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Why the Vikings Could Turn to Alexander Matteson Instead of Dalvin Cook – ESPN – Minnesota Vikings Blog



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Eagan, Minnesota – Actually, post-Dalvin Cook An era that has been forming for months at Minnesota Vikings headquarters.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has spoken in neutral terms about Cook’s future since the February combination. He has repeatedly declined to confirm that Cook will be on the Vikings’ 2023 roster.

In March, Adofo-Mensah re-signed to No. 2 in a row Alexander Matteson to a contract that guarantees him $6.35 million over the next two seasons, a deal that would be prohibitively expensive for a backup. Matteson later said he returned in part because he “understood how everything was laid out and how it was going to work”.

Recently, coach Kevin O’Connell praised Matteson’s demonstration of “that kind of triple ownership he’s been able to have for so long,” while also noting a rivalry brewing for what is supposed to be the second round.


All that remains is for the Vikings to formalize Cook’s exit, a finale that looks likely if not entirely certain. (Adofo-Mensah said in April that Cook and Mattison could “theoretically” play together in 2023.)

There has been some speculation that the widespread release of the salary cap space in the post-June 1 moves could trigger a trade, with Miami Dolphin He may have been an eminent suitor, but Thursdays came and went without agreement.

ESPN tracked this complicated process throughout offseasonbut it’s worth downloading it all in one place as the Vikings head into their final week of organized team activities.

Why did the Vikings flinch at one of the most productive running backs in franchise history?

Cook has rushed for more than 5 yards (5,993) than any Vikings runner except Adrian Peterson (11,747) and Robert Smith (6,818). He produced his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season in 2022 and did not miss a game for the first time in his career.

But the contract extension he signed in 2020, under former general manager Rick Spielman, required him to earn $11 million in 2023, with a salary cap figure of $14.1 million, the third- and fourth-highest in the league for running backs, respectively. . He will turn 28 in August, the age when his NFL running backs production begins to falter. In 2022, only three sprinters rushed more than 500 yards after they turned 28: Denver BroncosLatavius ​​Murray (33), dolphins Rahim Mostert (30) and Tennessee TitansDerek Henry (29).

But didn’t 2022 show that it’s still really good?

There are some statistics that reveal both sides of this question.


On the one hand, Cook grabbed two of the six longest runs of his career in 2022: a 53-yard score in Week 6 against the Dolphins and an 81-yard touchdown in Week 10 against Buffalo bills. In the latter, he posted a top speed of 21.68 mph, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, the seventh-fastest speed on record for any ball carrier in 2022.

But its efficiency numbers, which measure the frequency with which a pregnancy produces a positive result, have dropped significantly. He led the NFL with 62 carries lost or not gained a yard. And as on ESPN Note Bill BarnwellOnly 34.5% of his carries gained positive total yardage above expectations in the Next Gen Stats form, the second-lowest rate among racers with at least 200 carries in 2022.

In other words, Cook is less steadfast in 2022 than he has ever been.

Why don’t you offer Cook a pay cut and pair him with Matteson?

This outcome, if approved by Cook, may be the team’s best short-term answer on the field. But it’s very unusual, and obviously embarrassing, to demote a star player and ask him to share a position he once owned.


Matteson was better seen as an injury replacement for Cook rather than as a backup for the first four years of his career. All five of his 20-carry games came in games that Cook missed or left early. They did not carry any traditional meaning.

While the Vikings have debated the possibility of keeping Cook under a reduced salary, following through would perpetuate a financial crisis that most intelligent team-building concepts suggest should be avoided.

With Cook’s numbers on their books, the Vikings are ranked first in the league in cash and third in maximum commitment at the running back position. Even if they cut both his salary and cap number by 50%, the Vikings would still rank in the NFL’s top 10 players to appear in every category.

What do they see in Matteson?

In a relatively small sample size over the previous four seasons, Mattison had proven himself to be a smaller, more affordable, and less explosive version of Cook. This view remains the best way to think about it. He’s a physical indoor runner, averaging 1.91 yards per rush after contact—slightly higher than Cook’s mark of 1.77 over that span—but only one of his 404 career passes has exceeded 24 yards.

However, his cap numbers for the next two seasons are $2.4 million and $4.6 million, respectively. The question to be asked is whether, if any, the drop in performance from Cook to Mattison is worth the smaller financial impact. The Vikings seem to have made up their minds, which makes sense from this point of view.


Will Matteson take the bulk of the goods?

All indications are that O’Connell will use Mattison as a running back, similar to last season when Cook received 74% of his gigs. In fact, O’Connell gave his “triple triple” rating last week when he asked a general question about the status of the pullback position.

Who will be behind Matteson?

Early spring practices suggested two candidates for the No. 2 backfield job led by Matteson: Ty Chandlera 2022 draft pick who spent most of the season on injured reserve, and a Pro Bowl starting returner Ken Nwango.

“Between Kene and Ty, there really seems to be a really cool rivalry brewing there,” O’Connell said, “because they both have really strong springs and they kind of show their versatility.” Could they affect us not only in the running game but the passing game? [it’s] It’s about their ability to win when they’re running the trails… [and] You have to be willing to step in there and block the pro pass.”

Dewan McBrideA seventh-round draft pick from UAB who led the nation in rushing during the 2022 college season is interesting but he was rehabbing a minor injury during spring training and has yet to participate.

What is the end game here?

If the Vikings simply wanted to release Cook, even with his appointment after June 1, they could have done so months ago. So at least, Adofo-Mensah seems to want to get something in return for letting Cook leave — even if he’s being modest. After all, hold on to the fullback Zedarius Smith For more than two months before agreeing to a deal with Cleveland Browns He promoted two future draft picks.


Is this really worth the long wait?

Adofo-Mensah thinks so. Many fans and members of the media (understandably) emphasize “home-run” roster moves like drafting a quarterback in the first round or signing a pass free agent. But Adofo-Mensah has spoken a lot about the value of increased achievement. In April he said: “Your job at the end is to try to win on the sidelines and put all those little wins together [that] It adds up to something wonderful.”

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