The New York Jets remain one of the front-runners to sign free-agent running back Dalvin Cook, according to sources close to the situation.
There have been six teams interested in the former Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowler, with the Jets, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins looking like the top contenders. The AFC East may just continue to stockpile talent. The Jets, in particular, make sense for the 27-year-old Cook.
“Obviously, you never want to say no to a great player,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said in a press conference Thursday. “I’ll leave [GM] Joe [Douglas] to that one. I know there’s a lot of contractual stuff that goes with it. But he is a good one.”
Cook is dealing with an ongoing lawsuit after his ex-girlfriend alleged that he physically assaulted her, causing severe injuries. According to a court filing acquired by the Star Tribune, Cook attempted to pay her $1 million if she absolved him of wrongdoing. The woman rejected the offer.
An AFC East coach told FOX Sports that the lawsuit is likely to impact Cook’s market and confirmed that the field is narrowing to the Jets, Patriots and Dolphins.
In addition to the lawsuit, the running-back market has never been more complicated financially. Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs are in contract standoffs with their franchises. During the offseason, only two free-agent running backs (Miles Sanders and David Montgomery) got more than $10 million guaranteed in their new contracts — and there was an impressive group of backs on the market. Seven receivers, meanwhile, received contracts with $10 million or more guaranteed — and the market was especially short on talent at that position.
Cook’s camp is preaching patience. Whether someone gets injured or a team simply realizes it doesn’t have what it needs at running back during camp, Cook is going to wait in hopes that the interested teams up their offers.
For the Jets, second-year running back Breece Hall‘s health is what could potentially make a match between Cook and the Jets more urgent. Hall tore his ACL in October and started training camp on the physically unable to perform list. He won’t practice with the team until he gets off that list, though he can come off at any time.
It’s unclear if he’ll be ready for the start of the season. Saleh said he’s not thinking in terms of Week 1 for Hall.
“When he’s ready, he’s ready,” Saleh said Thursday. “The one thing with these ACLs, you don’t want to go too quick, but at the same time, you don’t want to go too slow, so there’s a balancing act.”
In May, Hall was asked whether he’ll be back for Week 1.
“I don’t know. … Honestly, I hope I’ll be ready but you never know,” he said.
New York can also stay patient. The Jets, who started training camp early because they’re playing in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 3, are working with running backs Michael Carter, Zonovan Knight and Israel Abanikanda. Carter and Knight played well in Hall’s absence last season.
If the Jets do add Cook, it would buy them a tremendous amount of time in Hall’s recovery. And frankly, Hall might just be glad to have that time. If he started the season on the PUP list and missed the first half of the year, he could still be back in time to help with a Super Bowl push. And he might not jeopardize his health for his all-important third and fourth seasons, when he’ll need to put up big numbers for a contract extension.
Cook’s future might depend upon the lawsuit, first and foremost. And then we’ll see how Hall’s injury and the broader running-back market impacts the former Viking.
Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @henrycmckenna.
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