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What does History Tell us about the Miami Dolphins Potentially Adding Dalvin Cook?

Lets see how these kinds of moves have fared in the past.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - New York Giants v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins have had an active off season and there is still a chance that they’ll add pro bowl running back Dalvin Cook to the mix. Even with the news that Cook is seeking significant money in free agency, the Dolphins remain one of his most likely destinations.

Before we get into the historical precedence on these sorts of moves, lets get one thing out of the way: Dalvin Cook makes the Miami Dolphins a better team. He improves the running back room and gives them one more explosive player on offense. You can argue that the money is better spent elsewhere, but Cook would be RB1 the day he signed a contract in Miami.

He may not be the 2020 version of Dalvin Cook, but he is far from a “washed up” player. He gained over 1,100 rushing yards last season and had the second highest yards after contact per rush figure of his career (3.18 per PFF). He’ll be just 28 years of age during this upcoming season and has, at a minimum, another two to three good years of NFL football left in him.

A Historical Precedence

Cook has been a top-10 (could argue top-5) player at his position since 2019 and is going to be available prior to his 28th birthday. This isn’t an extremely common situation, even for running backs. Since 30 seems to be the end for a lot of high-level backs, fans tend to write guys off as they get closer and closer to that number... but not so fast.

We have a few moments in time recently where running backs left the teams where they made their name and went to other teams in their mid to late 20’s. We’ll look at three examples and then talk about Cooks’ chances at a late career revival in 2023.

Christian McCaffrey

We didn’t have to look very far for the first example and it will start this analysis in a positive light. McCaffrey established himself as one of the best running backs in the NFL after his first three seasons. He played in 16 games each year from 2017 to 2019-earning an all-pro nod for his 2019 campaign.

From 2020 to 2021, he appeared in just 10 contests. There was no indication that he had lost a step, but he was struggling to stay on the field. He opened the 2022 season (age 26) still with the Carolina Panthers and flashed for the first six contests of the year. After those six games he was traded to the 49ers in exchange for a 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th round draft pick.

McCaffrey went on to average 4.7 yards per carry with six touchdowns and 746 yards (while adding 464 yards through the air and four receiving touchdowns) for the final 11 games of the 2022 season and helped them push deep into the playoffs. He added a new dimension to the 49ers offense and running game and will be a focal point going forward. A true success story for McCaffrey and the 49ers.

Le’Veon Bell

Le’Veon Bell’s career didn’t wrap up on a positive note, but with the Pittsburgh Steelers he was arguably the best (and most versatile) running back in the NFL for a 4-5 year stretch. He earned two separate all-pro nods in that time frame (2014 & 2017) and was widely seen as one of the best receiving back in the league-an all purpose weapon.

After his 2017 all-pro season, Bell wanted to get paid big money. When the Steelers weren’t willing to pay him that money, they attempted to franchise tag him. Bell would go on to sit out the entire 2018 season in hopes of hitting free agency the following off season at the age of 27.

At the time, one prevailing theory was that the time away from the game would allow Bell to heal up and he could potentially come back even better than before. Bell would go on to sign a 4 year, $52,500,000 contract with the New York Jets. His time in New York coincided with Adam Gase’s arrival and it was predictably disastrous for both the franchise and star player.

Bell lasted just a season and a half in New York and would be released during the 2020 season. He averaged less than four yards per carry during his time in New York and did not look like the same player that he had been in Pittsburgh. He made short stops in Kansas City, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay to conclude his career-never being able to regain that early career form.

LeSean McCoy

LeSean “Shady” McCoy had an illustrious early career in Philadelphia. Like Bell, he earned two separate all pro nods and was one of the best backs in the league year in and year out. Prior to the 2015 season, McCoy was traded to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso (yikes).

He started his career in Buffalo at 27 years of age and would go on to earn a pro bowl nod three of his four seasons with the Bills. He was a big part of why the Bills snapped their playoff drought in 2017 and had an extremely successful run there until he was a surprise cut in 2019 (at 31 years of age).

McCoy still had his best years in Philadelphia, but he was the focal point of the Buffalo Bills offense and helped the franchise turn things around. Another success story and late career surge for a running back.

What are Cook’s Chances in 2023?

This really comes down to where Cook ends up. As I said before, he has another two to three good years left in him-at a minimum. Is he at the point in his career where he could overcome organizational dysfunction and poor offensive line play? Probably not. He could however be the missing piece for some already potent offenses (maybe Miami or Buffalo).

If there were a team out there willing to pay Dalvin $10+ million a year, he would already be gone. Since the running back market is what it is and Cook will be 28 this year, he will likely be forced to take a shorter, incentive-laden contract for this upcoming season. With that said, history indicates that this could be the start of a career resurgence for Cook.