It’s been about seven weeks since Minnesota Vikings’ running back Dalvin Cook declared that he would be sitting out of team activities absent a “reasonable” contract extension. At the time, it didn’t appear as though he had a whole lot of leverage, according to league rules.
Art. 8, Section 1(b): A player shall not receive an Accrued Season for any League Year in which the player is under contract to a Club and in which (i) he failed to report to the Club’s preseason training camp...— Brad Spielberger (@PFF_Brad) June 8, 2020
So Cook would not accrue a season, and would be an RFA after 2020 https://t.co/XmXcYDvxCv
However, as we’ve seen quite a bit over the last week or so, the COVID-19 epidemic has changed a lot of things, and the above rule appears to be one of them.
With the NFL and the NFLPA attempting to negotiate things that should have been negotiated a long time ago with Training Camps set to get into full swing, here is another of the things that have changed.
Players were told on NFLPA rep call that, as long as you're on the Week 1 roster and you play at least one game, your contract this year won't toll and you'll still get an accrued season and benefits.— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) July 24, 2020
According to Dan Graziano of ESPN, the rule that might have negated all of Cook’s leverage has been pretty much reversed, as now players will get credit for an accrued season if they appear in just one game in 2020. That means that, absent a new deal, Cook would end up hitting unrestricted free agency rather than restricted free agency, which is huge.
Had Cook been limited to being a restricted free agent, the Vikings could have simply placed a tender offer on him, allow another team to negotiate a contract with Cook and then match it, or let him move on to another team and collect compensation instead. If Cook becomes an unrestricted free agent, on the other hand, the Vikings would either have to work something out with him or consider using the franchise tag on him.
Also, Cook could. . .at least in theory. . .show up for camp, play Week 1, and then opt out of the remainder of the season and wait to test free agency. I would like to think that he wouldn’t do that kind of thing, as that would seem to be completely out of character for him from everything we’ve seen thus far. I’m just saying that it’s something that he could, feasibly, do.
In any case, this change of events may have just given us a pretty significant new storyline to keep an eye on during Training Camp. It looks like the salary cap is going to go down next year, and the Vikings are already right up against the cap anyway, so we’ll have to see if Rick Spielman, Rob Brzezinski, and company want to go against the conventional wisdom and give a running back a big contract.
It’s going to be interesting, folks.
(Hat tip to The Viking Age, who posted their thoughts on this while I was working on this post.)