MIAMI GARDENS — Lionel Messi one day, Dalvin Cook the next?
That’s how Miami rolls, you want to think. This winning stuff is so contagious, who doesn’t want to take their talents to South Beach, Sunrise, Miami Gardens, Boca Raton and all points in-between?
Maybe Dalvin Cook does. The Minnesota Vikings informed their four-time Pro Bowl running back they intend to release him, according to multiple reports Thursday. With Cook coming from Miami’s Central High and Florida State, it’s easy to draw a line — maybe a beeline — from the Twin Cities to Miami Gardens.
Imagine: Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on the outside, Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, and now the best play-making running back the Dolphins have had since Jay Ajayi flashed? Lightning and thunder? Seriously?
Predictably, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel pointed out he was born in 1983, which isn’t yesterday, when a reporter tried to bait him into a “are you interested in this guy?” discussion on Cook. That’s not only because it appeared Cook was still property of the Vikings at the time and therefore another tampering charge waiting in the wings. It’s also out of recognition that while McDaniel has a say in the matter, the loudest voice in the room will be general manager Chris Grier’s.
So let’s look at this from all sides, as Grier should.
The first concern is that Cook would have accounted for $14.1 million against Minnesota’s cap this season. The Dolphins have $13.9 million in cap space but ideally need to nail down deals for defensive linemen Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler, plus top draft pick Cam Smith.
That’s a concern, but we all know teams have a way of finagling the cap when the spirit moves them. We also know the Dolphins are often moved when there’s a chance to land a big fish. If Cook were to join the Dolphins, it won’t be under his current contract, but via a hometown discount — possibly a larger pay cut than he could stomach.
If the Dolphins take a pass, it won’t be because of this.
Every move Dolphins have made says they're content with RBs
Every move the Dolphins have made since the season ended, that’s what. Their actions have made it clear what their plan at the position is. First, they went out of their way to re-sign every back from 2022. Then, they spent a third-round pick on De’Von Achane, the first time they’ve picked a back that high since Kenyan Drake in 2016.
You can view this two ways: 1) They’re even more satisfied with what they have or 2) They were never as content as they said they were. McDaniel, for one, indicated it’s more of the former when asked about the backs he does have Thursday, which include holdovers Jeff Wilson, Raheem Mostert, Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed in addition to Achane.
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“Overall, very happy with the way they’ve practiced, very happy with their competitive camaraderie,” McDaniel said. “They’re all trying to be the best, but they’re not doing it in spite of each other. They recognize that each one of them can help each other get better. So it’s been a cool camp for them.”
So the Dolphins know what they have. Now they need to evaluate what they would get by bringing Cook home.
Cook will be 28 in two months, which indicates there should be some tread left on the tires. He has made the Pro Bowl the past four years. The only Dolphins back approaching anything close is Hall of Fame fullback Larry Csonka, who was so honored five times. In other words, it’s not crazy to ask if Cook might be that final piece for a run at the Super Bowl.
Cook has rushed for at least 1,100 yards all four of those seasons and accounted for 1,300-plus yards from scrimmage along the way. In 2020, he ran for 1,557 yards. The list goes on and on.
It’s not just money and not just the presence of Alexander Mattison that made Cook expendable in the Vikings’ eyes. He tore his ACL in his rookie season of 2017. He played all 17 games last season, but in the four years in-between, he missed an average of 3.2 games per year with various ailments including a chronic shoulder problem. Also, his per-rush average has slipped from a career-high 5.0 in 2020 to 4.7 in 2021 and 4.4 last year. Over that period, his rushing touchdowns dropped from 16 to six to eight.
Cook has played well vs. Miami, could land in AFC East
Ready to write him off? Not so fast.
Last season, he flashed two of the longest runs of his career. One was a 53-yarder against (ahem) the Dolphins in a victory at Hard Rock. He faced Miami only one other time, a 41-17 blowout in 2018 that included 19 rushes for 136 yards and two more scores. Speaking of 100-yard games, Cook has 21, out of 73 games played.
The part about Cook running over his hometown team is a concern because potential suitors include the Bills and Jets. So from Miami’s point of view, signing him would be (if this is a thing) addition by addition.
Next, might as well face it: The Dolphins are addicted to speed. Another plus for Cook. The NFL’s Next Gen Stats clocked Cook at 21.68 mph during his 81-yard run against the Bills last season. All you need to know is the other guy at 21.68 is named Jaylen Waddle, on an 84-yard scoring reception.
While evaluating himself Thursday, McDaniel reiterated his desire to produce a more balanced attack in 2023. While Cook would automatically zip to the top of Miami’s depth chart, what sort of workload can he handle? He has had a minimum of 300 touches in three of the past four seasons and averaged 275 rushes the past three seasons. It’d be difficult to imagine many days when he would have 20-plus runs. More food for thought.
The bottom line is the Dolphins have reasons to add Cook. And reasons not to.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Should the Dolphins pursue Pro Bowl RB Dalvin Cook?