It's no secret that Jared Cook isn't happy with the role he has played in the Titans offense. Just prior to the trade deadline, he made his desire for a trade public, and much ado was made about his lack of playing time and lack of targets. I make reference to this myself in my blog on the Colts game. He is in the last year of a four-year rookie $2.45 million deal. The deal included a $700,000 signing bonus and his 2012 salary is $615,000.
Cook is a great talent but he has split snaps all year with Craig Stevens, a good receiver despite being known primarily as a blocker, and rookie tight end Taylor Thompson, who I have been high on all year and discuss extensively in my training camp blogs.
According to ProFootballFocus, Cook and Stevens have played the exact same number of snaps this season at 350. Rookie Thompson by contrast has played 134. Cook's snaps were at their greatest in the first game of the season when the Titans played New England. He played 60 of 65 snaps. By contrast, Stevens played 11 of 65 snaps.
Thompson started the year with 8 snaps against the Patriots, and struggled early on. He played 2 snaps in San Diego and 7 against Detroit. He really has improved however and therefore has seen his playing time increase to 18 against Houston, 16 against Minnesota, 15 against Pittsburgh, 18 against Buffalo, and 16 against Indianapolis. Interestingly, he only played 10 against Chicago. He saw his most playing time against Miami where he played 24 of 63 snaps.
The Titans don't use a lot of 2 tight end sets so the numbers are interesting to say the least. My sense is that Cook will need a strong finish to the 2012 season to get an extension from the Titans. He is an incredibly gifted athlete but he needs to work on the mental part of his game as he sometimes seems to lose focus. He averages at least one bad drop a game, but he generally makes up for it with an correspondingly incredible play. If he can get his focus down, he surely can be an elite tight end but that is an area where he struggles.
I feel certain Cook will get a good deal from someone else if the Titans don't sign him, but another thought provoking question is what the market will bring him. Here are the highest paid tight ends according to Comcast Sports Net:
Jason Witten, Dallas: $7.4 million/yr, $18.5 million guaranteed
Vernon Davis, San Francisco: $7.35 million/yr, $23 million guaranteed
Antonio Gates, San Diego: $7.235 million, $20.4 million guaranteed
Jermichael Finley, Green Bay: $7 million, $1 million guaranteed
Rob Gronkowski, New England: $6.9 million, $18 million guaranteed
In addition to Rob Gronkowski's new deal as noted above, the Patriots locked up Aaron Hernandez with a seven-year contract reported to be at $41 million. According to Rotoworld, the deal contains $16.4 million guaranteed, including a $12.5 million signing bonus. An annual $500,000 roster bonus is due in years four through seven. An annual $500,000 workout bonus is available in years three through seven. 2012: $540,000, 2013: $1.323 million, 2014: $1.2 million, 2015: $2.3 million, 2016: $5 million, 2017-2018: $6 million, 2019: Free Agent.
There are 6 very good tight ends who will be free agents in 2013 besides Cook: Martellus Bennett, Dallas Clark, Fred Davis, Tony Gonzalez, and Dustin Keller. Cook will turn 26 on April 7, 2013 and will be one of the best young players available in free agency, assuming he leaves the Titans. Could he get a monster deal from a team willing to bring in the young tight end and utilize his skill set? Probably so. In any event, this issue will a situation to keep an eye on as the Titans finish out the 2012 season.