The factors Jets are weighing in looming Dalvin Cook decision

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By: Brian Costello

When Jets head coach Robert Saleh was asked in March about rumors the team was interested in free agent running back Ezekiel Elliott, he did not hesitate to shoot them down.

“We love our running back room,” Saleh said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

But is Dalvin Cook’s availability enough to change Saleh’s mind about his running backs room?

Saleh left the door open last month when asked about Cook.

“We’ll turn the stones over on that one,” Saleh said.

The Jets are two weeks away from reporting to training camp and one of the biggest questions hovering over the team is whether they will sign Cook, who was released by the Vikings this spring after four straight Pro Bowl seasons.

The Jets have monitored Cook’s situation and they could become interested if his price tag gets low enough.

Cook seems to be holding out hope that someone is going to offer near the $8 million he made last year in Minnesota.

Dalvin Cook runs the ball against the Giants last season.

Players who are free agents in July are available for a reason.

Cook’s decline in play last season and his huge cap number under his old contract are the reasons why he is now on the market.

If Cook was willing to take a major pay cut, someone would sign him — maybe the Jets.

There has been a lot of smoke about three AFC East teams, the Dolphins, Patriots and Jets, having interest in Cook, but so far nothing has happened.

With training camps opening in a few weeks, veterans still on the market may start altering their salary expectations and Cook could sign somewhere.

“A lot of people got me pegged going back home [with the Dolphins], and a lot of people got me going to the Jets,” Cook, a Miami native, said recently on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “It’s all over the place right now. But what’s going to be important for me is just going to that right situation and helping somebody turn the page.

“I want to go and be the piece that can just help somebody win and get over the hump, and whatever that situation comes with — if it comes with me taking less reps but me being in the perfect situation to hold up that trophy — I don’t mind.”

Jets coach Robert Saleh

Does Cook make sense for the Jets? Let’s take a closer look:

Why the Jets should sign Cook

1. The Jets need another playmaker for new quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Garrett Wilson is going to be a superstar, but there are no other sure things among the Jets’ skill players. Yes, Cook slipped a bit in 2022, but he still rushed for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 39 passes. Cook would fit nicely in Nathaniel Hackett’s offense, which features plenty of wide zone runs.

2. The Jets feel good about Breece Hall’s recovery from his torn left ACL, but there is no guarantee he will play as well as he did last season (80 rushes, 463 yards, four TDs), particularly early on. Typically, players don’t regain their form until their second season back from an ACL injury. The Jets have Michael Carter, Zonovan Knight and Israel Abinakanda behind Hall. The Jets must weigh how much, if at all, they feel Cook would be an upgrade.

3. The Jets are in win-now mode after trading for Rodgers. They need to do whatever they can to improve the team and capitalize on this short window to win. Cook might be the veteran playmaker the Jets need to complement Hall.

Breece Hall’s injury recovery could play a factor in the Jets decision.

Why the Jets should pass

1. I think the biggest question has to be the price tag. If Cook is looking for $8 million-$10 million, as rumored, they can’t do that. If they could get him for $4 million with incentives, that would be worth considering. The Jets need money for other players who might become available during training camp. They are thin at safety after the injury to Chuck Clark. They could use another linebacker and probably another wide receiver. Those need to be higher priorities than running back.

2. The Jets need to look at why the Vikings chose to keep Alexander Mattison over Cook. If Cook was still able to play as he used to, Minnesota would have found a way to make the money work. Teams don’t discard good players. Cook’s yards per carry were a career-low 4.4 last year and other advanced metrics indicate a decline. Cook may be more name than game at this point. Would he even be willing to come to the Jets in a backup role to Hall or does he still view himself as s lead back?

3. Michael Carter has a similar style to Cook and showed flashes of potential as a rookie. He had a disappointing 2022 season, but the Jets expect a bounce back season. They may feel like they don’t need to add Cook for that reason.

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