Arbella Early Edition

Patriots may not have to ‘pay up' to land Dalvin Cook in free agency

Could the four-time Pro Bowler be had at a bargain price?

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At first blush, Dalvin Cook doesn't seem like an ideal fit for the New England Patriots. Why would they pay significant money for a Pro Bowl-caliber running back when they already have a workhorse back (whom Bill Belichick apparently "loves") making just $1.1 million in 2023 in Rhamondre Stevenson?

That's a fair point -- but what if the Patriots wouldn't have to pay Cook significant money?

During an appearance Monday night on NBC Sports Boston's Arbella Early Edition, Patriots reporter Phil Perry shared some notable context on the veteran running back, who remains unsigned in free agency after the Minnesota Vikings released him on June 9.

"Here's the deal: I don't think you're going to have to pay up for this player," Perry said of Cook, as seen in the video player above. "He's a running back. He's a veteran running back in a league where running backs simply, unfortunately for them, are not valued. So, even though he's a big name -- and I still think he's an explosive player -- we're in June now. There ain't that much money floating around for teams to just spend willy-nilly on veteran running backs.

"So, I'm Option B (in support of the Patriots signing Cook) because I think he could be had at a bargain. Don't spend $10 million on this guy for 2023, but I don't think he's going to cost that much."

Perry has a point: Only nine NFL running backs are making at least $10 million per year, and all signed their current contracts at age 26 or younger. Only eight active running backs signed contracts after their 27th birthday (Cook will turn 28 in August), and of those eight, only one is making more than $5 million per year: Cordarrelle Patterson, who signed a two-year, $10.5 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons that carried just a $2.5 million cap hit in 2022.

Cook is still one of the league's most dynamic running backs, with four straight Pro Bowl nods and four straight seasons of at least 1,100 rushing yards. There's no reason to believe he can't continue that success through at least 2023 and 2024, and he should command more than what Patterson is making.

But the reality is that the market for veteran free-agent running backs isn't what it used to be, and that Cook may have to take a steep discount if his only suitors don't have deep pockets.

"I'm just telling you, there ain't that much money out there," Perry added. "DeAndre Hopkins is finding this out right now: He still hasn't signed with anybody because the money isn't there. Teams haven't saved up to have as much money as you would need to pay a guy big bucks at this point in the calendar year."

The AFC East rival Miami Dolphins and New York Jets both reportedly have been linked to Cook in free agency, so he'll have a market. But if the price is right, Cook is talented enough that the Patriots should at least consider signing him to form a dynamic duo with Stevenson.

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