Just like that, Cook’s six-year tenure in Minnesota has come to a close after no late trade offer came through.
Cook has played his entire professional career with the Vikings up to this point. He was selected by Minnesota in the second round (41st overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft out of FSU. He signed a five-year extension with Minnesota ahead of the 2020 season under former general manager Rick Spielman. That deal called for Cook to earn $11 million in 2023, with a $14.1 million salary cap number. The Vikings ranked No. 3 in cap commitment to the running back position with Cook’s numbers still on their books.
Cook received 74% of the Vikings’ carries last season, rushing for 1,173 yards — the sixth-most in the league — and eight touchdowns. He produced his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season in 2022 and didn’t miss a single game for the first time in his career.
What’s more, two of the six longest runs of his career came last season: a 53-yard score in Week 6 and an 81-yard score in Week 10 in which Cook recorded a top speed of 21.68 mph, the seventh-fastest speed for any ball carrier in 2022, per Next Gen Stats.
However, Cook also led the NFL with 62 carries that either lost or did not gain a yard. The four-time Pro Bowler has rushed for more yards (5,993) than any Vikings runners except Adrian Peterson (11,747) and Robert Smith (6,818).
Cook, who turns 28 in August, faces an uphill battle next season regardless of where he ends up. In 2022, only three running backs age 28 or older (Latavius Murray, Raheem Mostert and Derrick Henry) rushed for more than 500 yards.
The Vikings re-signed backup running back Alexander Mattison, 24, in March to a contract that guarantees him $6.35 million over the next two seasons. Shortly after signing his new contract, Mattison said that he returned to Minnesota because of an “understanding how it’s all laid out and how it’s all going to work out,” per ESPN.
Mattison rushed for 283 yards and five scores last season without a single start. All five of his 20-plus-carry games have come in games Cook either missed or exited early. He has averaged 1.91 yards per rush after contact — slightly better than Cook’s mark of 1.77 over the past four seasons — but only one of his 404 career carries has gone beyond 24 yards.
Mattison’s cap numbers over the next two seasons are $2.4 million and $4.6 million, respectively.
“Between Kene and Ty, there already seems to be a really nice competition brewing there,” coach Kevin O’Connell recently said, “because both of those guys are having really solid springs and kind of showing their versatility.”
DeWayne McBride, a seventh-round draft pick from UAB who led the nation in rushing during the 2022 college season, is also in the mix. He has yet to participate in spring drills while rehabilitating a minor hamstring injury, however.
The Vikings finished last season with a 13-4 record and a wild-card round postseason exit.
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