While there are a cluster of tight ends that will be available when free agency commences, Jared Cook continues to attract the most interest at the position. And when the highly gifted Cook’s potential to be a highly productive target is compared to the other TE options that will join him on the market, it is easy to understand why he is easily the most attractive choice for any franchise that is focused upon upgrading their roster at his position.
The team that ultimately acquires him, will gain an extremely athletic TE who has the potential to accumulate very favorable numbers. He was originally selected by Tennessee in Round 3 of the 2009 NFL Draft, but was extremely underutilized during his four years as a Titan. Cook averaged only 33 receptions and 429 yards on 53.5 targets, in great part because he was systematically overlooked throughout the first two years of his tenure. After garnering just 60 targets during that span, he was employed more extensively in his final two seasons. His target total rose to a career best 82 in 2011, and he received 72 while competing in 13 contests during 2012.
That enabled Cook to achieve career highs in catches (49) and yardage (759) in 2011, while accumulating a career best four TDs in 2012. But his career numbers in each category are not particularly impressive, since his role in the offense was usually restricted. He only finished fourth on the Titans in targets, receptions and yardage, even though he tied for the team lead in touchdowns.
For some additional perspective, 23 TEs captured more passes than Cook last season, and 20 exceeded his yardage total. Yet, even though his considerable athleticism was consistently overlooked within Tennessee’s offensive approach, he still managed to generate eight plays in excess of 20 yards, which tied him for 13 among TEs.
You can expect his new team to employ him with greater consistency, and they should be rewarded with a highly productive TE, who can effectively line up as a 6'5", 250 pound wideout. That will enable his new team to exploit the serious matchup problem that he will present to opponents through the season. And partially explains why some trustworthy reports have pinpointed up to seven teams that have expressed an interest in garnering Cook.
His most prominent suitors as of this writing appear to be the Dolphins, Browns, Rams and Bears. However there could be additional interest being conveyed from Philadelphia, and (somewhat surprisingly) from the same Titan organization that chose not to franchise him.
Reports concerning Cook's asking price have ranged between $6 and $10 million, and considering the high level of interest that exists for his services, it is reasonable to believe that he will eventually sign a deal that approaches the high end of that projected range.
Whenever Cook does sign, we will provide an update that examines how he is most likely to be employed by the team that just secured him to a new agreement. Plus, we will explore the fantasy ramifications. But in the meantime, here is a review of the four teams that appear most likely to obtain him.
If he ultimately becomes a Dolphin, opposing defenses would be forced to utilize more resources to neutralize Cook than they had required when lining up against Anthony Fasano. Second year signal caller Ryan Tannehill desperately needs a dynamic target, as only two teams manufactured fewer TD passes than the 13 that Miami managed in 2012. Even though the team just resigned wideout Brian Hartline, he is not the difference maker that last season's 26th ranked passing offense sorely needs. But Cook definitely could be.
The Browns have an enormous amount of available cap space, and will be focused upon enhancements at multiple positions. They could certainly use playmakers on offense, as the team ranked a lowly 28th with just 16 TDs through the air in 2012. To label their situation at quarterback as “uncertain” is wording it mildly. But new HC Rob Chudzinski and his OC Norv Turner will make effective use of any viable offensive weapons that they are supplied with, which would bode well for Cook if he lines up for them.
Despite Brandon Marshall’s highly productive reunion with Jay Cutler last season, the Bears ranked just 29th in passing offense. And if you progress beyond the impressive numbers that Marshall generated last year – 118 receptions, 1,508 yards and 11 TDs – it becomes easy to comprehend why. Earl Bennett was second on the team with just 29 catches, and with only 375 yards. Similarly, Alshon Jeffery’s was next in line behind Marshall with only three TD receptions. Chicago’s offense unmistakably needs another downfield weapon, and Cook would be a worthwhile asset.
After absorbing the shockwaves that resonated when divisional rivals Seattle and San Francisco upgraded their rosters with blockbuster at wide receiver, the Rams could be increasingly willing to execute a major acquisition of their own. Incumbent Lance Kendricks is effective blocker, but cannot supply the production that Cook would deliver. Jeff Fisher is certainly aware of Cook’s ability, and the degree to which a genuine threat at TE would benefit Sam Bradford.