Cook should have several legitimate suitors for his services as a free agent. After all, the soon-to-be 28-year-old has logged just over 1,500 career touches and should still have some mileage left coming off the first season of his career in which he started every game.
So, where might Cook end up? Here are seven teams that make the most sense.
Long considered the top contender for Cook, Miami makes the most sense to me. The Dolphins' biggest questions right now lie on the offensive side of the ball, with the potential for upgrades at running back, offensive line and tight end.
Perhaps the latter two are bigger voids on paper, but that shouldn’t prevent Miami from adding Cook. Considering the Dolphins engaged in trade talks with the Vikings about Cook, per Pelissero, it’s hard not to see why there would be even more interest now.
For one, Cook is a Miami native, having won a state title at Miami Central Senior High School, and might want to return home. But more importantly, he would add real value to a backfield currently led by Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr. and speedy rookie De’Von Achane.
Mostert is a capable starter, but he has struggled to stay healthy, including last season, when a broken thumb ended his campaign before the playoffs. Wilson is best in a change-of-pace role. Achane is 188 pounds and could be limited to spot duty as a rookie.
Cook would give the Fins a primary running option but also a receiving outlet. He might be not elite in the pass game, but he would give Tua Tagovailoa another checkdown option. For a team that’s eager to build on a postseason appearance, Cook could provide a bit of juice to the roster.
The Broncos were never likely to trade draft picks -- something they've been short on after dealing away selections for Russell Wilson and Sean Payton -- for Cook, no matter how much they liked him. But now that he's a free agent? Perhaps that changes things.
Payton is a major selling point, even if playing with Wilson doesn’t carry the same luster it once did. Payton’s success with backs in New Orleans figures to help Denver’s case. Look what the former Saints coach did over the years with Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, Deuce McAllister, Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and Latavius Murray.
Denver parted with a couple backs recently, and don’t forget that Broncos GM George Paton was the Vikings’ assistant GM when they drafted Cook. Javonte Williams is still very much in the mix to start, and the team signed Samaje Perine to play an important role this season, but Williams’ recovery from an ACL injury can’t be forgotten and Perine has always been a complementary piece. That makes Cook seem like a possibility here.
Sean Payton’s former team could have a need in the backfield. Right now, the Saints look pretty firm with Alvin Kamara, Jamaal Williams and 2023 third-rounder Kendre Miller heading up the position. But Kamara has a July 31 court date stemming from battery charges in Las Vegas and his future remains murky.
Kamara also has seen his productivity decrease the past two seasons and has more NFL touches than Cook. If you figure Williams operates best in a short-yardage role and not as a true workhorse, and Miller might not be ready for significant duty, then there might be a legitimate avenue for Cook to find a featured role in New Orleans.
With the Derek Carr signing, the Saints are indicating they’re aiming for a division title this year -- and the NFC South looks ripe for the picking after every team finished below .500 with a negative point differential a year ago. Cook could be a fine supplement.
The Cowboys always seem to be part of the conversation when higher-profile veterans hit the market at this time of year, but this wouldn’t be a case of willy-nilly dot connecting. Dallas arguably does have a need in the backfield, even after Tony Pollard’s breakout season and franchise-tag signing this offseason.
Pollard’s role shouldn’t be reduced if he’s healthy; if anything, it should be expanded. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t carries to be divvied up elsewhere. Releasing Ezekiel Elliott means that someone could be in line to scoop up some or all of his 248 touches from a year ago, and it’s hard to imagine Pollard taking a huge chunk of that at 209 pounds.
Right now, the best options to play alongside Pollard in the backfield include Malik Davis (38 career carries), former second-rounder Ronald Jones (only 17 carries last season), Rico Dowdle (seven career carries) and rookie Deuce Vaughn, a sixth-rounder who checks in at 176 pounds. Plus, there has been some buzz that the Cowboys are open to bringing back Elliott.
So, perhaps Cook isn’t the favorite here, but there should be some interest in kicking his tires in Dallas.
Cook might be attracted to the Bills for the chance to play with his younger brother, James, a 2022 second-round pick. It’s easy to imagine how the two might operate as perfect complements: Dalvin as the first- and second-down option, James as the third-down weapon.
Of course, Buffalo signed Damien Harris from the rival Patriots and added Latavius Murray after the draft, too, so it’s not as if there’s a gaping hole in the backfield. Plus, the Bills are up against the salary cap and likely would need to conduct further manipulation of the roster to make it work.
Let’s put it this way: It’s hard to imagine the Bills outbidding other teams for Cook’s services. If he wants to play with his brother and join a Super Bowl contender, Buffalo offers that unique opportunity. But it’s probably not the most likely destination.
The Jets are in win-now mode following the acquisition of Aaron Rodgers. There’s a fair debate about whether running back is a true need or not -- and whether offensive tackle might be the more considerable worry -- but I’m not ruling New York out here.
Breece Hall is coming off an ACL tear, and he was really the only Jets back to stand out last season. Zonovan Knight stepped in ably as an undrafted rookie, but his appeal is relatively limited, and Michael Carter is coming off a surprisingly tough 2022 campaign. The Jets did draft Israel Abanikanda in Round 5, but it’s pure projection how he’ll fit in immediately.
The Jets could extend their all-in approach and pursue Cook, partly as a way to buttress their backfield depth but also to keep him from the rival Dolphins. Yet, if they expect Hall to quickly return to his pre-injury form, when he was a leading contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Cook feels like a bit of a luxury.
This might feel like an odd team to include on the list, what with the Cardinals seemingly embarking on a full-scale rebuild. After all, Cook might not want any part of a team with a first-year head coach and Kyler Murray coming off an ACL tear if more attractive possibilities exist for him.
But what the Cardinals could offer, if they’re so inclined, are money and opportunity. Right now, they feature James Conner, Keaontay Ingram, Corey Clement, Ty'Son Williams and undrafted rookie Emari Demercado as the backs on the roster. Conner just turned 28 and he has fewer career carries than Cook does, but injuries have followed him at every stop along the way.
There are plenty of reasons why Cook wouldn’t be a fit in Arizona. But if the Cardinals want to give head coach Jonathan Gannon some playmaking potential, Cook would help immediately -- especially with Murray’s return date unclear. Cook also could view this as a chance to be a lead back and beef up his profile on a one-year, prove-it type of deal.
I view this as an extreme longshot but one I can’t totally dismiss. They have plenty of salary-cap space to offer him more money than some of the other teams on this list can. The Cardinals are one of a handful of teams that can make this kind of move without significant financial adjustments elsewhere on the roster.