One of the first things Jared Cook did upon agreeing to a contract with the Green Bay Packers last week was call his new quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
“I think I was more excited than he was,” Cook said on Tuesday, a day after signing the one-year contract, “just to be able to play with somebody that’s so great at what he does and somebody that’s proven.”
It’s little wonder why finding a quarterback was first and foremost on Cook’s mind while considering his free-agent options. In four seasons with the Tennessee Titans, who drafted him in the third round in 2009, Cook played with five starting quarterbacks. In three seasons with the St. Louis Rams, who signed him as an unrestricted free agent in 2013, Cook played with six more starters.
That’s a total of 11 quarterbacks in seven seasons — not to mention six offensive coordinators.
The merry-go-round is over now that Cook has joined forces with Rodgers.
“It was more than the top priority I was looking for,” Cook said during a conference call. “It was imperative that I find a person that‘s known for getting the job done and is good at what they do. I think that he’s one of the best in the league at doing it, clearly.”
While Cook targeted a team with a proven quarterback, the Packers — who rarely delve into free agency — targeted Cook to give their quarterback an explosive threat at tight end. Last season, Richard Rodgers caught 58 passes — one of four tight ends in franchise history to catch at least 55 passes in a season — but averaged only 8.8 yards per reception. The 6-foot-5 Cook, who ran his 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.50 seconds at the Scouting Combine in 2009, averaged 12.8 yards during his first seven seasons in the NFL.
However, the Rams released him in February after he caught 39 passes for 481 yards and no touchdowns in 2015.
“Last year was a rough year, man,” Cook said. “We had a new quarterback, new offensive coordinator, a new offensive scheme, a lot of guys trying to get used to each other in such a short period of time. It was tough, but those are the things that you have to deal with in this business. Not everything is going to be rainbows and ice creams.”
That’s the story of Cook’s career. With Tennessee, Cook caught nine passes as a rookie in 2009 and 29 passes in 2010. He had a breakout seasons in 2011 (49 receptions for 759 yards — a sizzling 15.5 yards per catch) and 2012 (44 receptions for 523 yards), which he parlayed into a massive five-year, $35 million contract with the Rams that included a tight end-record $16 million fully guaranteed.
Cook caught 51 passes in 2013 and 52 more in 2014 before last year’s downturn led to his release, with the Rams freeing up $8.3 million of cap space for 2015 alone.
A hot commodity during his first foray into free agency, Cook acknowledged it was different this time around. He languished on the market for five weeks before signing with Green Bay, which initially brought him in for a visit two weeks ago.
Finally, Cook will be playing with an elite quarterback and for an elite franchise. Only once has Cook played on a team that finished with a winning record — the Titans went 9-7 in 2011 but failed to make the playoffs. Cook wanted a one-year deal but sounded like a man hopeful of turning this into something more.
“You always want longevity but the chance to play in an offensive system like this one and a chance to build a rapport, it could turn into something bigger in the long run,” he said. “We’re just going to take this one year and grind it out and see what happens.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.