Vikings

A Potential Cook Holdout, Harris Trade and Other Questions Facing the Vikings

Dec 16, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) celebrates a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The dust has settled on the NFL Draft and the sprint to sign undrafted free agents is over. By all accounts, the Minnesota Vikings acquitted themselves quite nicely in both regards.

So, um, now what?

Well, specifically, NFL teams have started virtual OTAs due to COVID-19. These meetings will continue into May. They remain voluntary, like the normal OTAs, and involve the use of videoconferencing technology. According to the agreement between the league and Players Association, the on-field work will have to wait until all 32 club facilities are allowed to open back up, per state, local and federal government regulations. There needs to be an even playing field, so if even one team is not permitted to conduct on-field activities, none will be allowed to do so.

Beyond that, the future of the season is in kind of a gray area. Charcoal gray.

There remains optimism that we’ll still get a full season, even if the start has to be delayed and games need to begin in front of empty or partially filled stadiums. However, the status of other preseason workouts, training camp and preseason games is, at best, murky. Anyone who claims to know otherwise is a fopdoodle of the highest order or simply full of crap.

The uncertainty of the big picture complicates things for every team. In the meantime, there are other big questions facing the Vikings. True, they answered a lot of specific questions with regard to personnel with their 15 draft picks and additional UDFA signings, but there are issues that could very well be clarified before the Vikings hit the field games this summer or fall… or whenever.

Will rick spielman and mike zimmer sign new contracts?

As you likely know, both head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman are entering the final year of their contracts. It’s unusual for head coaches and GMs to have lame-duck seasons, but not unheard of completely. Of note, Zimmer signed a contract extension in July of 2016 so it’s also not unprecedented for these kinds of things to be hammered out during the summer months.

It’s not clear that the Wilfs consider the two of them to be a package deal. The guess here is that they do not. Each is likely to be assessed on their own merits. And if that’s the case, now would be an advantageous time for Spielman to seek that extension in the afterglow of what is being universally praised as a tremendous performance in the draft. Note: Not everyone thinks the Vikings crushed it in the draft, but most of those paying objective attention – sans purple-colored eyewear — do. Yes, there’s room to quibble with some of the Day 3 picks in particular, but they had a record 15 picks so not every single one is going to be a crowd-pleaser.

As for Zimmer, he has guided the Vikings to a 57-38 (.599) regular-season record and 2-3 playoff mark in six seasons. The regular-season success looks good on the resume, but you have to think the Wilfs were expecting more than two playoff wins in six seasons. Nonetheless, it would be a little bit surprising if Zimmer wasn’t extended beyond 2020, assuming that is he still has the fire to continue coaching. It would seem he’s not quite ready to retire to the hunting lodge and focus on hanging more pelts on the wall.

If one or both remain unsigned to contract extensions through the summer and into the fall, we are left to assume that this will be a “prove it” season. If the season goes forward with little or no training camp or some kind of truncated format, the benefit of the doubt could be given and an extension – maybe a short one – could be granted.

Bottom line: The thinking here is that both will be back in 2021, barring a train-wreck season. The question is when will the decision be made?

Will dalvin cook hold out?

Speaking of contract extensions, the team’s Pro Bowl running back is entering the final season of his rookie deal. Other running backs of Dalvin Cook’s caliber and in his shoes have held out of camp. Some of those holdouts have even lasted into the season (see: Gordon, Melvin).

Cook has not publicly threatened a holdout, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It could be argued it’s the prudent thing for him to do. But will it even come to that?

There are valid arguments against signing running backs, even the upper-echelon backs, to huge contracts in today’s NFL given all the emphasis on the passing game and the reduced significance of the position in general. I actually subscribe to that way of thinking. Christian McCaffrey helped set the market recently, signing a four-year deal worth more than $16 million on average per season. Cook isn’t getting that kind of money, but something around $15 million – what Ezekiel Elliott signed for in 2019 – isn’t out of the question.

Should the Vikings sign him to an extension and should they do so soon? That’s debatable. The bigger question is whether they will.

It doesn’t matter what I think or you think or what the conventional wisdom says. It only matters what the Vikings think. And the last time we checked Zimmer wants his offenses to be run-centric. They presumably want to reach an accord with their most talented offensive player, one that plays a position of more significance in their scheme than he might in others. As an added bonus, he does contribute to the passing game.

From a personnel standpoint, the Cook contract situation is about to take center stage on the Vikings offseason. But it’s not the only player extension that remains unsettled.

Will anthony harris play under the franchise tag?

The Vikings applied their seldom-used franchise tag to Anthony Harris in March.

Harris has not signed the tag yet. So, now what?

Spielman has been quoted as saying that the Vikings are basically set at the safety position, and that includes Harris. That assertion was backed up on draft weekend when the Vikings barely added to the depth chart at safety.

All of which would seem to support other recent reporting that the two sides are continuing to work on a contract extension beyond the 2020 season. It’s unlikely Harris will play this season under the tag, and if the Vikings were going to trade him it would have probably happened prior to, or during, the draft. Keyword: probably.

Not unlike the argument against giving a huge contract to a running back, a cogent case can be made against constructing a roster that includes two safeties among your highest-paid players. However, with perennial Pro Bowler Harrison Smith signed through 2021 at more than $10 million per season, the Vikings find themselves with two of the best safeties in the NFL on their roster, so that’s what this is heading towards.

A Harris deal could happen at any time between now and the start of camp. Alternatively, a trade could still be in the offing.

Are the vikings done in free agency and will they make trades?

The much-ballyhooed trade for Trent Williams fell apart – maybe for the best – but there’s still room for the Vikings to make other veteran additions to the roster by trade or, more likely, via free agency.

According to OvertheCap.com, the Vikings have more than $12 million remaining in salary cap space. Some of that will be used on the rookies they just drafted, but there remains some room to wedge another player or two onto the roster with decent-sized deals. After spending most of the offseason among the teams with the least available cap space, the Vikings now find themselves around the middle of the pack in that regard.

Given what transpired during the draft, the prospect of bringing back Everson Griffen is likely over. However, he’s still out there unsigned. So is guard Josh Kline.

Another guard of note, D.J. Fluker, was released by the Seahawks on Sunday. A lot of teams, presumably including your Vikings, are placing phone calls to his representatives.

Patriots franchise-tagged guard Joe Thuney has been the center of trade speculation for weeks. That’s a situation that bears monitoring as well.

Oh, and we hear Percy Harvin wants to play football again.

The Vikings probably aren’t done making moves, and with Spielman riding high following what appears to be a successful draft, he might be inclined to swing a few more deals. Hey, maybe he can even find ways to add some more draft capital for the 2021 draft.

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Dec 16, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) celebrates a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

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