Saturday, Sep. 26, 2020

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Incentives Likely in New Cook Deal


Enjoy a Tuesday notes column leading off with Minnesota Vikings developments.

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said his organization is “working extremely hard” to finalize a new contract with starting running back Dalvin Cook who becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2021.

Whether it’s coincidence or not, the Vikings media schedule in coming days includes making Cook available to reporters a week from Friday.  Cook, about to begin his fourth season with Minnesota, is in training camp but Spielman offered no timeline when a new deal might be completed for one of the NFL’s top running backs who reportedly will earn $1.3 million in base salary this season based on his rookie contract from 2017.

Cook’s 1,135 rushing yards during the regular season last year was 10th best in the NFL.  His 53 receptions with a 9.8 yards per reception is impressive, too, but a source close to the team told Sports Headliners management is “very concerned” about Cook’s injury history, and that will impact the next contract.

The explosive Cook played in only four regular season games in 2017, 11 in 2018 and 14 (of 16) last year.  The source believes the Vikings could offer a two or three-year deal at about $10 million per season, with perhaps only one-third of the money guaranteed. Such a contract could offer incentives, with Cook awarded bonuses for playing in 12 games and 16 games.  In addition to durability incentives, bonus structure could include performance compensation such as leading the NFL in rushing.

A multi-year contract extension was announced for Spielman on Monday.  No specifics on duration were offered, or compensation, but the deal might be for three years at $2 million or more annually.  Head coach Mike Zimmer, under a new contract through 2023 that was announced last week, was scheduled to make $5 million in 2020 per Forbes last May, but his new deal could be for $7 million as early as this year.

Dating back to when Spielman started as general manager in January of 2012, the Vikings rank ninth in the NFL with a .570 winning percentage (72-54-2)—fourth best in the NFC over that eight-season period. And Spielman has more draft picks (93) than any other general manager in the National Football League. Of those selections, 56 are the result of trades and 13 have been first-round selections.

Spielman is respected in the Viking organization and doesn’t flaunt an ego like some front office heads in professional sports.  He tries to put others first and began a news conference yesterday praising a long list of individuals who help him with his job. He stresses communications and honesty as the football department’s leader. “There’s no BS going on,” he said.

Spielman hired Zimmer in 2014.  Both are sons of football coaches and love the process of building a team.  Zimmer described himself and his boss as “hard headed,” yet said both agree on things about 99 percent of the time. “I understand his bad jokes probably better than anybody,” Zimmer kidded.

Spielman and Zimmer are seeing some sense of normalcy in these pandemic times with players finally on the field after virtual instruction had to be used in prior months.  There is a level of confidence about the anti-virus measures at the team’s practice facility, but, of course, no certainty.  “I feel like I am the COVID police,” Spielman said.

Mike Zimmer

Zimmer reminds players to be cautious when they leave the facility. NFL labor policy does not allow keeping players in a hotel during training camp, so instead they can go home and to other parts of the community.  The COVID issue reminds Zimmer a bit of what his friend and legendary former coach Bill Parcells told him years ago: “Five things will cross your desk every day you’re not prepared for.”

The Wilf family, owners of the Vikings since 2005, has been rumored as potential buyers of the Minnesota Timberwolves whose asking price might be $1.2 billion.  The Wilfs could leverage the Vikings or their other business holdings for a sizeable bank loan, but they may not be interested because of the unsettled real estate market in New York and New Jersey where the group has many holdings.

If Gophers fans wonder whether any other players will join wide receiver Rashod Bateman in leaving the team to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft, the answer is almost certainly no. Quarterback Tanner Morgan could be an early round draft selection next year, but he can raise his draft stock by playing this fall (if there is a season).

The Twins conclude their first home-stand of the year this afternoon, with eight games played before zero fans.  It appears the Twins and other MLB teams will play their entire shortened season in front of empty seats—with the COVID-19 pandemic being a particularly ill-timed development for a Minnesota franchise that might have attracted 3 million customers this year.

Coming off 101 wins last season and a MLB record 307 home runs, there was a lot of preseason buzz about the Twins.  Now it looks like optimism about Minnesota being one of baseball’s best teams is on target.  Minnesota is off to a 8-2 start with continued power hitting and superb pitching out of the bullpen.  The Twins have drawn 3 million customers three times in franchise history, including the first two seasons at Target Field, 2010 and 2011.

With so many MLB games already cancelled, there is speculation the season could be shut down as early as this week.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said on WCCO Radio last night he expects Jake Odorizzi, who has been sidelined this season with back issues, to pitch this weekend against the Kansas City Royals.

Former Twins manager and Hall of Fame player Paul Molitor will tape an interview Friday for the Twin Cities cable TV program “Behind the Game.”  Co-hosts Patrick Klinger and Bill Robertson will ask Molitor about his career and the current status of baseball.

Prominent Minneapolis attorney Marshall Tanick, a former sports editor of the Minnesota Daily, wrote a detailed story last month for the Minnesota Lawyer about the “eclectic litigation” the Twins have experienced in 60 seasons here.  The preeminent litigation came about 20 years ago when financially challenged Major League Baseball sought to contract franchises including the Twins under the ownership of Carl Pohlad. The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, owners and operators of the Metrodome, took to the courts and successfully blocked the contraction.  The litigation preserved the franchise for Minnesota, allowing enough time to win public approval for Target Field.

Deepest condolences to family and friends of Jim Presthus following his unexpected death Friday.  The younger brother of former Gopher basketball captain Paul Presthus, the 67-year-old doctor and Edina resident died peacefully in his sleep.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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