Jared Cook is an intriguing TE flier after signing with the Packers
The Green Bay Packers have signed free agent tight end Jared Cook to a one-year, $3.65 million contract, per NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.
Cook drew interest from the Falcons, Bears and Panthers before deciding on the Packers, per NFL Media’s Rand Getlin. Cook’s deal is not quite like the five-year, $35.1 million contract he signed with the Rams in 2013, but Green Bay is an ideal landing spot for him to rehabilitate his value for another free agent run next offseason.
When the Rams signed Cook back in 2013, the decision was based more on potential than past production. They believed that they could turn a player with career-highs of 49 receptions, 759 yards and four touchdowns into an elite tight end. Cook never realized his potential with the Rams — his best receiving season was his first with the team (671 yards and five touchdowns).
Cook’s 2015 season was his worst from a receiving standpoint — by the stats and by his overall receiving grade from PFF — but there is reason to believe a rebound season could be coming in 2016. Cook is entering his age-29 season, with little wear and tear and almost no history of injuries.
Let’s not forget, Cook was a physical freak when the Titans drafted him out of South Carolina. At 6’5 and 249 pounds, he ran a 4.49 40-yard dash with a 41-inch vertical and 123-inch broad jump. He ranked in the 98th, 99th and 93rd percentiles, respectively, in the 40, vertical and broad jump among tight ends, per MockDraftable.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has been looking for a big tight end with the speed to challenge defenses down the seam since Jermichael Finley retired, and he found his match in Cook.
Cook will compete for playing time and targets with incumbent starter Richard Rodgers. In 2015, Rodgers finished as fantasy’s TE9 in standard scoring leagues with 58 receptions, 510 yards receiving and eight touchdowns on 84 targets. Aaron Rodgers has shown a propensity for targeting tight ends in the red zone, and if Cook can beat out Rodgers in one tight end personnel packages, he is a great bet to top his career high of five touchdown receptions.
Another factor working in Cook’s favor is his underrated ability as a blocker. Cook developed this aspect of his game over the past two seasons with the Rams, likely in part due to the fact that targets and production were hard to come by as a part of an anemic passing game. Cook has finished as our 11th-best and 13th-best run-blocking tight end, respectively, in 2015 and 2014. Over that same time frame, Rodgers has struggled as the 30th-”best” and 56th-”best” run-blocking tight end.
Rodgers is not only a much worse blocker than Cook, but he offers much less receiving upside from a pure athleticism standpoint. Rodgers measured in a 6’4 with a 4.87 40-yard dash time, 31.5-inch vertical and 116-inch broad jump. He ranked in the 29th, 32nd and 64th percentiles, respectively, in the 40, vertical and broad jumps among tight ends, per MockDraftable.
Aside from Rodgers’ familiarity with the offense, there’s not much reason to believe he will hold off Cook in training camp. The Packers love to run 11 personnel — with just one tight end — so there’s only room for one of these two to remain fantasy relevant.
While there is hype surrounding Jeff Janis, he remains unproven. Jordy Nelson is returning from major surgery, Davante Adams is shaping up like a rare Ted Thompson draft bust and Ty Montgomery is still a work in progress. Cook’s upside with Rodgers in the Packers’ offense is very real.
I’m not saying he’ll match Jermichael Finley’s 2011 season — with 767 yards and eight touchdowns — but those numbers will seem a lot more realistic if he is not splitting snaps with Rodgers. Cook makes for a very intriguing late-round flier at tight end in 2016.
Dan Schneier is a staff writer at PFF Fantasy. You can find him on Twitter @DanSchneierNFL.