Why the Holdout of Dalvin Cook is a Double Edged Sword for the Packers

Star Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook announced that he would not be taking part in the team’s offseason programs until he got a new contract that is fitting for a top running back. Cook’s agent is trying to base his client’s negotiations on Christian McCaffrey’s new deal, which was a four-year, $64 million contract. This is good news in many ways for the Green Bay Packers who are scheduled to face the Vikings in their season opener on September 13 in Minnesota.

But while a prolonged holdout by Cook could make things easier for the Packers, there are negative implications for Green Bay as well. Here is a look at the positive and negative fallout from the Cook holdout for the Packers:

1. Plus: The Vikings Offseason Is Disrupted

Cook was a big part of the Minnesota offense in 2019. In 14 games, he gained 1,135 yards rushing, scored 13 touchdowns and caught 53 passes for another 519 yards for a total of 1,654 yards gained from scrimmage.

The Florida State alum is entering his fourth NFL season and will turn 25 this August. He has been a catalyst for the Vikings offensive success. When Cook gains 100 yards or more from scrimmage in a game, the Vikings are 12-3. When he gains fewer than 100 yards from scrimmage in a game, Minnesota has been 6-9-1.

With a limited quarterback like Kirk Cousins, having a rushing threat like Cook makes a big difference in the effectiveness of the Minnesota offense.

Cook is scheduled to earn $1.33 million in 2020 under his current, the final year of his rookie contract. He has now indicated he will not participate in the team’s program until he is paid top dollar for a running back.

Once training camp does start, the Vikings players and coaches will be asked repeated questions about Cook’s status, what his absence means for the offense and how the team will get by without him. This will simply be a distraction for the team when they’re trying to conduct business as usual come July and August.

In an offseason full of unusual occurrences, having this further distraction cannot be good for the Vikings.

2. Positive: Cook May Not Be Ready for the Opener

Yes, it’s too early to say right now, but obviously, if Cook’s holdout continues through part or most of training camp, the Vikings’ star running back may not be in proper football shape when the Packers invade Minnesota for the season opener.

This offseason already had OTAs and minicamps canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. If Cook misses a significant chunk of training camp, it will be tougher and tougher for him to get into football shape in time for Week 1.

Cook can work out all he wants, lift weights on his own, do agility drills and prepare for the season but it’s not the same as getting your body in football shape by taking hits in practice and preseason games and preparing yourself for the grind that is the NFL season.

If Cook isn’t in football shape, he will likely be less effective, especially early in the season. He may also be limited as to how many snaps he can take. That puts more pressure on Cousins and the rest of the Minnesota offense, which was supposed to be built around Cook, especially after the trade of Stefon Diggs to Buffalo.

If Cook continues his holdout throughout training camp or even into the regular season, the Vikings may be forced to trade him or he may simply be unavailable to Minnesota for the season opener because he refuses to play without a new deal.

The Packers and Vikings were the top two teams in the NFC North last season and most experts project the to be at the top again in 2020. The Packers swept Minnesota in their two meetings a season ago. Winning at home against the Pack is vital for the Vikings confidence and their chances of topping Green Bay in the standings. If Cook isn’t ready to go, their chances of winning this game and of winning the division, diminish.

3. Positive: A New Deal for Cook Will Hurt the Vikings Cap Situation

The Vikings already had cap problems heading into this offseason. As a result, they traded away Diggs and let several key defensive players go prior to free agency like Linval Joseph, Xavier Rhodes and Everson Griffen.

Right now, the Vikings are expected to have a bit more than $8 million in cap space after they sign all their draft choices to entry-level deals.

They must pay safety Anthony Harris who they placed the franchise tag on. This does not give Minnesota a lot of cap room to sign Cook without making a trade or releasing a player another sizeable contract for this season.

4. Negative: Cook Could Set the Bar for Running Back Contracts

The downside of the Cook holdout is that the Packers star running back, Aaron Jones, is also entering the last year of his contract in 2020.

While Jones has said he will concentrate on what he can control on the field and does not plan to stage a holdout, Jones and his agent will certainly be watching Cook’s contract situation when it comes to deciding what they will ask for from Brian Gutekunst during negotiations.

