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Should the Buffalo Bills make a play for Dalvin Cook?

The Minnesota Vikings will release Cook on Friday, sending yet another talented RB to free agency

Minnesota Vikings v Buffalo Bills Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills and running backs. There’s a rich history of incredible production at the position. From Hall of Fame running backs O.J. Simpson and Thurman Thomas, to fan-favorites such as Cookie Gilchrist, Joe Cribbs, Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson, and LeSean McCoy — the franchise has given the NFL plenty to celebrate at the position.

But not since McCoy have the Bills featured a truly dominant running back, and for good reason. Under the direction of head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane, Buffalo has emerged as one of the premiere passing teams in the league. That’s of course due to the development of franchise quarterback Josh Allen and the arrival of wide receiver Stefon Diggs.

Still, many within Bills Mafia (as well the national media) feel that a robust running game is needed, and that developing one will help the team en route to its goal of a franchise-first Super Bowl victory.

It isn’t as though the team lacks the ability to run, it’s just that it doesn’t happen in the most traditional of ways. Josh Allen has been the engine behind much of the run game, whether by necessity or design.

It’s worth pointing out that what may look like a traditional running game to many isn’t en vogue with today’s NFL. Much of the public’s desire for a run attack comes down to its focus on fantasy football.

Still, the Bills have invested heavily at running back in recent years, despite the lack of standout production. Between 2019 and 2022, Brandon Beane has used three Day 2 NFL Draft picks at the running back position.

  • 2022: James Cook (Round 2)
  • 2020: Zack Moss (Round 3)
  • 2019: Devin Singletary (Round 3)

Of that trio, only running back James Cook remains with the team. Joining him in the RB room are Nyheim Hines (whom Beane traded for last season), and 2023 free-agent additions Damien Harris and Latavius Murray. Despite the overwhelming belief Buffalo would land Bijan Robinson this past April, no 2023 draft picks were used on a running back. But the team brought in Jordan Mims and Isaiah Bowser (Bowser was just released this week).

So naturally — with news breaking today by Senior ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter stating the Minnesota “Vikings have informed Dalvin Cook that he’s being released, per source” — it makes sense to connect the dots from the elder cook to Orchard Park, NY.

The Vikings intend to release Cook on Friday, June 9 — so there is still a chance a team could make a trade for him. Set to turn 28 before the start of the 2023 NFL regular season, Cook should still have a number of good seasons ahead of him either in a featured role or as part of a committee. But it appears the Vikings were ready to move on from his soon-to-be-even-more-expensive salary.

Looking at Dalvin Cook’s financial figures at Over The Cap, of Cook’s five year, $63 million extension he signed in 2020 — his 2023 salary was only a guaranteed $2 million. Cook would have counted greater than $14.1 million against Minnesota’s salary cap this season if he remained with the team. By implementing a favorable post-June 1 designation, the Vikings are able to save $9 million on their current cap.

Remember, Dalvin Cook is James Cook’s older brother. Recall also that, recently, when rumors swirled announcing Dalvin Cook could be on his way out of Minnesota — he essentially stated that he didn’t want to take away any of the spotlight from James. But he didn’t rule out a divisional rivalry. And now today, it appears he still might prefer the rivalry option.

The Miami Dolphins under Mike McDaniel do enjoy signing running backs, having brought over the scheme he ran as offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers. Heading to South Beach would allow Cook to play for his hometown team.

But what about the Buffalo Bills?

Yes, we’ve talked near ad nauseam about running backs within Buffalo Rumblings’ blog walls in recent months. Despite those conversations and myriad musings about adding this or that player to complement Josh Allen, the Bills still appear set to let James Cook this coming season.

One Bills Drive clearly wants to get better running the ball — but better doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in frequency. The additions of Harris and Murray clearly show intent to add more physicality to the backfield. How that plays remains to be seen.

Most would like to see the Bills work the screen game a little more, again — to help out Allen. But the team tends to view only their pass catchers as receivers, while their running backs primarily as runners. There hasn’t been a wealth of opportunity to cross-train for either position group up to this point. This despite known receiving abilities from both James Cook and Nyheim Hines.

So would it even make sense if Buffalo made a play for Dalvin Cook? His talent is undeniable — both as a runner and receiver. The four-time Pro Bowl back has run for over 1,000 yards in each of the last four campaigns. Cook’s career stats paint the picture of a tenacious, dual-threat running back.

But in sixth NFL seasons, Cook has accrued an extensive injury history. Since entering the NFL in 2017, Cook has missed at least three games each season other than in 2022 — when he didn’t miss a single game. Among Cook’s litany of injuries are an ACL tear during his rookie season and multiple shoulder injuries. One of those shoulder injuries, suffered in 2019, required offseason surgery in February of this year to repair.

So there are many questions to answer before Dalvin Cook would become a Bill. Perhaps the biggest question aside from financial cost, is if offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey would be able to find ways to feature Dalvin Cook in the Bills’ offense, or if he’d be faced with too many Cooks in the backfield.