Dalvin Cook reportedly won't show up for Vikings' camp without contract extension

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 8, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) scores a touchdown during the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

There has been an expectation in recent months that Vikings running back Dalvin Cook would receive a contract extension and that’s why he decided to take part in the team’s virtual offseason program.

It’s now clear Cook has realized that a big payday might not be coming anytime soon.

As a result, Cook no longer will participate in any of the Vikings’ activities until he receives a “reasonable” deal, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Monday. “He’s out,” the source said. “Without a reasonable extension he will not be showing up for camp or beyond.”

Cook, one of the key players on the Vikings’ offense, is entering the fourth and final season of his rookie contract and is due to make a base salary of only $1.3 million. His contract will count $2 million against the salary cap. Schefter reported the Vikings and Cook have not talked since last week and there are no talks schedule, adding, Cook has presented what he believes to be “reasonable” proposals this offseason. The Vikings, however, have not been willing to give Cook what he wants.

A second-round pick in 2017, Cook has developed into a standout player in his three seasons but has had problems staying healthy.

Cook played in only four games as a rookie before suffering a knee injury and then was limited to 11 games in 2018. Last season, he played in 14 games and rushed for 1,135 yards on 250 carries (a 4.5-yard average) with 13 touchdowns and had 53 receptions for 519 yards. That earned Cook his first Pro Bowl berth.

While the Vikings have often rewarded their own players with rich contract extensions early in training camp, there might be an issue when it comes to Cook. Not only does the 24-year-old (he’ll be 25 in August) play a position where wear and tear is a major factor, but the Vikings also have to consider what might happen to the NFL salary cap beginning in 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported last week that the league’s salary cap for that season could potentially drop by $40 million “or a lot more per team,” because it’s expected games either will be played with no fans in stadiums, or far fewer than normal because of social distancing.

The Vikings began the league year in March at the bottom of the NFL in salary-cap room and made various moves to now rank 20th with $12.3 million in available room, according to Over The Cap. That’s working off the 2020 cap of $198.2 million per team, a $10 million increase from last season.

But if Rapoport is right, the 2021 figure could be as low as $158.2 million. The salary cap hasn’t been that low since it was set at $155.27 in 2016. The Vikings’ active cap spending, according to Over The Cap, is currently at $165,034,220, and their 2021 figure is at $182,026,119. That puts them $23.8 million over the potential cap for ’21.

So what does Cook want? The Texans’ David Johnson, who was traded by Arizona this offseason, makes $13 million per year and Cook reportedly wants to match or surpass that total. That would put him below the contracts recently signed by Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey (an average of $16 million over four years) and Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott (an average of $15 million over six years). Elliott held out of training camp last summer before signing just before the regular season opened.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins signed a two-year, $66 million extension with the Vikings in March that provided some immediate cap relief, but will be very costly in the coming years. He will count $21 million against the cap in 2020, but that figure grows to $31 million in 2021. Cutting him isn’t an option because of the enormous amount of dead money that would count against the cap. Schefter wrote that, to date, the Vikings’ contract offers to Cook demonstrate they are a quarterback-first team, per the source.

That might mean the Vikings’ most valuable running back isn’t in uniform when training camp does start.