Dalvin Cook

Dalvin Cook holdout: Why Bears should hope Vikings sign RB to rich new contract

Dalvin Cook holdout: Why Bears should hope Vikings sign RB to rich new contract

Dalvin Cook might be the next running back to hold out during the regular season while agitating for a new, lucrative contract. Ezekiel Elliott did it. Melvin Gordon did it. Le’Veon Bell did it for a whole season. It wouldn't be unprecedented for Cook to miss some time in 2020. 

The knee-jerk reaction from Chicago is for Cook to sit out, right? Maybe with an impasse that makes MLB and the MLBPA look close to an agreement. Cook is a good running back on a team that likes to run the ball. The Vikings would be a worse team if he were to hold out. 

But the best-case scenario for the Bears is, actually, Cook to sign the contract he wants with the Vikings. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that contract would be at least equal to the $13 million per year David Johnson earns, if not more. 

The Bears should want the Vikings to give him that money. Today. 

MORE: Why Matt Nagy ended Bears' offseason program early

Cook is a lot of things. He’s versatile. He’s tough. He’s explosive. He rushed for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2019 while snagging 53 receptions for 519 yards. 

But he’s never played a full 16-game season without getting hurt in the NFL. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry last year; 2019 third-round pick Alexander Mattison averaged 4.6 yards per carry. 

Durability and replicability are the two biggest reasons why a lot of smart teams don't shell out big money to running backs. It’s why signing Cook to a long-term extension would carry a lot of risk for the Vikings. The Rams probably wish they hadn't given Todd Gurley that huge contract. 

From a strictly Bears perspective, though…go ahead and guarantee upward of $30 million to a guy who has 34 carries for 86 yards (2.5 yards/attempt) in three career games against the Bears. 

The Vikings, by the way, have the ninth-fewest amount of cap space in 2021 — and there’s a lot of uncertainty about what that year’s cap will look like if fans aren’t allowed (or are unwilling) to attend games in 2020. Committing a bunch of money to Cook would be an even stranger decision in These Uncertain Times. 

MORE: Is Matt Nagy a good coach? We're about to find out in 2020

This isn’t an argument about whether Cook deserves the money, though. He’s incredibly underpaid at just $1.3 million in the final year of his rookie contract; he rushed for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns while catching 53 passes for 519 yards in 2019. Cook deserves a lot of money. 

But running backs are, unfortunately, replaceable. Often for cheap. The Los Angeles Chargers didn’t totally miss Gordon last year. The Steelers replaced Bell with James Conner and averaged more points per game in 2018 than they did in 2017. Johnson and Gurley both declined shortly after signing lucrative contract extensions. It’s a bad time to be a running back looking to get paid. 

Which is why the Bears should hope the Vikings sign Cook to, say, a four-year, $55 million contract. The best guess here is this Kubiak/Shanahan-style offense would be just fine with Mattison as the No. 1 back.

A contract extension for Cook is something the Vikings could soon regret — probably more than letting him hold out and walk in free agency. But it's something the Bears might actually celebrate. 

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Vikings' Dalvin Cook reportedly holding out until he gets 'reasonable extension'

Vikings' Dalvin Cook reportedly holding out until he gets 'reasonable extension'

Well here's some interesting NFC North news for your Monday evening. 

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Vikings Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook will reportedly hold out of all team activities until he gets a new contract: 

Schefter's source claims that, 'no longer will participate in any team-related activities until and unless he receives what he determines to be a "reasonable' deal:"

"He's out," a source told ESPN. "Without a reasonable extension, he will not be showing up for camp or beyond."

Cook is a huge part of the Vikings' offense, putting up 1,135 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in 2019. The second-round pick in 2017 is currently going into the final season of his four-year, $6.35 million contract. Schefter's report mentions that the two sides have not spoken since last week and do not have any further talks scheduled. He' reportedly looking to be in the ballpark of Houston's David Johnson, who makes $13 million a year. 

Bear PAWS: Lessons for Bears to learn from Vikings' 2018-19 turnaround

Bear PAWS: Lessons for Bears to learn from Vikings' 2018-19 turnaround

“Hindsight being 20-20” is an age-old adage implying something is more easily understood after the situation has already occurred. D’oh! Yes, I’ve resorted to quoting Homer Simpson, because the Bears’ 2019 season resulted in a massive 'd’oh' — an exclamatory remark epitomizing something foolishly done and not realizing it until later — moment. This comical saying fittingly applies to the Bears’ 2019 campaign and tangentially to this past offseason.

