cook, said in an interview this week his agent is talking to the Packers about a new contract before Jones, like Cook, enters the final season of his rookie contract.
It’s long been believed Cook would accept a deal in the range of the contracts the Cardinals gave David Johnson in 2018 and the Jets gave Le’Veon Bell. Those two deals have a yearly average around $13 million, and contracts for Derrick Henry in Tennessee and Mixon in Cincinnati would seem to set the market between $12 and $13 million per season for Cook.
The Vikings, though, would likely need to restructure another contract to clear requisite cap space for Cook, who would presumably get upfront cash that would hit the salary cap in 2020.
“I’ve never been a guy to look at this guy or look at that guy,” Cook said. “Everybody is human. You go out and bust your tail and do what you’ve got to do and you expect a reward to come behind that. I just hope the Vikings and my agent come to an agreement of a deal that values me. Until then, I’ve just got to wait my turn.”
If the Vikings don’t sign Cook this season or work out a deal before the start of free agency in 2020, they could place the franchise tag on the running back, keeping him on the roster for another year and delaying his entry to the open market until age 27.
“It’s just like if I value you as a person, I would treat you such as I value you,” Cook said. “It’s the same thing with me. I’m going to give 1,000 percent on the field, every time I walk in the building, every time I’m out in the community. 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 the meantime, Cook says he will be on the field against Green Bay this Sunday.
“He’s a load, man,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Wednesday. “He ripped one off on us for about 80 yards last year [in the first game between the two teams]. You’ve got to be aware of where he is at all times. He’s big, he’s powerful, so you’ve got to be able to wrap up.”