If Cook gets a lucrative new contract from the Vikings, let there be no doubt the cost of re-signing Jones will go up for the Packers. And even though reports indicate there have been preliminary negotiations between Jones and the Packers, Jones’ agent would be foolish not to wait and see what kind of deal Cook signs before having his client agree to a new deal with Green Bay.

The Pack has good depth at running back right now which will certainly help them in any negotiations with Jones. In addition to Jones, the Packers have Jamaal Williams who is also set to become an unrestricted free agent next March. Green Bay also added second-round pick A.J. Dillon in this year’s draft, giving them three running backs who can carry the load if called upon.

Still, the Packers will be forced to adjust their negotiations with Jones based on what kind of a deal Cook signs with Minnesota assuming Cook is signed before the season starts.

Overall, the longer Cook’s holdout goes, the better it should be for the Packers and the worse it will be for the Vikings. But once Cook signs a new deal, it could easily drive up the price the Packers have to pay to keep Jones and it may make it more difficult for Jones to stay in Green Bay beyond 2020.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (42)

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josefK's picture

June 11, 2020 at 12:15 pm

The array of free agent running backs next year, as well as the ability to draft, and the potential of AJ Dillon + {whoever} to me means we should not spend major money on Jones - we replace him with a passing threat in the backfield. Spend the money on Clark and Bakhtiari and so on.

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GilMartin's picture

June 11, 2020 at 01:06 pm

I agree, josefK. I would love to keep Jones but I don't think the Packers should or will overpay him. Thanks for the comment.

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MarkinMadison's picture

June 11, 2020 at 12:55 pm

JosefK is right. There are too many good FAs coming up for the Packers to give Jones a huge contract. If MN is thinking long-term they will be careful not to overpay Cook as well.

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GilMartin's picture

June 11, 2020 at 01:07 pm

Agreed, MarkinMadison. But is Minnesota thinking long term? We shall see. Thanks for the comment.

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flackcatcher's picture

June 11, 2020 at 01:12 pm

MiM and JoseK are right. Let them fight.... :-)

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GilMartin's picture

June 11, 2020 at 01:19 pm

Agreed, flackcatcher, let the games begin.

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gr7070's picture

June 11, 2020 at 01:30 pm

"When Cook gains 100 yards or more from scrimmage in a game, the Vikings are 12-3. When he gains fewer than 100 yards from scrimmage in a game, Minnesota has been 6-9-1."

This has essentially nothing to do with why the Vikings won or lost. Cook gains 100 yards because the Vikings were winning and running out the clock. He gained less than 100 because they were losing and has to pass.

We've known this now for at least a decade if not far longer. How is this author not aware of this simple fact?

To use that "statistic" is a gross admission of a lack of understanding of modern football.

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GilMartin's picture

June 11, 2020 at 02:07 pm

Yes, teams do run more when they are protecting a lead, everybody knows, expects and understands that. But if they don't run successfully, they won't protect the lead successfully. Cook is a key component of the Vikings offense and their passing game is more effective because of the threat and the actual success of the running game. I don't think you want to argue that Cook isn't an important cog in the Vikings offense. Thanks for commenting.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 11, 2020 at 04:07 pm

I agree with you on this Gil. They have the lead because of Cooks production; Cook doesn’t have production because they have the lead..

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GilMartin's picture

June 11, 2020 at 04:13 pm

Thanks, Leatherhead. Always good to read your comments.

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gr7070's picture

June 11, 2020 at 07:18 pm

That stat means absolutely nothing. Yet you used to make some point about Cook's value. It's a worthless stat.

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gkarl's picture

June 11, 2020 at 02:03 pm

Gil,
Agree with most of your points but I don't think Cook will get a top 5 RB type contract. He is good but has been hurt to often for that size investment. Jones is somewhat similar, productive when playing but until LY hurt to much.

I wouldn't mind if Jones got an Ekeler type deal but I don't think he'll see a top 5 type contract from the Packers either, especially with Dillon on board. If the packers drop 10M+ I doubt it will be on a RB.

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GilMartin's picture

June 11, 2020 at 02:10 pm

I agree, gkarl. I think Cook's agent is using McCaffrey's deal as a starting point in negotiations, knowing he won't get that kind of money but trying to get as close to it as he can.
I can't imagine the Packers ponying up enough money to make Jones a top 5 RB in terms of contracts. Ekeler type money would make sense for both sides, although Jones may be able to get closer to McCaffrey money with another big season if he hits the FA market. Remember, in free agency, it only takes one owner to make a crazy bid and change the price.
Always good to hear from you, gkarl, thanks for commenting.

