Today we conclude our look at one of the Minnesota Vikings heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before and a prognosis on whether or not he'll be back with the club in 2014.
Free agent to be: Chris Cook
Years in the league: 4
What he made last season: $2,305,000 (cap number); $1,730,000 (cash value)
What he did last season: Cook was expected to blossom in his fourth year, both as a cornerback and the leader of the Vikings' young secondary, but things never really worked out for him. He missed four games with injuries, was ejected from the Vikings' Dec. 1 win over the Chicago Bears after contacting an official and got beat for a league-high nine touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus. Four of those came against the Bears, including Martellus Bennett's game-winning score with 10 seconds left in Week 2 after a coverage mistake left Cook covering two receivers.
His potential market value: As many tools as the 6-foot-2 Cook has to be a solid NFL corner, he hasn't been able to make his case on the field. He hasn't recorded an interception in 29 NFL starts -- the second-most without an interception by a defensive back in NFL history -- and injuries have been far too prevalent a factor for Cook to get big money this spring. He hasn't shown good ball skills in the NFL, and got beat too often over the top last year, which shouldn't happen so frequently to a corner of his size.
Will he still fit the Vikings? Cook will present the same positives and negatives for them as he will with any other NFL team. His size and willingness to be physical could make him a good fit for the Vikings, who figure to play more man coverage next season than they have in the past. He likely wouldn't factor prominently into their plans, and he might not be a candidate for anything more than a one- or two-year deal. But coach Mike Zimmer has talked about how he identifies with players who have something to prove, and new defensive backs coach Jerry Gray might see Cook as a player he can help fix. Would the gamble be worth taking, if the price isn't too high and if the Vikings can improve the secondary to the point where Cook is their third or fourth corner? It just might be.
What happens: This is a tricky one, and there might not be a Vikings free agent who is more polarizing than Cook. But we're going to go out on a limb here. Based solely on Zimmer's willingness to gamble that he can get more out of players who haven't hit their potential yet, we guess the Vikings bring Cook back on a one-year deal. They will give him a chance to fight his way off the fringes of their roster and prove he's capable of more than he's done so far.