“Without a reasonable extension, he will not be showing up for camp or beyond,” a source told Schefter.
Cook, 24, is approaching his fourth season in the NFL. The former second-round pick out of Florida State made his first Pro Bowl last season after injuries shut down promising starts to his 2017 and 2018 campaigns.
Cook has one year remaining on the four-year, $6.35 million deal he signed as a rookie. He’s due $2 million in salary and signing bonus this season.
Melvin Gordon 2.0?
Cook is the latest running back to outplay his rookie contract and seek an extension before it expires. Melvin Gordon held out through the first four games of the season last year as he sought an extension with the Los Angeles Chargers after making the Pro Bowl twice in his first four seasons. The Chargers stood firm and built their running game around Austin Ekeler.
Gordon returned as part of a committee alongside Ekeler and left for the rival Denver Broncos in the offseason after his relationship with the Chargers broke down. His deal in Denver is for two years and $16 million.
Like Gordon last year, Cook has proven himself as one of the game’s most dangerous backfield weapons after tallying 1,135 rushing yards, 519 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns in his breakout 2019 season. He’s averaged 4.6 yards per carry over his three-year career.
NFL running backs in a tough spot
Running backs in the NFL find themselves in a bind because of the parameters of the collective bargaining agreement. Rookies are slated into rookie contract slots that don’t pay players who reach Pro Bowl heights close to their true value. Players at other positions are often rewarded with second contracts that come with big paydays.
Running backs generally have short NFL shelf lives that leave teams hesitant to commit to that kind of payday for a second contract. Todd Gurley’s body broke down after signing a four-year $60 million deal with the Los Angeles Rams, leaving the team saddled with what amounted to a bad contract before they ultimately released him this offseason. It was a prime example of why teams shy away from paying running backs.
That dynamic leaves top performers forced to leverage their talents while they’re still in their physical primes. Which is exactly what Cook is doing here.
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