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gkarl's picture

June 11, 2020 at 02:43 pm

Ain't that the truth. Thanks for the article and your interaction with our comments, much appreciated.

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GilMartin's picture

June 11, 2020 at 04:05 pm

Always fun, gkarl. Keep those comments coming and GPG

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dobber's picture

June 11, 2020 at 04:23 pm

Cook won't get the money because the Vikes have capable backs behind him, RBs aren't worth that investment, and they won't have the cap room to give. Cook will hold out for awhile, but then report to get credit for the last year of his deal and become a FA in 2021.

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GilMartin's picture

June 11, 2020 at 08:02 pm

I think that is the most likely outcome, dobber unless he forces a trade. Thanks for the comment.

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The_Justicar's picture

June 12, 2020 at 06:45 am

Most likely outcome is the Melvin Gordon path.

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GilMartin's picture

June 12, 2020 at 02:34 pm

Very possible. Thanks for commenting, The_Justicar

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Lare's picture

June 11, 2020 at 02:28 pm

If the Vikings lose both games to the Packers again this season, people in Minnesota will have to go back to smuggling Spotted Cow into their state to have any reason for living.

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GilMartin's picture

June 11, 2020 at 03:59 pm

LOL. Yeah, that would be two years in a row. Thanks for commenting, Lare.

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splitpea1's picture

June 11, 2020 at 03:35 pm

Let's not forget that Jones accounted for over 1500 yards from scrimmage and 19 TDs--that's a ton of production to replace. If he has another great year, which we all hope he does, he's probably going to be well out of our price range. But looking at some of the other notable backs that might be available, I'd be surprised if the Packers would be interested in anyone with a lot of tread (Adrian Peterson, anyone?) or previous off-the-field issues. Anyway, it's difficult to judge the situation until we have a better handle on how the ball is going to be distributed in both the running and short passing games this season. But I agree with previous comments--Clark should be our biggest priority.

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GilMartin's picture

June 11, 2020 at 04:01 pm

Thanks, splitpea1, always good to hear from you. I agree Clark should be priority one, followed by Bakhtiari and then Jones. I hope he is willing to stay but the Packers do have good depth behind him if he decides to leave. Fingers crossed, a lot can happen between now and next March.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 11, 2020 at 04:13 pm

But split pea...gr7070 says Jones only has that production because we’re leading. Yeah, I think that’s not right, either.

Jones will not be a Packer next season unless he’s willing to play for substantially less than he can make elsewhere.

And I doubt Clark will be here either. That’s why I think this season is our best shot.

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splitpea1's picture

June 11, 2020 at 04:24 pm

For them not to get Clark done....would be a horrible mistake. He's our only solid starter, though as someone pointed out last season, he sometimes struggles against good interior lines. Still, he's young, he's durable and should only get better.

Yep, probably right about Jones--if he goes, hopefully his new home will be in the AFC.

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gkarl's picture

June 11, 2020 at 05:49 pm

SP,

Horrible mistake depends on the $$$ required to sign Clark. I do agree that he should be a priority, many ++ to his game, but a few years ago some the same things were being said about Nick Perry. Its a gamble I hope we win.

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splitpea1's picture

June 11, 2020 at 06:48 pm

Maybe some people were saying those things about Perry, but a lot of others weren't, given his injury history. So far, Clark has started in 46 games during his four-year career, whereas Perry started 48 in his seven years--and sometimes it's hard to believe that it was that many.

Durable players, especially young durable defensive players that made the Pro Bowl for the first time need to be re-signed.

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The_Justicar's picture

June 12, 2020 at 06:58 am

Perry was resigned based off the success of 1 year...Clark has been productive every year of his deal. Not the same.

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GilMartin's picture

June 11, 2020 at 08:07 pm

I agree re: Clark. He has to be priority one this coming offseason. There is no heir apparent, he's young and his skill combination is rare.

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jannes bjornson's picture

June 11, 2020 at 10:34 pm

He will be a Packer along with Bhaktiari and Clark. This isn't looking over the coupon list at Piggly Wiggly.

