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EAGAN, Minn. — For the second time since 2015, the Vikings and Packers are heading into the final two weeks of a regular season in good standing for the playoffs.

Minnesota (10-4) needs one win or a loss by the Los Angeles Rams (8-6) in Week 16 or Week 17 to secure its third playoff berth under Head Coach Mike Zimmer.

Green Bay (11-3) already secured a playoff berth for the first time since 2016.

The Packers prevailed 21-16 in a Week 2 game at Lambeau Field in which officials took a Vikings touchdown off the board after reviewing and adding pass interference.

Green Bay has been atop the division for all of Matt LaFleur’s first season as head coach and will have the tiebreaker on Minnesota if the teams finish with the same record.

Minnesota’s offense ranks 10th in yards per game (372.6), fifth in yards per play (6.00), fourth in rushing yards per game (135.9), 12th in passing yards per game (236.8) and are tied for fifth in points per game (27.0).

Green Bay’s offense ranks 21st in the NFL in yards per game (336.6), 17th in yards per play (5.49) and 17th in rushing yards per game (99.0). The Packers are 17th in passing yards per game (230.1) and 14th in points per game (23.6).

The Vikings are tied for sixth in the NFL in points against (18.5), 14th in yards allowed per game (338.5), eighth in rushing yards allowed per game (99.0) and 20th in passing yards allowed per game (239.9).

The Packers are ninth in the NFL in points against (20.2), 23rd in yards allowed per game (371.3), 24th in rushing yards allowed per game (120.9) and 22nd in passing yards allowed per game (250.4).

Through the Years: Vikings vs. Packers
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Packers.

TV BROADCAST

National: ESPN

Local non-cable: WCCO in Minneapolis/St. Paul will also carry the ESPN broadcast

Kickoff: 7:15 p.m. (CT)

Play-by-Play: Joe Tessitore

Analyst: Booger McFarland

Sideline Reporter: Lisa Salters

ON MOBILE

Because this is a national broadcast, fans from coast to coast will be able to watch the game on their iOS mobile devices with the VIKINGS APP or VIKINGS MOBILE SITE (Safari browser only).

LOCAL RADIO

KFAN 100.3-FM/KTLK 1130-AM in Minneapolis/St. Paul

Play-by-Play: Paul Allen

Analyst: Pete Bercich

Sideline Reporters: Greg Coleman & Ben Leber

Radio Pre-game Show: Mike Mussman | 5 p.m. (CT)

KFAN and KTLK serve as the flagship stations for the five-state Vikings Radio Network.

NATIONAL RADIO

Westwood One

Play-by-Play: Kevin Harlan

Analyst: Kurt Warner

Sideline Reporter: Laura Okmin

SATELLITE RADIO

Sirius: GB 81 or Streaming 811; MIN 83 or Streaming 819; National 88; Spanish Streaming 970

XM: GB 225 or Streaming 811; MIN 226 Streaming 819; National 88; Spanish Streaming 970

Vikings Roster in Photos
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster for the 2019 season.

STAT OF THE WEEK

The Vikings totaled seven takeaways in Week 15, recording three interceptions and recovering four fumbles. It was the 13th time in franchise history to record seven or more takeaways and first since Sept. 24, 1995, at Pittsburgh.

NORSEMAN NOTES

This is the third time in Vikings history that the team has started a season 10-4 (1974, 1988 and 2019). The Vikings made the playoffs the previous two times they started 10-4.

Since Week 5, the Vikings offense has averaged 392.0 yards per game, which ranks fifth in the NFL in that span.

The Vikings offense has allowed only 23 sacks in 2019, which is the fourth-fewest in 2019. Minnesota suffered 40 in 2018.

QB Kirk Cousins has thrown for 7,779 yards since joining the Vikings. He passed Brett Favre (6,711) in Week 10 for the seventh-most in team history. Warren Moon ranks sixth with 10,102 passing yards from 1994-96. Cousins also ranks seventh in franchise history with 55 passing touchdowns and needs four to pass Moon.

