There has been no shortage of player movement early in NFL free-agency week. While the market won't officially open until 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, the legal-contract period opened at noon ET on Monday.
Several players have already agreed to join new teams, including both of the Cincinnati Bengals' 2022 starting safeties.
While most of the focus has been on free agency, a few things could be brewing on the trade market as well. No, we haven't heard anything on the Aaron Rodgers front, but another North star could be on the move.
"The Vikings are open for business as well. They've released three veteran players thus far—including legacy player Adam Thielen—and multiple teams believe Minnesota has had trade talks centered around running back Dalvin Cook," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler wrote on Sunday.
While Cook wouldn't help Cincinnati reload at safety, he's a player in whom the Bengals should be very interested if he becomes available.
Cincinnati has a serviceable starter in Joe Mixon, a back who can run, catch and pass protect well. However, Mixon has never been a truly explosive or dominant runner (4.1 yards per carry career average), and he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in 2022.
The Bengals could save $7.3 million by releasing Mixon, and they could save $10 million by releasing him with a post-June 1 designation. He's a viable cut candidate if the Bengals can find an upgrade or at least an adequate replacement.
Cook would be an upgrade.
The 27-year-old Cook has been a much more dynamic running back during his time in the NFL. He's coming off his fourth-straight Pro Bowl campaign and averaged 4.4 yards per carry and 7.6 yards per reception in 2022.
Cook's rushing and receiving averages in 2022 were notably higher than Mixon's (3.9 and 7.4) and Cook also had a higher yards-after-contact average (1.8 versus 1.5).
Simply put, Cook is a more dynamic back than Mixon, one with more speed, more elusiveness and more breakaway ability—Cook's longest run in 2022 (81 yards) was more than double Mixon's (40).
Replacing Mixon with Cook would add another home-run threat to an offense that already features Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Ja'Marr Chase. It could also help protect quarterback Joe Burrow, who frequently faced pressure from opponents who weren't threatened by Cincinnati's rushing attack.
The Bengals had just six games with 100 rushing yards as a team during the 2022 regular season.
While Cook's 2023 base salary of $10.4 million is on the higher side for a running back, it's only $1 million more than Mixon's base salary.
The caveat, of course, is that we don't know what Minnesota would want in a trade. The 2023 draft class is expected to be deep at the running back position—15 of the top 150 players on the Bleacher Report Scouting Department's latest big board are RBs—and Cincinnati shouldn't be willing to pay too high a price.
However, Cook is a proven commodity and a player who could help transform a very good Bengals offense into arguably the best in the league.
*Cap and contract information via Spotrac. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.