NFL free agency is just around the corner and teams are frantically making cap space to upgrade their teams this offseason. The New Orleans Saints cut ties with two tight ends at the beginning of the month. While Josh Hill recently signed with the Detroit Lions, where are some landing spots for his former teammate Jared Cook?
Jared Cook Landing Spots
The veteran tight end represents a reliable and durable option in free agency. Jared Cook has had a 12-year career in the NFL, demonstrating his durability with 178 appearances for five teams. With 6,673 career receiving yards and 41 touchdowns, he could be an additional receiving threat for an offense.
Furthermore, he hasn’t seen much drop-off as he’s aged. Over the last four years, he’s produced over 8 yards per target, more than 2 touchdowns in each season, and over 60 percent catch completion rate. So, which landing spots could best utilize Jared Cook?
Opportunity Knox for Cook in Buffalo?
It’s no secret that the Buffalo Bills are in the market for a tight end this offseason. Behind Dawson Knox, the trio of Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith, and Reggie Gilliam don’t really move the needle in what has become one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses. As a result, the Bills have been linked to available free-agent tight ends, including Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.
However, Cook would give them a cheaper option that provides a productive return. Cook had more touchdowns in 2020 than Knox has in the last two seasons. He also offers a more reliable pair of hands than Knox. The second-year tight end out of Ole Miss has a 55 percent career average catch completion rate.
I’m not suggesting that Cook comes in and replaces Knox. However, his appearance in a tight end rotation would make Buffalo’s offense even more potent.
Could Cook provide reliable pass catching in Carolina?
In the same month that the Carolina Panthers welcomed back Greg Olsen for his retirement ceremony, they could also be a landing spot for Jared Cook as they look to once again have a productive TE on the roster. A pass-catching tight end was the Carolina offense’s staple in the mid-2010s, where Olsen had three consecutive seasons with 1,000+ receiving yards.
Of course, Cook isn’t Olsen in his prime. That would be a foolhardy comparison to make. However, the Panthers tight end room lacks any significant depth. When your options include former Penn State quarterback Tommy Stevens, you know you need to add pieces.
There is a strong chance that the Panthers will have a rookie quarterback under center come the start of the season. Giving the newcomer a reliable pass catcher at the tight end position will be pivotal early on.
Will there be a Cam-to-Cook connection in New England?
Despite drafting Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene last year, I fully expect the New England Patriots to address the tight end position again this offseason. The current depth chart lists the above two plus Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo. Last year, they combined for 254 yards and a touchdown. It’s a far cry from a Patriots offense that once had Rob Gronkowski wreaking havoc.
The Patriots re-signed Cam Newton on another one-year deal. Now, it’s time to surround him with some offensive weaponry. Bill Belichick has made a career out of getting the last bit of value out of veteran players. There is no reason to believe he couldn’t do that with Cook.
Other potential landing spots for Jared Cook
While the above three figure to be the best landing spots for Jared Cook, there are other options to contemplate. The Jacksonville Jaguars have a clear need at tight end. I would expect them to address the position in the 2021 NFL Draft. However, even if they do, Cook would provide a reliable veteran pass-catching option for incoming quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
The Cincinnati Bengals also figure to be in the market at the position. It seems forever ago that Tyler Eifert was their go-to weapon at the position. As Joe Burrow returns from injury, Cook would give him a reliable option. Although they invested in Drew Sample, he isn’t the same dangerous threat in the passing game that Cook provides.
The Seattle Seahawks signed Greg Olsen last free agency to provide a tight end option for Russell Wilson. With Olson now retired and Jacob Hollister about to hit free agency, they could be a legitimate landing spot for Jared Cook.
What is Jared Cook’s market value in free agency?
All of the above landing spots for Jared Cook have the cap space available to get a deal done. However, with significantly less cap space available to them, the Buffalo Bills would appear to be the team most likely to sign Cook. Both the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers can afford one of the premium free-agent tight ends like Hunter Henry.
What is Jared Cook likely to cost? His last free agency deal — with the New Orleans Saints in 2019 — was a two-year, $15 million contract. However, back in 2016, he took a one-year, $2.75 million deal. He has averaged just over $4 million per year in his NFL career, which may prove to be the ceiling he receives on any new deal.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft analyst and staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.