Kyle Rudolph needs three touchdown receptions to tie Sammy White (50) for fourth in Vikings history. Rudolph (424 receptions) passed Jake Reed (413) in Week 11 for fifth place on Minnesota’s all-time list. Anthony Carter is fourth all-time with 478.

Irv Smith, Jr., has 33 receptions in 2019 and needs three to break Andrew Jordan’s Vikings record of 35 receptions by a rookie tight end (1994).

The Vikings defense has allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns in the NFL this season (five).

According to league stats, Eric Kendricks has a career-high 12 pass breakups on the season.

VIKINGS-PACKERS CONNECTIONS

Packers inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti’s father, Tom, was a defensive assistant with the Vikings from 1996-99.

LOCAL CONNECTIONS

Vikings CB Trae Waynes is from Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Packers T/G Billy Turner is from Arden Hills, Minnesota. His father, Maurice, was picked by Minnesota in the 12th round of the 1983 NFL Draft. He played for the Vikings (1984-85), Packers (1985) and Jets (1987).

COACHING CONNECTIONS

Minnesota Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor Gary Kubiak was head coach of the Houston Texans when Green Bay Head Coach Matt LaFleur was an offensive assistant (2008-09).

PROFESSIONAL CONNECTIONS

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins worked with Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur as his quarterbacks coach for two seasons in Washington (2012-13).

Cousins teamed with Packers LB Preston Smith with the Redskins from 2016-18.

Vikings backup QB Sean Mannion was with the Rams when LaFleur was the offensive coordinator in 2017.

Vikings T Rashod Hill teamed with Packers TE Marcedes Lewis in Jacksonville in 2016.

COLLEGE CONNECTIONS

Vikings WR Bisi Johnson played for Packers WR coach Alvis Whitted at Colorado State (2015-18).

Vikings DT Shamar Stephen and Green Bay backup QB Tim Boyle at Connecticut (2013)

Vikings TE Irv Smith, Jr., Packers CB Tony Brown and P JK Scott at Alabama (2016-17)

Vikings T Riley Reiff and Packers T Bryan Bulaga at Iowa (2008-10); Vikings DT Jaleel Johnson and Packers CB Josh Jackson at Iowa (2014-16)

Vikings DE Stephen Weatherly and Packers ILB Oren Burks at Vanderbilt (2013-15)

Vikings LB Anthony Barr (2010-13) and LB Eric Kendricks (2010-14), and Packers DL Kenny Clark (2013-15) are former UCLA Bruins. Vikings running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu was UCLA’s offensive coordinator and running backs coach from 2014-16.

Vikings assistant special teams coach Ryan Ficken was at UCLA when Packers TE Marcedes Lewis was a Bruin (2003-05).

Vikings CB Mackensie Alexander (2013-15), CB Mark Fields (2015-18) and S Jayron Kearse (2013-15) are former Clemson Tigers, along with Packers LB B.J. Goodson (2011-15).

Vikings assistant defensive line coach Rob Rodriguez coached linebackers and special teams at UTEP when Packers RB Aaron Jones was with the Miners (2013-14).

Vikings DE Ifeadi Odenigbo (2012-16) and Eric Wilson (2012) spent time at Northwestern with Packers DL Dean Lowry (2012-15) and FB Danny Vitale (2012-15). Packers DL Tyler Lancaster also went to Northwestern from 2013-17. Vikings offensive quality control coach Christian Jones played receiver at Northwestern from 2011-15.

Vikings G Pat Elflein and Packers C Corey Linsley teamed for two seasons at Ohio State.

VIKINGS TOP PERFORMERS VS. PACKERS

Offense

Kirk Cousins: 5 games (one postseason with Washington), 128-of-194 passing, 66.0 completion percentage, 1,701 passing yards, 12 TDs, 3 INT, 112.8 passer rating; 16 rushes for 45 yards and a TD

Stefon Diggs: 8 games, 43 receptions, 599 yards, 7 TDs; 3 rushes for 16 yards

Adam Thielen: 11 games, 57 receptions, 767 yards, 4 TDs; 3 rushes for 71 yards

Kyle Rudolph: 16 games (one postseason), 59 receptions, 638 yards, 3 TDs

Dalvin Cook: 3 games, 40 rushes for 221 yards, TD; 9 receptions for 136 yards and a TD

Defense

Everson Griffen: 20 games (one postseason), 47 tackles (league stats), 12.5 sacks, 15 TFL, 2 FF

Harrison Smith: 14 games (one postseason), 90 tackles (league stats), 2.0 sacks, 8 TFL, 5 INT, 9 PBU

VIKINGS BIG DAYS VS. PACKERS

Adam Thielen has posted multiple big performances against Green Bay and twice has set the team record for most receptions against the Packers with 12 (Dec. 24, 2016; Sept. 16, 2018).

