The 2018 Oakland Raiders didn’t have much going for them, but one bright piece in an otherwise lost season was tight end Jared Cook. The Raiders passing game basically ran through Cook, especially once the Raiders shipped Amari Cooper out of town. Entering his age-32 season, Cook showed that he still has plenty left in his tank and should be considered the top free agent tight end available.
2019 NFL Free Agent Profile: Jared Cook
Cook displayed flashes of being a great pass-catching back throughout his 10-year NFL career, but he finally put it all together for a full season in 2018. Serving as quarterback Derek Carr’s security blanket, Cook finished his season with 68 receptions for 896 yards and six touchdowns. Each number represented a career-high, as Cook was a natural fit for first-year head coach Jon Gruden.
2018 was a career year for Cook, but he’s always been a dangerous weapon in the passing game. Standing 6’5” tall and weighing in at 255 pounds, Cook is one of the more athletic tight ends in the league. Too fast for linebackers and too big for safeties, Cook has been one of the better receiving tight ends in the league over the past few seasons. Since 2011, Cook averages 52 receptions for 676 yards and three touchdowns over the course of a 16-game season. Nobody will confuse him with Travis Kelce, but he’s a reliable weapon who can also do his part in the blocking game.
It’s more likely than not that Cook’s free agency voyage ends right where it started: in Oakland. The Raiders have basically an unlimited amount of cap space and need all the skill position players they can get. Cook’s obviously a fit for Gruden’s offense, and both sides have expressed an interest in a reunion. Gruden said that Cook was “clearly [the Raiders] MVP” and called him “phenomenal”. Cook, meanwhile, said he loved the energy Gruden brought to the team and the offense. It would be a major surprise if Cook isn’t locked up long-term with the Raiders.
If for some reason Cook makes it to the open market, he could reunite with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay has needed a tight end for years, and 2018 signee Jimmy Graham just didn’t get the job done. Graham has a $12.67 million cap hit for 2019, but the Packers could save $5.3 million by cutting him. Cook and Aaron Rodgers have already developed chemistry and should be a good pairing.
If Cook’s looking to land on a completely new team, the New England Patriots would be a nice fit. Rob Gronkowski is near the end of the line and is openly mulling retirement. Whether he returns or not is anyone’s guess, but he can’t be around much longer. The Patriots could use another tight end to bridge the gap between Gronkowski and a young draft pick. Worst comes to worst, Gronkowski comes back for another season and Cook and Gronkowski combine to recreate the Aaron Hernandez – Gronkowski offense.
Last Word on Free Agent Jared Cook
Jared Cook has always been a great athlete and something about Jon Gruden’s offense brought out the best in the 31-year old. Cook finished his 2018 season with career-highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns and enters free agency as the best tight end in a barren market. Quite frankly, this is the perfect situation for Cook.
It’s more than likely that Cook will return to the Raiders on a multi-year deal. Head coach Jon Gruden has openly praised the tight end and even called him the best player on the Raiders. Cook reciprocated that emotion, saying that he enjoys Gruden’s charisma and attitude. Gruden can obviously build a passing attack featuring Cook, and the Raiders have an essentially endless sum of cap space. Re-signing here makes too much sense to not happen.
If, for some reason, Cook makes it to the open market, then the Green Bay Packers would be a smart fit. Aaron Rodgers needs a reliable weapon outside of Davante Adams, and Cook fits the bill. The duo had good chemistry back in 2016 and Jimmy Graham might be on the way out. Additionally, the New England Patriots could use his services as either a stop-gap in the passing game or as Rob Gronkowski’s partner in crime.
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