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Vikings, Dalvin Cook remain at a crossroads

Mike Florio and Chris Simms outline why above all else, the Vikings must enter the draft with the mentality of addressing their defense.

Although the Vikings didn’t trade or release running back Dalvin Cook at or about the start of the league year last month, it still might happen.

Cook’s $10.4 million salary remains largely non-guaranteed. Of that amount, $2 million became fully guaranteed on March 17. When he wasn’t cut before then, some assumed he wouldn’t be.

But there are two important things to remember. First, it’s believed Cook couldn’t have passed a physical before March 17, due to a lingering shoulder problem. That would have prevented the Vikings from avoiding an obligation that previously was guaranteed for injury only. Second, with only $2 million guaranteed, and given that the contract undoubtedly includes an offset obligation, Cook would likely earn at least that much with another team, if/when he’s cut.

Earlier this week, G.M. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made it clear that things remain decidedly unclear between the Vikings and Cook.

“Conversations are always ongoing with him,” Adofo-Mensah said during a recent pre-draft press conference. “We’re trying to be solutions-oriented, always trying to put the roster together within our constraints.”

Those constraints are complicated by the investment the team has made in running back Alexander Mattison, who signed a two-year, $7 million deal to remain with the team in lieu of leaving as a free agent.

“If you knew for sure that he would be on the roster,” Adofo-Mensah was asked, “would you have committed what you committed to Alexander Mattison?”

“You know, I think that’s -- I think in theory they could exist, of course,” Adofo-Mensah said. “Different style of backs. Again, we talk about the systems we’re trying to play. Together, they’re different style of backs. They could fit complementary together, for sure.”

The balance of the $10.4 million salary doesn’t become fully guaranteed until the regular season arrives. That gives the Vikings flexibility. And it allows them to see what happens during the upcoming draft.

Will they find a replacement in the draft? Will they trade Cook to another team before, during, or after the draft?

Looming over everything is Cook’s $10.4 million salary. It will be difficult for the Vikings to trade Cook’s contract as it currently is. To do a deal, they’ll have to get Cook to agree to a new contract with another team.

However it goes, it feels as if something will be going on. And there’s a good chance the picks made by the Vikings or not made by other teams could lay the foundation for a trade. Or, if all else fails, a clean break between the Vikings and the man who became their immediate replacement to Adrian Peterson in 2017.