Stefon Diggs racked up a career-high 182 receiving yards and snagged a career-long 75-yard catch against the Packers on Sept. 19, 2016, the first-ever game at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Dalvin Cook had a career-high 154 rushing yards at Green Bay in Week 2, a performance highlighted by a 75-yard touchdown run.

At home against the Packers in Week 11 of 2018, Cousins was 29-of-38 passing for 342 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Everson Griffen recorded a career-high 3.0 sacks against the Packers in the 2012 regular-season finale. In the NFC North-clinching victory in Week 17 of the 2015 season, he totaled 2.0 sacks and forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

Harrison Smith posted a pair of marquee games against the Packers in 2017. On Oct. 15, he recorded five tackles, 1.5 sacks, one tackle for loss, two passes defensed, two quarterback hits and an interception. In the second meeting with Green Bay that season, Smith nabbed two interceptions to help the Vikings shut out the Packers at Lambeau Field.

VIKINGS-PACKERS SERIES NOTES

1. Since 2008, the Vikings (four) and the Packers (five) have combined for nine of the 11 NFC North titles. One of those teams will make it 10 of 12 this season.

2. The Vikings and Packers have met eight times on Monday Night Football and split the results evenly. This will be the first MNF matchup in Minnesota since Oct. 5, 2009

3. Under Zimmer, the Vikings are 5-5-1 against Green Bay, including 3-2 in home games

Longest Vikings winning streak in series: 7 games (Nov. 2, 1975 through Oct. 22, 1978)

Longest Vikings losing streak in series: 6 games (Oct. 22, 1961 through Nov. 10, 1963)

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Several former athletes teamed up at the 32nd annual Bob Lilly and Randy White Celebrity Golf Classic in Temple Monday.

This event is considered the largest annual fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House of Temple.

“I’ve been doing it for 27 years,” said former Minnesota Vikings fullback Alfred Anderson. “The first time I experienced it, I couldn’t do anything but come back.”

“These are some of the tournaments we play in to ease some of the burden off them,” said Major Jones, who played eight seasons in the NBA. “I think that Randy Whtie and Bob Lilly putting their name on it really lends credibility to this to help raise funds for the Ronald McDonald house.”

In a game of scramble, the winning team posted a score of 23-under par.

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Alan Page received a phone call with the news from Roger Goodell while John Randle got it in person from the NFL commissioner.

The hall of fame Vikings defensive tackles were both announced Friday night as members of the NFL 100 All-Time Team. The team is being unveiled in conjunction with the league’s 100-year anniversary celebration.

Page, who played for the Vikings from 1967-78, said he received a call a month or so ago from Goodell, and was told to keep the news “confidential.’’

“I thought this one was pretty special,’’ Page said in a phone interview. “It’s nice to be considered in this group. … I tend not to compare things like (honors). I take each one as it comes, and this is certainly a high one.’’

Randle, who played for the Vikings from 1990-2000, learned about the honor in early November when he was at the league office in New York as part of his role of being director of the Central-North Region for the NFL Legends Community.

“The commissioner told me,’’ Randle said in a phone interview. “At first, I didn’t believe him. At first, it caught me off guard. … It’s a wonderful honor to be associated with men who built this game and to be mentioned with those guys is just so humbling, so unbelievable.’’

Minnesota Vikings NFL Hall of Famers, from left, Chris Doleman, Fran Tarkenton, Alan Page and John Randle watch the Vikings take on San Diego from the sidelines Sept. 27, 2015, at TCF Bank Stadium. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)
Page, who concluded his career with the Chicago Bears from 1978-81, made all nine of his Pro Bowl appearances and had all six of his all-pro selections with the Vikings. Page became in 1971 the first defensive player to win NFL MVP. The only other defensive player to win has been New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1986.

