As soon as the news broke that Dalvin Cook was released by the Vikings, Dallas Cowboys fans were quick to jump on the “sign Dalvin” train. It wasn’t long after that it was reported the Cowboys were not interested.
While this was disheartening to some of the Dallas Cowboys faithful a deeper look into Cook, and the entire running back position, says that this may be a reasonably smart move. The running back position in the NFL is no longer valued like it once was, as the return compared to what the cost and replacement value actually mean running backs don’t last as long nor are they seen as the drivers of the offense they once were.
Some teams have tried to focus on a more run-heavy proposition, and while the Eagles are pointed to as one team that has had some success, it is important to note a lot of that is because the quarterback doesn’t pass often and the team around him was stacked with an elite defense, one of the best offensive lines in the league, and loaded with receivers which allow the Eagles to not have to have a great quarterback.
Yet, they still lost the Super Bowl because they couldn’t keep up with today’s offenses.
The Dallas Cowboys seemingly have passed on Dalvin Cook, and while there are a lot of people upset at this, it makes sense and is probably the right move.
Rumor is that Cook won’t sign a $4-5 million contract, and while I am all for players getting their money, the position has become a lesson in not paying large money to players due to durability and return.
The Dallas Cowboys currently have five running backs and a fullback, so adding yet another running back, after dumping Ezekiel Elliott would be a step backward in philosophy, which to many, is an issue. With Tony Pollard getting paid $10.09m, signing free agent Ronald Jones, and drafting Deuce Vaughn, that is a lot of resources into another running back.
But if you are still on the Dalvin Cook train, let’s look a little deeper. Some will point to the simple volume stats of total rushing yards. However, a deeper look will show that Cook ranked second to last in rushing yards over expected with running backs with 200 carries. He had only 34.5% of carries go above yards expected. The team just got rid of Ezekiel Elliott who was actually better than Cook in this category, not by much, but better.
So maybe that hasn’t swayed you just yet. Cook has had a run of injuries early in his career and then had shoulder surgery this offseason to hopefully help with the dislocated shoulders he was having. If you are going to sign a player for the type of money Cook wants, your hope is they stay healthy, and Cook’s history at that is shaky at best. For a position that has a low return over replacement level, the cost will probably overshadow the actual return. Sure, you could roll the dice, but recent history is not on your side.
Cook may have a resurgence. He could end up in Miami and have a solid season and of course, everyone will think the Dallas Cowboys should have signed him. However, at 28 and given the overall return, the belief in Pollard, Vaughn, Jones, Davis, and Dowdle, the return would be negligible at best. The offense needs to evolve and signing Cook would not help push this forward. So unless a surprise happens, the Cowboys rightfully look like they are passing on Cook.