The Dalvin Cook era in Minnesota has reached its conclusion.
A day after reports emerged that the Vikings were set to cut ties with the running back, the team announced Friday it has released him.
Cook is one of the most productive running backs in Minnesota history. His 5,993 rushing yards gained in Vikings purple is the third-highest total in franchise history. He ran for 1,173 yards in 2022, his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard campaign.
However, at age 27, Cook's best years are behind him in the eyes of many. Couple that with a cheaper, younger and more versatile backfield option in fourth-year tailback Alexander Mattison and it seems general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has put a line in the sand regarding his team's future.
Why is Dalvin Cook leaving the Vikings?
Cook has been among the league's most productive backs since entering the league, employing a bruising style that has gained him plenty of admirers. Only Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb have accumulated more yards in the last four seasons than Cook.
His impressive stats also bagged him quite the contract; Cook inked a five-year, $63 million deal in 2020. He'll bring in $11 million in 2023 at a cap hit of $14.1 million, the third- and fourth-highest totals among running backs in the league, respectively.
So, why get rid of him? Well, Cook is entering his age-28 season. For running backs, that tends to come with a precipitous downturn in production. Last year, only three tailbacks above the age of 28 gained at least 500 rushing yards.
All of that is to say, Minnesota taking a chance on Cook — an aging running back who has only played one full season in his career — was a non-starter. Mattison's ascension as a three-down back accelerated Adofo-Mensah's decision-making. The 24-year old didn't quite have the success of Cook on the ground, but he has showed flashes of brilliance snagging the ball out of the backfield. In 2021, Mattison racked up 719 yards of total offense; 228 of them came on receptions.
While his production lags behind that of Cook's, Minnesota's front office rewarded Mattison's versatility with a multi-year deal that will pay him at least $6.35 million over the next two seasons.
Mattison's extension sealed Cook's fate. Now, he looks for his next project, all the while hoping to prove he still has mileage in the tank.