The 6-foot-1 Randle, who concluded his career with the Seattle Seahawks from 2001-03, made six of his seven Pro Bowls and had all six of his all-pro selections with the Vikings. All of that came after he was undrafted in 1990 out of Division II Texas A&M-Kingsville, where he was a 240-pound defensive end.

“You couldn’t write this stuff,’’ Randle said of his NFL career. “Where are you going to start? You’re an undersized free agent and you’re going to a team that nobody really expects you to make, and then you’re playing special teams (at the start).’’

Randle didn’t start any games as a rookie, but he ranks 10th in NFL history with 137 1/2 sacks.

RELATED: Vikings legend John Randle humbled by selection to NFL All-Time Team

The 6-4, 245-pound Page was taken with No. 15 pick in the 1967 draft. Page played before sacks became an official statistic in 1982, but the Vikings unofficially credit him with 108 in his 11 1/2 seasons with them.

After the conclusion of his NFL career, Page went on to become an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court before stepping down in 2015 at the mandatory retirement age of 70. He was honored last year at the White House by President Donald Trump with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Page was asked to name some of the attributes that made him such a great football player.

“I think it’s attributes that have allowed me to do all the things that I’ve done, and that’s the things that will make anybody successful,’ he said. “That’s hard work, being able to focus, being able to make decisions, and understanding the circumstances around you and responding accordingly.’’

In a series of shows this fall, the NFL Network is unveiling the all-time team, which was selected by a 26-person panel. There were 12 running backs announced Nov. 22, and 14 defensive linemen and 12 linebackers were revealed Friday.

Page, 74, and Randle, 51, both were elated to be on the team together.

“It’s incredible,’’ Page said. “It’s great. I’m happy for him.’’

“When I got (to the Vikings), I heard all the stories about the Purple People Eaters and everybody talked about Alan Page, and the unbelievable things he did and how he played,’’ Randle said. “And just to be mentioned with the likes of him, I can remember one of the first times I played at the Metrodome and listening to Alan tell me about what those guys did and how they played.’’

The only negative for Page was that end Carl Eller, a third Vikings hall of famer who was a defensive lineman finalist, didn’t make the team.

“I feel bad for him,’’ Page said. “But being one in a group of finalists is not exactly the worst thing in the world to be considered that good.’’

Page and Randle plan to be at Super Bowl LIV in Miami on Feb. 2, when the 100 players and 10 coaches named to the all-time team will be honored by Goodell.

“I’m so proud to make this team because it’s the first 100 years of the NFL,’’ Randle said. “Wow. There won’t be another one for 100 years. I think back to all the hard work and all those days of skipping things like hanging out with friends in order to dedicate myself to playing football and by trying to be the best at a position.’’

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Did you know that there is a Polynesian Football Hall of Fame? Until today, I have to confess that I had no idea. But there is, and two former members of the Minnesota Vikings have been announced as finalists to be a part of their class of 2020.

The first of the two nominees is defensive end Alapati Noga. . .but you can call him Al. Noga was a first-team All-American at the University of Hawai’i, and was drafted by the Vikings in the third round of the 1988 NFL Draft. He spent the first five seasons of his seven-year NFL career in Minnesota, and was part of the Vikings’ incredible defensive line during that time along with Chris Doleman, John Randle, and Henry Thomas. He accumulated 29.5 sacks in his five years in Minnesota, including a career-high 11.5 in 1989. He also spent some time with the Washington Redskins and the Indianapolis Colts before moving on to a few seasons in Arena Football.

The other is offensive lineman David Dixon, who spent 13 years in purple with the Vikings. Dixon was originally drafted by the New England Patriots in the ninth round of the 1992 NFL Draft out of Arizona State, and didn’t really latch on with the Vikings until 1994. (He spent time practice squads in New England, Minnesota, and Dallas in 1992 and 1993.) He wound up spending 11 seasons with the Vikings from 1994 to 2004, and during that time started 134 of the 152 games that he appeared in. He was the starter at right guard for the 1998 team which, for a time, was the highest-scoring offense in NFL history.

