Vikings to re-sign RB Alexander Mattison, status of Dalvin Cook remains uncertain
Minnesota got under the NFL salary cap but that doesn’t means they’re done trimming salaries.
EAGAN, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings on Wednesday night agreed to re-sign running back Alexander Mattison, putting the future of Dalvin Cook even more in question.
Mattison told the Pioneer Press he will sign a two-year, $7 million contract that could be worth as much as $8 million with incentives. It includes $6.35 million of guaranteed money.
“Just excited,” Mattison said from his home in San Bernardino, Calif, on the first day of the NFL’s new league year. “Blessed. Celebrating with my wife and daughter right now, so just taking it all in.”
Mattison has been Cook’s backup since being a third-round pick in 2019. There has been speculation that if the Vikings sign Mattison, then Cook might not return.
Cook is on the books for a base salary of $10.4 million and a cap number of $14.1 million. Cook, who recently had shoulder surgery, would be assured Friday on invoking an injury guarantee of $2 million. But it remains to be seen whether he would continue to play under his current contract, would accept a pay cut or could be traded.
“I don’t know anything about any of that,” Mattison said when asked if Cook will return.
Mattison has rushed for 1,670 yards in his four Minnesota seasons for an average of 4.1 yards per carry. He has filled in admirably when Cook has been injured, and has three career 100-yard games.
“It felt right, the deal right,” Mattison said of coming back. “Just talked to my agent and it came down to the best decision. I love it in Minnesota, so it was hard to turn down.”
All NFL teams had to be under the salary-cap number of $224.8 million by 3 p.m. Wednesday. The Vikings were able to become cap compliant after restructuring quarterback Kirk Cousins’ contract Monday to save $16 million.
The Vikings announced Wednesday they have agreed to terms with cornerback Byron Murphy, edge rusher Marcus Davenport and tight end Josh Oliver, but they haven’t officially signed. All those free-agent deals previously had been reported, and Minnesota now must fit those players under the cap.
The Vikings also announced that they have re-signed restricted free agents Ben Ellefson, a tight end, and Kenny Willekes, a defensive lineman. A source said Ellefson was not given a restricted free agent tender, so he signed for a salary likely well under the minimum tender amount of $2,627. It’s believed to be a similar situation involving Willekes.
In order to sign Mattison, Murphy, Davenport and Oliver, the Vikings likely will need to address what to do with high-priced veterans in Cook, safety Harrison Smith and edge rusher Za’Darius Smith.
If Cook were to return to the Vikings, they would be committing a great deal of money at running back. So that might not happen.
Harrison Smith is on the books for a base salary of $14.7 million and a cap number of $19.127 million. He has $1.25 million of his contract in line to become guaranteed Friday, so a move likely would need to be made by then on whether to sign him to a restructured contract or release him.
Za’Darius Smith is on the books for a base salary of $9.45 million with a cap number of $15.49 million. He would have $5.05 million of his contract guaranteed on Friday. Reportedly unhappy, he could be traded or released. The Vikings brought in Davenport as his possible replacement.
The Vikings head into the new league year having added at least three new key pieces. Murphy, who can play both outside cornerback and in the slot, will become the top cornerback on the roster when he signs.
“I know he’s a solid player, so that’s an understandable move,” said Chandon Sullivan, who is a free agent after being Minnesota’s primary nickel back last season and doesn’t know if he’ll be re-signed or not.
Davenport, who had just a half sack in 15 games last season for New Orleans, will try to return to his 2021 form, when he had nine sacks in just 11 Saints games. Oliver, a top-notch blocker, is in line to play both along with Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson and be his backup.
Bud Grant remembered
A private memorial service will be held Saturday at Grace Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, for Bud Grant, the legendary Vikings coach who died last Saturday at age 95. There will be a public celebration of Grant at U.S. Bank Stadium in May. In lieu of flowers, Grant’s family has asked that donations instead be made to either the Minnesota Vikings Foundation or the DAV Foundation in Chaska, Minnesota.
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