Dalvin Cook has rushed for over 1,000 yards each of the last four seasons, but the 27-year-old may have played his last game for the Vikings as the club figures out how to manage the payroll. For 2023 the franchise is currently projected to be more than $24 million over the salary cap as allowed by the NFL.
A league insider told Sports Headliners he would move on from the player and what he said was an $11.8 million salary cap hit in 2022, and save $8 million in 2023. Cook is one of the more expensive running backs in the NFL and the source calls him a “luxury” that the team can no longer afford.
Cook, who has often been sidelined with injuries, has played a lot of football during his six-year pro career. He may no longer be the resource he once was. Last season he played in four more games than the year prior, but he had only 15 more carries and 14 more total rushing yards. His yards per carry of 4.4 was the lowest of his career.
The importance of running backs for the more successful NFL teams isn’t what it used to be. Some clubs aren’t paying high salaries to running backs including the 2023 Super Bowl Chiefs who start a seventh-round rookie. The Vikings could replace Cook with a running back by committee approach led by veteran Alexander Mattison who is three years younger.
Vikings’ all-world receiver Justin Jefferson, now approaching his fourth season, has emerged as the bell cow on offense, replacing Cook. “He’s not the guy anymore on offense,” said the source. “It’s Jefferson, and they gotta extend Jefferson. Get a new deal for him.”
The source, who prominently worked in NFL front offices in the past and remains knowledgeable about the league, isn’t optimistic the Vikings could generate trade interest in Cook. “If you could get a third (round pick) or something for Dalvin, that would be great but I don’t think they’re going to get it, and I think they’ll end up releasing him.”
The authority, speaking in an interview this morning on condition of anonymity, sees the Vikings also moving on from veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks as they figure out the salary cap that will be set at almost $225 million per team for 2023. They could also be intent on downsizing deals with wide receiver Adam Thielen and safety Harrison Smith.
Jefferson is likely to become the NFL’s best paid wide receiver, with his cap hit perhaps reduced by receiving a large signing bonus. The Vikings are also likely to extend quarterback Kirk Cousins who in 2023 will be in the last year of his deal expected to carry a salary cap hit of about $36 million.
If Cousins isn’t offered a one-year extension, it won’t send a positive message to the 34-year-old or the team. Last season he led the offense to eight comeback victories in Minnesota’s 13-win season.
The source quoted above doesn’t buy into fan interest for sending Cousins to the 49ers for either of two inexperienced quarterbacks (Trey Lance or Brock Purdy), plus perhaps a draft choice. “I think it would weaken the Vikings because I don’t think those guys at this stage of their careers are nearly as good as Kirk,” he said.
It’s believed that by extending Cousins, the Vikings could save about $15 million with the salary cap for 2023. That’s significant for a franchise looking for creative ways to stay within the cap.
The source expects either Ejiro Evero from the Broncos or Brian Flores from the Steelers to be the new defensive coordinator. He thinks head coach Kevin O’Connell wants to continue the 3-4 defensive scheme used by fired coordinator Ed Donatell but will be anticipating more blitzing and pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Schemes, of course, can be an asset but there is also consensus the Vikings need to upgrade their defensive personnel.
That includes a new deal to keep defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson and figuring out linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Smith was an elite sacks and tackles for loss performer for the first part of the season, but a knee issue changed his productivity.
Gophers All-American center John Michael Schmitz plays in the 74th Senior Bowl Saturday and will draw evaluation from NFL teams including the Vikings. Garrett Bradbury, the Vikings’ center who missed several games last year with back problems, is a 2023 unrestricted free agent. The NFL Network will televise the Senior Bowl from Mobile, Alabama, with game time at 1:30 p.m. central.
Evan Hull, the former Maple Grove all-state running back, will also play in the Senior Bowl after choosing to leave Northwestern. As a redshirt junior last fall he rushed for 913 yards on a 1-11 Northwestern team.
In the Rivals national listing of the top 150 prep basketball prospects for the class of 2023, Gopher signee Cameron Christie from Rolling Hills, Illinois is ranked No. 140, while another shooting guard, Taison Chatman from Totino-Grace, is at No. 40. Chatman is a verbal commit to Ohio State.
The Gophers’ other 2023 signee, Dennis Evans, the 7-foot-1 center from Riverside, California, is ranked No. 11 and only one prep center is rated higher.
Minneapolis native Chet Holmgren, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, was featured recently in a New York Times story. He is missing his rookie season while rehabbing from offseason foot injury. Author David Gardner reported Thunder coach Mark Daigneault gave Holmgren a book from a Holocaust survivor to help him cope.
Michael Fulmer, who the Twins acquired last season from the Tigers, remains an unsigned free agent after posting a 3.39 ERA with the two teams in 2022. The right-handed reliever could fill a need for the 2023 Twins but be aware left-handed hitters hit .337 against him last season while he held right-handed batters to a .188 average, per stats from Baseballreference.com.
Former Minnesota slugger Miguel Sano, released by the Twins last year, seems like a potential fit in Japanese baseball but is still hoping to catch the interest of an MLB team.
Cory Provus, Twins radio play-by-play voice who stays busy in the baseball offseason working football and basketball games for the Big Ten Network, is the latest guest on the Behind the Game public access TV program with co-hosts Patrick Klinger and Bill Robertson. The Chicago native, who has been with the Twins since 2012, is a graduate of the renowned S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0C10RLkOnMQ
Jack Larson, the longtime GM at Xcel Energy Center, is no longer in that role, with Jim Ibister the interim replacement.
I am speaking to the CORES lunch group Thursday, March 9 at the Bloomington Event Center. Organizer Jim Dotseth will be sending out a meeting notification to past CORES attendees later in the month. Reservations can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. CORES is an acronym for coaches, officials, reporters, educators and sports fans.
Randy Shaver, the KARE-11 news anchor and former sportscaster with the station, has been tireless in efforts to encourage funding for cancer research including through high school football games (Tackle Cancer). His annual Rush to the Cure event will be June 4 and 5. https://randyshavercancerfund.org/events/rush-creek-golf-classic-gala/