Using P.A.W.S. (Predictive Analysis With Statistics), let's see if we can improve upon the Bears vision for the 2020 season. 
What a difference a year makes. The Bears were an elite team defensively in 2018, ranking in the top 10 statistically in six major categories. Although not elite in 2019, the defense still ranked top 10 in four out of six categories and acquitted themselves well amidst some key injuries. The onus for this underachieving 2019 campaign rests solely on an ineffectual offense, which ranks 23rd or lower in six major offensive categories.  
During the 2018 season, Chicago finished in the top half of five key offensive categories. So what happened? How did an up-and-coming offense with an imaginative head coach/offensive coordinator and his protégé quarterback regress and fall out of favor so quickly? Well, the Bears never carved out an identity for themselves and in the process failed to impose their collective offensive skill set on opponents.  

The Bears were much more aggressive running the ball last season, creating positive gains and accumulating a 12-4 record in the process. They ran for over 100 yards 11 times in 2018, whereas this season it’s the exact opposite, posting 11 sub-100 yard games and a 7-8 record. It matters because commiting to the run helps control time of possession, lessens chances for turnovers and improves the likelihood of facing shorter third down scenarios, allowing for a higher conversion percentage. The Vikings' last two seasons demonstrate how maintaining an aggressive running scheme works favorably for teams.  

Last season, Minnesota won six games when they possessed the ball for 30+ minutes a game. They did not exceed 100 yards rushing in half of those victories. The Vikings lost each game where their time of possession was under 30 minutes and rushed for under 100 yards. Overall, Minnesota finished 6-2-1 when they held the ball for 30 or more minutes, and they were 2-5 when possession was less than 30 minutes. 
This season, Minnesota has compiled 11 100-yard games and are 8-0 when they’ve controlled time of possession and gone over the century mark in rushing. They're 1-3 in games when they didn’t reach 100 yards rushing and under 30 minutes in time possession. The Vikings figured that out by utilizing a healthy running threat in Dalvin Cook, minimizing quarterback Kirk Cousins’ passing attempts and leaning on a top 10 defense that could better control a game’s narrative. The Vikings learned from last season’s struggles, adjusted and are headed to the playoffs.  

On the surface, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s stats don’t look horrible, but compared to last year’s numbers and the amount of defensive help he received, one can see a pattern of inefficiency. Trubisky threw for 24 touchdowns and ran for another three scores in 2018, surrendering 15 turnovers. Last season, the Bears' defense forced 36 turnovers, providing cover for Trubisky’s mistakes on the field. This year, he has 11 turnovers and the Bears' defense has generated only 16. 
Fifteen games into last season, Chicago rushed for 1,769 yards and 16 touchdowns. This year going into the last game of the season, they only have 1,300 yards rushing and a meager seven touchdowns on the ground. Minnesota, on the other hand, reversed their negative rushing output from last season. After 15 games in 2018, the Vikings rushed for 1,430 yards and eight touchdowns, while this year, they've amassed 1,959 yards and 18 touchdowns. 
The Bears' third down conversion rate and red zone scoring percentage differ dramatically from 2018 to 2019, too. They converted third downs at a 41 percent rate last year, scoring 36 touchdowns in the red zone (66.7 percent). The Bears' rushing struggles this season decreased their efficiency on third down (35 percent) and in the red zone, where Chicago only scored 23 times (56.1 percent). 

Last season, the Vikings finished with a 35.8 percent third down conversion rate, but with a renewed running attack this year, improved to converting 42.7 percent of third downs. In the red zone, the Vikings scored 27 times (54 percent) last year, but this season they’ve totaled 33 scores (64.7 percent) in the same high-pressure area. 
Sunday's game means little overall to both teams. The Vikings are playoff bound, locked into the No. 6 seed, and the Bears are eliminated from the postseason. However, with some reflection and a bit of hindsight, the Bears can apply some foresight into personnel changes and develop an offensive identity.

If you don’t know who you are, then you’re only fooling yourself. Over and over again teams are victimized by their own ineptitude, forgetting that at times the genius of one’s success is in the simplicity of its execution. Looking ahead with clarity for the 2020 season begins for Chicago on Sunday, just like it did a year ago for the Vikings. 

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