Contract talks between the Green Bay Packers and free-agent tight end Jared Cook are at an impasse, with Cook and his agent, Christina Phillips, set to explore options outside of Green Bay.
Cook’s free-agent case has always been an interesting one — which no doubt is why a deal has not reached.
Cook’s impact in Green Bay last season was undeniable. After catching five passes for 38 yards in his first two games, Cook sustained a high-ankle sprain early in the Week 3 game against Detroit. That injury sidelined him for six games. Cook came back and became an instant difference-maker. He caught 24 passes for 324 yards and one touchdown in the final seven regular-season games, then added 18 catches for 229 yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs. Take that 10-game, post-injury total and put it over 16 games, and you get a projected total of 67 receptions for 885 yards and five touchdowns. That translated to the scoreboard, where Green Bay scored 30-plus in the six games preceding the NFC Championship Game.
With that, it’s little wonder why quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Cook should be an offseason priority for the Packers.
“He’s been a big part of our success,” Rodgers said before the NFC Championship Game. “He’s done a great job for us. Not crazy red-zone stats or huge production, which I think he’s capable of, but just his presence out there has really meant a lot to us, given us an option down the middle and an option splitting him out to his own side, as well, which we haven’t had around here in a while. He’s done a great job for us. He’s very versatile with his route-running abilities — vertical, in-breakers, out-breakers. Does a good job using his body. He’s a big man (and) he’s a tall, strong guy. He does a good job separating from coverages. The comments I heard before he got to us was about his hands and we haven’t had any problems with that.”
Like it has for almost everyone in free agency, the marketplace is bolstering Cook’s case for a big payday. Arizona re-signed Jermaine Gresham with a four-year deal worth, according to a source, up to $28 million (guarantee not available; $7 million average). Indianapolis re-signed Jack Doyle to a three-year deal worth $18.9 million ($9.5 million guaranteed; $6.3 million average). Chicago signed block-first tight end Deon Sims away from Miami with a three-year deal worth $18 million ($10 million guaranteed; $6 million average).
That’s big money, and Cook’s end-of-season production warrants a deal in those ballparks.
Working against Cook, however, is his full body of work. Other than a big year with the Titans in 2011, he’s never really been a consistent playmaker. Some of that has to do with the parade of mediocre (or worse) quarterbacks that he played with during the succeeding years in Tennessee and St. Louis. Even with Rodgers, however, his catch rate was only 58.8 percent. That marked his fourth consecutive season with a sub-60 percent catch rate.
Further working against Cook is a deeper-than-usual class of tight ends. That well had apparently dried up in the spread-centric collegiate game, but a scout projected as many as eight could go in the first three rounds this year. There were seven the past two years combined.
Add in the fact that Cook will turn 30 on April 7, and you can see why Cook is having a difficult time finding a team to meet his asking price.
At some point, Cook will find out what he’s worth. When that happens, the Packers would be fools for not coughing up the money.
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.