The other nominees for this year’s class are

Tony Banks, QB
Malcolm Floyd, WR
Chris Kemoeatu, G
Frank Manumaleuga, LB
Haloti Ngata, DT
Niko Noga, LB (and Al’s brother)
Dominic Raiola, C
Charlie Wedemeyer, California high school coach (Los Gatos HS)
The four finalists that will be inducted will be announced on 23 October, and the enshrinement ceremony will take place during the Polynesian Bowl on 17 and 18 January.

Best of luck to David Dixon and Al Noga on (hopefully) being enshrined in the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame!

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CARSON, Calif. — Vikings fans invaded Dignity Health Sports Park on Sunday, Dc. 15, and it was mostly a festive atmosphere. However, an injury to Dalvin Cook toned down the mood.

The star running back was knocked out the game with a shoulder injury early in the third quarter of Minnesota’s 39-10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. It was the second time in three weeks he left the game in third quarter with what was termed a shoulder injury.

The sellout crowd of 25,446 appeared to be about three-fourths Vikings fans. They did the Skol chant regularly and cheered as their team forced seven turnovers.

The Chargers’ fourth turnover, a Melvin Gordon fumble on the first play of the second half, was recovered by Danielle Hunter at the Chargers 26. Two plays later, Cook was injured when he dropped for a 3-yard loss by linebacker Denzel Perryman.

Cook looked to be in a good bit of pain when he was on the ground and helped off the field. However, he ended up watching the second half standing on the sideline.

Another play involving Hunter led to the Vikings turning the game around in the final minute of the first half. With 23 seconds left and the Chargers facing second-and-2 at the Minnesota 26, quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked by Hunter and fumbled. Defensive lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo scooped up the ball and ran 56 yards for a touchdown for a 19-10 Vikings lead with seven seconds remaining.

The Vikings were never seriously challenged in the second half. They got two more field goals by Dan Bailey, who finished with four. And Mike Boone had two touchdown runs in the fourth quarter.

With backup running back Alexander Mattison out with an ankle injury, Boone took over for Cook. He finished with 49 yards on 12 carries.

The Vikings (10-4) lowered their magic number to clinching a playoff spot to one over the Los Angeles Rams (8-6), who lost at Dallas. However, their chances to win the NFC North are not good because Green Bay (11-3), which defeated Chicago 21-13 Sunday, would hold a tiebreaker if one is needed.

The Vikings only can win the division if they beat the Packers on Dec. 23 at U.S. Bank Stadium, defeat the Bears in their home finale and then have Green Bay lose its finale at Detroit.

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 19 of 27 passes for 207 yards. His 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Irv Smith Jr. on the first possession put Minnesota up 6-0. Bailey missed the extra point.

The Chargers (5-9) took a brief 10-9 lead midway through the second quarter on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to Mike Williams. However, that soon was wiped out by a Bailey field goal and Odenigbo’s touchdown.

Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen returned after missing four straight games and five of the past six with a hamstring injury. Thielen caught three passes for 27 yards.

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs entered the game needing three yards to reach 1,000 for the second straight year, and he took care of that early. Diggs finished with four catches for 76 yards, and now has 1,073.

Diggs became the seventh Minnesota receiver to reach 1,000 yards multiple times in a career. He joined Cris Carter (eight times), Randy Moss (six), Jake Reed (four), Anthony Carter (three), Ahmad Rashad (two) and Thielen (two).

The Vikings now have a 1,000-yard rusher and receiver for the first time since Adrian Peterson and Sidney Rice got there in 2009. Cook on Sunday had nine carries for 27 yards, and now has 1,135 for the season.

Rivers completed 28 of 39 passes for 307 yards with three interceptions. He was picked off by safety Harrison Smith in the second quarter and cornerback Mike Hughes and safety Anthony Harris in the fourth.

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While it feels like Dalvin Cook just emerged this season as one of the NFL’s elite running backs and top versatile playmakers, the end of his contract isn’t that far off in the distance and based on other battles between teams and running backs, the Minnesota Vikings should be formulating their approach sooner than later. Sunday marks the first day that the Vikings can officially offer Cook an extension.

