The next major running back cut is in the books. On Thursday the Minnesota Vikings release Dalvin Cook, after failing to find a trade partner. Cook joins Ezekiel Elliott and Christian McCaffrey among the high-paid RB extension players who have either been cut or traded due to their cap hit exceeding their worth on the field.
It’s wild to think we’re in this position again, but it’s just how the NFL is moving now. Two years ago Cook was seen as one of the top running backs in the league, and the No. 2 all-purpose back behind McCaffrey. Now the Vikings are simply looking to save a little cap space.
Cook does have some injury concerns, which likely led to teams passing on making a trade — but now, with RB contracts severely contracted, he’s easily worth a flier for a team in need of a back. True 1,000 yard talents don’t come along on the open market often.
No. 1: Buffalo Bills
This happened every single time there’s a running back on the market, and I’m going to keep putting the Bills first until they show there’s a plan. The lack of a reliable running game is still Buffalo’s biggest weakness, and James Cook (yes, Dalvin’s younger brother) is a huge question mark whether he can carry the load in 2023.
Despite this being the most obvious landing spot, it still feels doubtful. The Bills haven’t shown much interest in upgrading the position, and that probably won’t change with Dalvin on the block — unless the team really believes that putting the two Cook brothers together could be a solid 1-2 punch for them.
No. 2: Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins potent offense is really missing a threat out of the backfield. As it stands the team plans to move into 2023 with Raheem Mostert, but that’s not a great plan. Upgrading to make Cook the featured back, and Mostert handling short-yardage situations would be a big upgrade.
This would be an amazing landing spot for Cook. Not only does he get to play for his hometown team, but joining an offensive-minded coach as dynamic as Mike McDaniel could pay huge dividends.
No. 3: Chicago Bears
It would absolutely hurt the Vikings to see Cook in the NFC North, but this move makes a lot of sense. The Bears are trying to rebuild their offense in a hurry, and a dynamic all-purpose back gives them an edge they’re missing.
If Cook is healthy (yes, that’s a big if) then you have a pretty dynamic offense brewing in Chicago. Cook and D’Onta Foreman at RB is a nice tandem, and with Justin Fields set to take strides with D.J. Moore at WR it’s a pretty compelling package.
The Bears have more cap space than anyone right now. Getting an RB might seem like a bit of a luxury considering their other needs, but if the plan it to make the Bears relevant sooner, rather than later, then this move just fits.
No. 4: New Orleans Saints
The salary cap is a fake construct to the Saints. An annoying road block they just navigate around each year. Right now New Orleans already have Alvin Kamara, but with his status up in the air pending a legal trial, there is a major chance he could get suspended to start the year.
Not only is this a concern, but Kamara’s production has dropped off significantly in the last two years. If this team wants to try and contend in the NFC South (and all signs point to yes), then adding a weapon like Cook could really help the team in 2023.
Normally I wouldn’t give this any chance, but considering how the Saints manage the cap it’s a possibility.
No. 5: Los Angeles Chargers
BUT THEY HAVE AUSTIN EKELER!! Not for long, then don’t. The Chargers RB wants out, leaving a mammoth gap in the backfield. If this team wants to avoid Justin Herbert becoming the next Philip Rivers they have to make moves to keep competitive and put themselves in the playoffs every year.
That’s tough to imagine without established talent while they build their depth. Cook’s ability in the passing game would help Herbert out a lot, but this feels like an outside possibility while Ekeler is till in L.A. Still a possible location to watch.
No. 6: Denver Broncos
The Broncos reportedly have interest in bringing in Dalvin Cook, but they get a lower rank because it’s hard to imagine wanting to play there. Denver is in the mud until Sean Payton proves his concept and Russell Wilson can show he can be “the guy” again.
Furthermore, why would an aging player want to bang their head against the brick wall of the AFC West by joining the worst team in the division.
No. 7: Carolina Panthers
Let’s throw a big old dark horse in at the end, shall we? The Panthers have the second most cap space in the NFL and are desperate to put as much talent around Bryce Young as possible.
Yes, this team signed Miles Sanders in free agency — but it was low-money deal that could easily be part of a running back by committee. It seems weird to imagine the Panthers trading away Christian McCaffrey only to trade for Dalvin Cook, but there’s some logic here.
This team needs every weapon it can muster if they want to try and win the NFC South in Young’s first season under center — which seems like something they’re interested in doing. Cook and Sanders would give the Panthers one of the league’s best running back duos, and more importantly two players who can catch passes out of the backfield.
This seems incredibly unlikely, but wilder things have happened and that makes Carolina a team to watch.
This story has been updated and was originally published as piece exploring potential trades for the Vikings.