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Rudedawg67's picture

June 11, 2020 at 04:06 pm

I agree we’re not overpay for Aaron Jones. I’ve loved him since we came to Green Bay but you can find value at the running back spot in the mid rounds of the draft just as Packers did when I got here Aaron Jones. They may have the next big thing and Dillon already. As far as cook driving up the price running back’s I don’t think that should happen. He is good but he’s not a top-five back and there’s no way he should be compared to Christian McCaffrey. Diude had about 2400 yards from scrimmage last year and right now there’s no one in his league when it comes to running and catching the ball combined. Carolina didn’t have the receiving corps to exactly made it up last year either so teams knew who was getting the ball. Aaron Jones has that potential but I don’t know if he can stay healthy enough. I would definitely focus more on signing Bakhtiari and Clark.

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GilMartin's picture

June 11, 2020 at 04:10 pm

Agree on Clark and Bakhtiari being the priority. I think if I'm Jones' agent, I use Cook as a comparison. If he signs a bigger deal that will increase the overall market price of RBs. The Packers can't and won't overpay Jones, but hopefully they find a fair deal to keep him. We'll see. Thanks for the comment, Rudeawg67.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 11, 2020 at 05:11 pm

Gil...I don’t think we’ll resign Bakhtiari, Clark, or Jones.

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saredust's picture

June 11, 2020 at 05:20 pm

Extra income for all

bradlohhy gmail.com

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Lphill's picture

June 11, 2020 at 05:45 pm

Mc Caffery was overpaid , too much money for a running back , Runyon will replace Bach, I think Clark leaves and replaced in the draft , Jones gets an offer but I think it will be below his expectations.

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GilMartin's picture

June 11, 2020 at 08:04 pm

I think Gute will make keeping Clark his priority. Not sure what they'll do about Bakhtiari because of his age, but they make make an exception for him. Jones will only stay if he signs a reasonable deal. Thanks for commenting, Lphill.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 11, 2020 at 06:45 pm

Rodgers, Adams, Smith, Smith and Amos are already under contract for 2021 and consume half the cap. If you resign Clark for over $20 million a year that’s going to be 60% of the cap for 6 guys.

My prediction? Based on what has already been said and done by the GM, I don’t think we’ll resign these guys. Maybe King, or Williams. Not Clark, Bakhtiari, Linsley or Jones.....they’re gonna be too expensive.

Which is why, again, I think this year is our best shot. I can’t imagine we could lose all those guys and improve.

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GilMartin's picture

June 11, 2020 at 08:05 pm

They can't afford to lose them all. I think they will find a way to keep one. Don't be shocked if Rodgers renegotiates his deal to get more bonus money up front but lower the cap hit. But yes, the cap situation is going to be a squeeze next year.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 11, 2020 at 09:07 pm

And why can't they afford to lose them all? (Challenging assumptions is kind of my thing.

We already have Linsleys replacement in Jenkins.

We have Dillon to replace Jones.

We could bring in some less expensive replacement for Bakhtiari, like we did with Bulaga.

And we could draft a replacement for Clark and King (although we may be able to afford King)

The NFL is a league of replacement. Naturally, you want to keep all your good players but it isn't possible to pay them all. For 2021, the six guys I mentioned are going to get paid and we just aren't going to have the money to sign any more big dollar contracts.

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Packers0808's picture

June 11, 2020 at 08:38 pm

Lot has to depend on loyalty at this time! Doesn't seem the thing but you never know how the wheel can turn!

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GilMartin's picture

June 12, 2020 at 02:36 pm

It will be interesting to see if any players give the Pack some kind of home team discount. The cap is a great equalizer. Thanks for the comment, Packers0808

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Cheesey51's picture

June 12, 2020 at 09:21 pm

Do not tell me about replacing Aaron Jones with rookies. I like the new additions. The rookies will only add to a better offense and preserving Aaron Rodgers. You want to talk about money. Make the QB salaries a separate category from the team salary cap
More to the point,Logically, the packers pay Aaron Jones a reasonable amount of money,guaranteed. Yes, he can get hurt. Yes there are FA out there for cheaper money. You want players to come to "collegeville usa", you respect them.
Pay them what they are worth. GB is a class act. Remember where GB is. Respect the tradition.

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