Cook’s deal is up following the 2020 season and the Vikings have generally locked up their top players in the offseason heading into the final year of their deal. Recently players like Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs agreed to long-term extensions prior to the last season of their contract. That means they will likely begin talks with Cook about a new contract soon.

Normally with a player of Cook’s caliber — decidedly top-five in the NFL — the decision would be easy to make him the highest paid player at his position for a long time but running backs offer a different challenge and risk/reward assessment for teams.

With that said, let’s look at the key elements of a potential deal for the Vikings’ star back…

Repeatable performance, age curve, injury history

There have been dozens of studies on positional age curves and every single one of them comes out just like PFF’s recent analysis.

“The takeaway is fairly straightforward. Running backs have a lower shelf-life, and it would be wise to move off of older backs,” author Scott Barrett wrote.

Below is PFF’s chart of production by position compared to age. Running backs stand out as sliding downward earlier than the other skill positions.

One issue with age curves is that they do not address specific situations. They give us the macro and not the micro. On the whole, running backs are likely to fade around toward the middle or end of their second contract but there are all sorts of different types of backs and circumstances that play into longevity.

We can easily find examples of superstar RBs whose second contracts worked out swimmingly.

To name a few: In LeSean McCoy’s 5th-8th seasons, he averaged 1,272 yards rushing at 4.8 yards per carry with an average of 40 receptions per season. Former New Orleans back Mark Ingram gained 4.8 yards per carry in years 5-8 and nearly 900 yards and 44 catches per season. Adrian Peterson led the NFL in rushing twice during his second contract. Lamar Miller was en route to justifying his deal with Houston with nearly 1,000 yards per year and 30 catches before suffering an ACL injury in the preseason.

There are also current deals that aren’t working out like those of David Johnson, Devonta Freeman and Todd Gurley.

In the case of Cook, he just turned 24, meaning that a potential new deal would start in 2021 at age 26. The curve above shows the most serious drop off coming into players’ eighth and ninth years in the NFL, which in Cook’s case would be around age 29. Those years would be at the tail end of his next deal.

One reasonable concern would be Cook’s injury history. Over his first two seasons, he played a total of 15 games. He suffered a torn ACL in Week 4 of his rookie season and then was in and out of the lineup with a hamstring issue last year.

This time around a shoulder/chest issue caused him to miss the second half against Seattle and Los Angeles and sit out the final two weeks of the regular season. The Vikings will have to weigh the likelihood of both fading over time and further injury issues and would probably attempt to structure a deal to protect themselves.

RB value and recent star RB battles

Le’Veon Bell sat out a full season with his aim on a long-term deal with huge guarantees. Melvin Gordon did not play in the Chargers’ first four games and has struggled since he returned. Both players’ teams simply turned to their backups rather than paying up. James Connor became the No. 1 back in Pittsburgh and Gordon now splits carries with Austin Ekeler.

At the crux of these situations is teams simply not believing that an individual running back — no matter how good — is worth the same amount of dedicated cap space as the player believes. Like the age curve, nearly every study done on running back worth points to most backs’ success or failure being dependent on their circumstances a la offensive line, system, passing game etc.

The more Cook plays, the more he appears to be an exception to some of these thought processes.

He will finish the year averaging 4.6 yards per carry on 457 rushes through 29 NFL games. Only 15 running backs since 2000 have picked up 4.6 YPC or more with at least 500 rushes. Among them are players who had impressive longevity like Jamaal Charles, Darren Sproles, Tiki Barber, Justin Forsett, Adrian Peterson, De’Angelo Williams, Marshall Faulk and Fred Taylor.

The Vikings’ Pro Bowl RB has ranked in the top 10 in PFF’s Elusive Rating (that combines broken tackles and yards after contact) in 2018 and 2019.

Cook’s ability to impact the passing game also gives him an edge. He has 104 career catches at 8.8 yards per reception and has become a solid pass protector.

And then there’s the significance as Cook as a weapon that strikes fear into opponents. It’s hard to put an exact number on it but the Vikings run play-action more than any other team outside of the Baltimore Ravens and opponents gameplanning to stop Cook has appeared to aid Kirk Cousins in his best career season.

