Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook remains without a contract extension, but on Tuesday, the two negotiating sides got an important data point when Derrick Henry signed a contract extension with the Tennessee Titans.
Henry was tagged by the Titans earlier this offseason and it appeared the 26-year-old was set to play out the 2020 season on $10.2 million tender. However, the two sides struck a four-year deal prior to the franchise tag extension deadline that makes Henry the fifth-highest paid running back in the league.
Highest paid RBs in NFL Entering 2020:
The news of Henry's deal is a little surprising. As teams want to find running backs that can do a little bit of everything, Henry is a two-down thumper that led the league with 1,540 yards last season. As rookie Darrynton Evans will handle the receiving work, that's not likely to change.
This means that Cook's camp should be doing backflips with the news of Henry's extension. Cook broke out for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, but also caught 53 passes for 519 yards to add to his value.
On stats alone, Cook has a case to make slightly more than Henry and also has the advantage of being roughly a full year younger heading into this season.
But then comes Cook's injury history. Although last year was his first relatively healthy year with 13 games played, he was knocked out early of two others and has missed a total of 19 games in his three seasons in the league.
What does this mean for a potential deal?
Earlier this offseason at Zone Coverage, I mentioned that the sweet spot for a Cook deal would be around $11 to 12 million using Austin Ekeler's contract ($8 million per season) and Christian McCaffrey's contract ($16 million per season) as a baseline.
Using Henry's deal as a data point, the $12.5 million per season makes sense considering Henry's deficiencies in the passing game and Cook's troubles staying on the field.
But Henry's contract also has an out for the Titans in 2022, making it basically a two-year deal. If the Titans decide to cut Henry then, they'll save $12 million according to Spotrac and move on to the next back they can ride out until their rookie contract expires.
For the Vikings, this would be a smart choice. By signing Dalvin to a four-year contract, it would lower his cap number for 2020 and also give him more guaranteed money. The $12.5 million is good enough to put him in the top tier of running backs, but not high enough to break the bank.
Adding an opt-out could also give the Vikings options as they can see how Alexander Mattison continues to develop and then use him with little tread on the tires when they decide it's time to move on from Cook.
In essence, the Henry deal was a big win for both the Vikings and Cook as they inch closer to training camp. It's just a question of if it's enough for both sides to get a deal done.