ST. PAUL -- The drama surrounding Dalvin Cook is over.
The Minnesota Vikings announced Saturday, Sept. 12, they have signed the star running back to a contract extension. Cook told the Pioneer Press it’s a five-year deal worth $63 million with $28 million guaranteed, including a signing bonus of $15 million. It takes Cook through the 2025 season.
“Definitely excited,” Cook said of signing the contract. “Definitely a sigh of relief as far as being excited for being in Minnesota for years. That’s truly a blessing because I love being in this place, I love being in the locker room with the guys around. That was most important to me to being around the guys that love the most.’’
The sides had been negotiating at regular periods throughout the year and they often did not appear to be close. The deal finally got done on the eve of Minnesota’s opener on Sunday against Green Bay at U.S. Bank Stadium. Cook said he got the news when his agent, Zac Hiller, called him on Saturday morning.
“I knew they were having talks, I knew they were having meetings and stuff but he called me (Saturday) morning and let me know,” Cook said. “I was very excited. I’m still processing it and getting ready for a game so everything is going through my mind but I’m enjoying it with my family. It’s just a great time for me and my family and the Vikings.’’
Cook said he remained patient throughout the negotiating process.
“They started at what they wanted to start,” Cook said of the Vikings. “Everybody had to just get to a certain point. … We had time to get things done and everybody to see things clearly and we’re both seeing things clearly and I’m a Viking. I’ll be here.”
Cook this season has a base salary of $1.331 million, and he was in line to become a free agent next March. He now becomes the sixth-highest paid running back in the NFL based on new money and average salary per year of $12.6 million.
In an interview with the Pioneer Press last April, Cook said he’s the “best back” in the NFL and talked about wanting to sign a long-term extension with the Vikings. He said Saturday he’s “fine” with being the sixth-highest paid running and wants to be a “Viking for life.”
“I just want to play football and I want to be in Minnesota, and that was my security blanket,” he said. “I love everything about this place. And that’s what it came down for me.’’
According to salary-cap analyst Jason Fitzgerald, who runs the site www.overthecap.com, the Vikings entered Saturday with just $629,687 of cap room. However, the Vikings converted $6 million of linebacker Eric Kendricks’ $7.15 million base salary into a signing bonus. By being able to spread out some of Kendricks’ money, that enabled the Vikings to spread out Cook’s signing bonus and remain under the cap.
Had Cook not signed an extension, the Vikings could have placed a franchise tag on him next March. With the salary cap expected to go down due to the coronavirus pandemic, it has been estimated that the tag for running backs will be around $9 million for 2021.
NFL teams are allowed one franchise tag per year. The signing of Cook eliminates the possibility of the Vikings having to choose next March between putting a tag on Cook or Yannick Ngakoue, the defensive end who was acquired two weeks ago from Jacksonville and is playing on a one-year, $12 million deal. Safety Anthony Harris is eligible in March for a second franchise tag but it would be at $13.73 million, which is possibly not realistic.
Despite missing two games last season and nearly two full halves of two others, Cook last year was seventh in the NFL in rushing with 1,135 yards. He caught 53 passes for 419 yards.
“The way they are put together with the talent that they have, he is the vital part of their offense,” said former Vikings star running back Chuck Foreman. “I mean, he makes it go. …. He has that kind of ability that only comes around every now and then.”
Foreman had been outspoken in saying the Vikings needed to lock up Cook with a lucrative contract.
“He’s a millionaire and he’s got generational money, and that’s good for him and his family,” Foreman said. “He’s going to come ready to do what he’s got to do. This is good to see that the Vikings and him came to an agreement.’’
Cook said signing the contract was like winning the lottery but that the money won’t change him.
“It’s just being who I am and where I’m from and was brought up,” he said. “I’ll still be me. I work hard every day when I get up and stick to my routine and just be the same person. This is just a reward for all hard work that’s been put in to this point.’’
Leading up to the game against the Packers, Cook said he was able to keep his mind on the game even if it wasn’t easy.
“I always told myself every day I woke up this week getting ready for the game, I just said, ‘Focus on the game, and as bad as you want to get a deal, you’ve got to focus on the game and the game plan,”’ Cook said. “I love football. That was my number one priority and I was just going to let my agent take care of what he had to take care of.”