There will always be hardliners who say that running backs shouldn’t be drafted high or paid second contracts and that may largely be true but Cook shows rare skill and adds value that would be very hard to replace.

Cook’s, Vikings’ approach

Clearly holdouts did not play out well for Bell and Gordon. The ex-Steeler did not get paid the guaranteed dollars he expected and ended up on the Jets and Gordon ended up in a much worse position. Cook does not want to suffer the same fate.

It’s pretty unlikely that he will sit out training camp while working out on his own in Cabo like Ezekiel Elliott, who came away with $50 million in total guarantees and a cap hit that peaks at $16.5 million.

Cook doesn’t have the body of work that Elliott did going into his negotiation. Same goes for Gurley, who earned $45 million in total guarantees, but he does have a comparably large role in the offense as both players did prior to their deals being signed. Considering Cook was not a highly-paid first-round pick like Elliott and Gurley and needs his second contract to make life-changing money, it would make sense for his side to be reasonable.

Gurley’s deal will top out at 8.6% of the projected salary cap (his cap hit takes up 4.9% this year). If Cook comes in somewhere just below that on average, it would put his highest cap hit in the $14 million range.

The Vikings have signed players like Hunter and Diggs to five year deals that allow the team some flexibility after three or four years. For example, the Vikings could move on from Hunter after the 2021 season with only $3 million in dead cap, according to OverTheCap.com. Same goes for Diggs. The star receiver earned $16.9 million in guarantees at signing.

If the Vikings aimed for a similar contract structure, that would keep Cook mostly locked in through 2023 at age 29.

Consider that the Vikings signed Adrian Peterson to a contract worth $12.4 million per year, which took up as much as 11.3% of the salary cap at the time. If the Vikings signed Cook to a deal with the same average annual value, that would make for around 6% of the cap next year and put Cook in the top five running back in AAV. Peterson’s deal paid out $39 million in cash over the first three years, which is more over the first three seasons than Elliott will receive from the Cowboys.

Some risk comes along with any contract but the Vikings have done a remarkable job of keeping their top players on contracts that work for both sides. With the offense built around Cook, it would be surprising if they did not work out an extension this offseason.

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The first-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings this year has already earned the role as the team’s starting center according to offensive advisor Gary Kubiak.
During Mike Zimmer’s tenure as the team’s head coach, only a small amount of rookies have been able to make a decent contribution in their first season with the Minnesota Vikings. Over the last few years, the majority of the Vikings rookies are typically relegated to the sidelines for a season or two before they are able to make any sort of impact on the team.

If a rookie actually does end up getting a good amount of playing time during his first year with Minnesota, it’s normally a player who was one of the team’s early-round draft picks.

Of all the Vikings rookies to be drafted since 2014, only six have started more than 10 games in their first year with the team. Four of these six players were selected by Minnesota in the second round of the draft or earlier.

For the upcoming season, it appears that the Vikings 2019 first-round pick, Garrett Bradbury, is going to have a good opportunity to make an impact for the team as a rookie.

Minnesota offensive advisor and assistant head coach Gary Kubiak recently spoke with the Star Tribune’s Sid Hartman and he revealed that Bradbury is expected to begin Week 1 as the team’s starting center.

“Oh yeah, that is where (Bradbury is) going to be, and hopefully he will stay there for a long time.”

So for the second time in three years, the Vikings will likely open up the regular season with a rookie as their starting center. The last being Pat Elflein in 2017, who Kubiak also said has officially moved over to left guard this year.

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This news shouldn’t come as a real surprise to anyone. Bradbury was viewed as a prospect who could come in an start right away as a rookie and Minnesota is doing just that with him.

Naming the rookie as their starter this early in the offseason also allows him to get as many reps as possible with the first-team offense before the regular season. Bradbury doesn’t have to worry about learning any of the other positions along the offensive line and he can now put all of his focus on being the best center he can possibly be for the Vikings in 2019.
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Minnesota and their fans will get to find out very quickly if the young offensive lineman ends up being worth the first-round pick the team spent on him this year.