Running backs are in a weird place right now in the NFL. According to Marcus Mosher, a writer for Pro Football Focus, the average salary of RBs on Super Bowl-winning teams from 2009-2020 was only about $1.1 million. Last year’s Bowl-winning workhorse, Darrell Henderson, only made $878k as his base salary. So, what does this spell for a team paying their 27-year-old running back $8.3 million this year with the cost only going up in the years after?
Cook Starts Cooking
Dalvin Cook has been nothing but an absolute lightning rod out of the backfield, but let’s pull back a bit. Drafted in the second round of the 2017 Draft, the hype around Cook wasn’t exceptionally high, even with over 2,200 yards from scrimmage in his final season at Florida State. Through three games, he was leading the league in yards and was on track for 400 yards in four games. However, in the third quarter of that fourth game against the Detroit Lions, Cook suffered a non-contact injury. As much hope as I had held out, I wasn’t shocked by the news: ACL tear, out for the season. 2017 still ended up being a good season for the Vikings, but a tough pill to swallow nonetheless. After this injury, I had my worst take so far in my time following sports. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really make “hot takes.” I think most of them are just stirring the pot and usually completely unrealistic. Even with this, a 13-year-old me decided to throw one out there. I genuinely didn’t think Dalvin Cook would ever recover fully and return to his bright potential. Sure, a few players have come back from major tears like nothing happened (see Adrian Peterson), but as a position that gets battered on almost every play, I couldn’t help it. I was sure he was done.
Like Nothing Went Awry
My take aged like milk in the desert, and I couldn’t be happier. After a 2018 where he only played in 11 games, Cook promptly came back and started a streak of three straight seasons of 1,100 or more yards. It could very well continue this year as well, with 90 yards in the season debut against the Green Bay Packers. His agility, speed, and shiftiness weren’t hampered at all, and has been a consensus top five running back in the NFL since. He’s acted as a major x-factor in many games, adding an extra fold or two to Minnesota’s weekly offensive scheme. But, like I said in the introduction, he’s aging and on a sizable contract for a running back. This season and the season after could change the landscape of the Vikings’ backfield in a major way.
When Will the Wheels Fall Off?
Dalvin Cook’s running style is awe-inspiring, a mix of power, one-cut, and elusive skills to create an incredible set of moves. Football, though, is a hard game. It’s an unforgiving game. On average, running backs’ careers only last two and a half years. Just based off of that, Cook has had an anomaly career in comparison. He didn’t seem to show any signs of age or wear and tear last week, so my argument may be null. I just can’t help but be concerned with a contract that extends all the way to his age-31 season. With the fourth largest cap hit on the roster, another major injury or a subpar season may end Cook’s time with the team based purely on the need to free cap space. Until that time comes, though, I’m plenty content tuning in weekly to see AP’s successor (not in numbers, but Cook came in the year after he and Minnesota split) churn up turf.