How Dalvin Cook would affect the Dolphins' running back competition and the salary cap

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - New York Giants v Minnesota Vikings
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - New York Giants v Minnesota Vikings / Stephen Maturen/GettyImages

It's Friday, exactly a week from the date running back Dalvin Cook was released by the Minnesota Vikings, and the 27-year-old Pro Bowler is still a free agent. Various reports, including from the Miami Herald, have surfaced surrounding Cook's asking price in a relatively low running back market. It appears teams value Cook around $5 million per year, but the free agent running back is wanting closer to the $10 million annually that was owed to him by Minnesota before releasing him. Is this too high of a price tag for the Dolphins to remain in the Dalvin Cook sweepstakes?

Talks have stalled, at least in the media, regarding a possible signing of Dalvin Cook, but a running back coming off four straight 4,000-yard seasons is still a hot commodity in this league. Time may pass and negotiating may occur, but Dalvin Cook will be playing for an NFL team in 2023 -- and it still could be the Miami Dolphins.

What would Dalvin Cook cost the Dolphins?

Dalvin Cook is a very productive running back, producing impressive numbers for the last several seasons. But is he a top-five running back in the league? The five highest-paid running backs in the league range from Joe Mixon making $12 million per year to Christian McCaffrey making over $16 million per year. When it comes to age, the five highest-paid running backs are all 27 years old or older. These five do have more production over the last several years, but I don't see a huge drop-off when it comes to Cook.

When it comes to injuries, Cook has not suffered any serious injuries in his career. He is a running back, so he does appear on the injury reports with some nagging ailments fairly often and has missed a handful of games in his career, but he's been pretty reliable for the most part. The highest-paid running back in the league, Christian McCaffrey, has quite the injury history. And the next highest-paid, Alvin Kamara, has dealt with injuries plus off-the-field issues. Even Saquon Barkley, who's missed a solid chunk of his career to injury, is making north of $10 million annually.

Dalvin Cook, T.J. Hockenson, Saquon Barkley, Kyle Juszczyk, George Kittle, Christian McCaffrey
2023 NFL Pro Bowl Games / Michael Owens/GettyImages

When it comes down to it, Dalvin Cook should be paid at least $10 million, like his Pro Bowl peers, but the running back market is essentially dead currently, so perhaps the Dolphins could land Cook on a 1-year deal in the ballpark of around $7-9.5 million. The only issue I could see arising is a bidding war for Cook, which could cause a team to possibly overpay for the running back. The Dolphins do not want to fall victim to a bidding war, although it doesn't seem likely in the current running back market.

How would Dalvin Cook affect the Dolphins running back competition?

Jeff Wilson Jr., Raheem Mostert, Christian Wilkins, Salvon Ahmed
Green Bay Packers v Miami Dolphins / Eric Espada/GettyImages

If the Dolphins do decide to give Dalvin Cook a contract, a lot of Dolphins fans will be excited. However, the Miami running back room may not be too excited.

The projected top duo of Raheem Mostert, 31 years old, and Jeff Wilson Jr., 27 years old, are set to make $3 million and $2.8 million, respectively, in 2023. With Cook possibly on his way to Miami, one of them may be on the trade block or end up a cap casualty this fall. Even some of the fringe players, Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, both project to make around $1.5 million next season. One, or both, could end up on the chopping block.

Devon Achane
NFLPA Rookie Premiere Portrait Session / Michael Owens/GettyImages

The only safe running back on the Dolphins roster would most likely be rookie Devon Achane, a third-round pick in the NFL Draft a couple months ago. Even Achane would possibly have some trouble seeing the field in a running back room comprised of Dalvin Cook, Jeff Wilson and/or Raheem Mostert. It's a good problem to have, especially in case of injury, but the Dolphins may have a crowded running back room.

Mke McDaniel and the Dolphins seem to like to run by committee, allowing multiple running backs to get carries in each game to keep tires fresh and minimize the chance of injuries. Dalvin Cook, recently, was not a workhorse back. Splitting carries with Alexander Mattison in Minnesota, Cook still produced solid numbers over the last couple years. The philosophy of running by committee will most likely not change even if the Dolphins bring in Cook.