On Sept. 12, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that the Minnesota Vikings reached an extension with Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook. Hours later, Ian Rapoport announced that the New Orleans Saints also agreed to a deal with their star fourth-year running back. Alvin Kamara, who previously skipped several practices because of his contract, is locked in for the long-term.
No franchise tag situation in Minnesota: Pro Bowl RB Dalvin Cook and the #Vikings have agreed to a 5yr, $63M extension, sources tell @RapSheet and me. After just 29 career games, Cook locks in over $28M guaranteed.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 12, 2020
Cook threatened to holdout over his lack of an extension earlier this offseason, but COVID-19 and a loaded 2021 free agency class made the move pointless. Cook reported to training camp, and the Vikings rewarded him with a five-year, $63 million extension. The deal ties Cook to Minnesota through 2025. By that time, the Florida State product will be 30 years old.
As for Kamara, he’s got a shiny, five-year, $75 million extension. The versatile Tennessee product made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons, amassing 4,476 yards from scrimmage and 37 total touchdowns. Kamara’s contract also ends after the 2025 season, when he’ll be 30 years old.
Cook’s and Kamara’s contracts mark a significant leap for the running back market. After declining in prominence over the past few years, the position saw a massive spike in value this offseason. Under his new deal, Kamara makes $15 million per year, which ties him with Ezekiel Elliott for the second-largest annual salary in the NFL by a running back. Meanwhile, Cook makes $12.5 million annually, which ties him for sixth place with Derrick Henry.
Outside of Cook and Kamara, Melvin Gordon, Henry, Christian McCaffrey, and Joe Mixon all signed deals this offseason that put them among the NFL’s ten highest-paid running backs. The flood of extensions comes as a surprise, considering next year’s free agency pool still features Chris Carson, James Conner, Kenyan Drake, Leonard Fournette, Todd Gurley, Aaron Jones, Marlon Mack, and potentially Phillip Lindsay. Supposedly, the Packers are working on a long-term deal for Jones.
While Saturday’s extensions didn’t come as a surprise, they aren’t entirely without risk. Some of the league’s highest-paid running backs, including Le’Veon Bell, Gurley, and David Johnson, crashed after signing massive contracts. Cook’s deal stands out because the former second-round pick had more yards from scrimmage in 2019 than in his first two seasons combined. Cook’s injury history is well-documented. He’s missed 19 games since entering the NFL.
As for Kamara, his yards per touch continue declining each year. New Orleans could hit a snag soon with Drew Brees nearing the end of his career and multiple superstars needing new deals. However, Kamara is only one year away from becoming the first player ever to open his career with at least 500 rushing and receiving yards in each of his first four seasons, according to MySportsUpdate.
It seems analysts overstated the demise of running backs in recent years. Cook and Kamara are only two examples of the position’s revitalization in modern offenses. Now, we play the waiting game and see if the Pro Bowlers plays out the entirety of their extensions.