NFL & Atlanta Falcons
Why the Bears Need Not Pursue Dalvin Cook
If Dalvin Cook gets cut by the Minnesota Vikings as an ESPN report suggests, the Bears would be far from an ideal fit for him.
After word came down over the weekend in an ESPN report about Dalvin Cook's possible departure from the Minnesota Vikings before the draft, it was easy for Bears fans to see a situation where this adversary might be a player GM Ryan Poles would want to pursue.
After all, neither Khalil Herbert nor D'Onta Foreman have successful down-to-down running experience. The two Bears backs have both been successful at certain aspects of the game for periods of seasons but not as a team's lead running back over a full season.
Both Foreman and Herbert have little experience as receivers and Cook has been adept in the screen game and at getting involved in other ways with the passing attack. He has 221 receptions in 287 targets (77%) for an average of 8.1 yards a reception with five TDs.
Cook has been playing in an offense relying on wide zone blocking scheme like the Bears.
So it sounds like a potential fit.
The fact the Bears have more cap space than any other team by quite a large margin is another reason they seem a great place for him.
If Cook is to become a free agent, it's going to cost a good deal more to sign him than they're paying for their other running backs. So this is a good point to explain why it wouldn't be an ideal fit.
Cook's cap cost is $14.1 million but if cut a team could remake his deal. It's still going to cost a lot for a seventh-year running back who has always been his team's main ball carrier.
The Bears currently have an advantage in that they don't have to pay a great deal for a running back. They're paying the NFL equivalent of chicken feed at a position where more and more teams value blockers and receivers but not the actual ball carriers. Herbert is on his first contract and Foreman is on a one-year, cheaper prove-it deal. So they're ahead of the curve by being in the current situation and need to stay there.
Drafting third back who would be on his rookie deal makes more fiscal sense than signing a seventh-year back.
Paying through the nose for an accomplished back in his seventh season is more the move a Super Bowl contender might do if they're short in the backfield. A building team in its second year might need a few more years to get to where they need to be to contend and by the time they reach that point, Cook would be a ninth- or 10th-year back around 30 years old. It's a cutoff age for backs.
3. Wear and Tear
Bringing in a back who averaged 268 carries a year over the last four is like getting rid of your new tires to put retreads on the vehicle. There's an awful lot of wear and tear on Cook when the Bears have the advantage of two running backs who have talent but have barely touched their durability.
In fact, while Cook has been carrying the load, he's already had injury issues. He went five seasons missing two games or more to start his career and last year played through injuries that limited his effectiveness.
4. System Fit
Bears fans on social media for some reason don't like this term but it is real. It's a non-fit in two different ways for the Bears.
The Bears are trying to set their running game up by committee. In the long run, it's easier for a team's salary cap to handle because of the lower cost for backs in this type of approach than having a load back.
Having David Montgomery leave after he was probably hauling the ball too much, and bringing in another back who has done the same doesn't fit their idea of backfield-by-committee.
Also, it doesn't fit in another way. While Cook has been running behind a blocking scheme similar to what the Bears use, he hasn't been an ideal fit for the scheme.
NFL Next Gen stats have a formula for determining efficient runners, backs who get upfield quickly. This offensive scheme is made to use players like this. One-cut backs who find the opening in the wide-zone scheme are desired over a back who dances around and makes unncessary cuts.
Cook has been among the least efficient runners in the NFL for two seasons, according to Next Gen's efficiency formula. It is calculated by taking the total yards a player actually travels with the ball on a running play behind or in front of the line and dividing it by total yards gained. The lower the figure, the more efficient the runner.
Both Foreman (3rd) and Herbert (5th) ranked among the top five in efficiency last year. Cook ranked 37th among 48 backs who had enough carries to qualify. He was three spots better than Montgomery.
Cook wasn't always a less efficient runner but the more carries he has had, he's become less efficent over the past few years. In 2020, he ranked 24th, in 2021 36th and 37th last year.
The Bears are trying to get backs who get upfield, not sideways first.
It's a signing some teams might like or make good use of, but the Bears would find it doesn't fit their particular situation in several ways and therefore not worth the cash expenditure.
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This story was originally published April 17, 2023, 12:27 AM.