For the Green Bay Packers, the free-agent carnage is over.
Of their 11 unrestricted free agents heading into the start of free agency a week ago, seven of them left Green Bay. The latest — and certainly the last major piece — was tight end Jared Cook. Cook received a two-year, $12.2 million contract from the Oakland Raiders on Thursday. Cook signed after the Packers yanked an offer to stay in Green Bay and visits to Seattle and Minnesota didn’t turn into a contract.
Despite missing a big chunk of the first half of the season with a high-ankle sprain, Cook finished with 30 catches for 377 yards (12.6 average) and one touchdown in 10 games, then added 18 catches for 229 yards (12.7 average) and two touchdowns in the playoffs. After catching six passes in the three games before the injury, Cook had a pair of six-catch games upon his return and two more in the playoffs. Cook caught 58.8 percent of targeted passes and had two drops (drop rate of 3.9 percent). He averaged an impressive 5.3 yards after the catch. In the final 10 games (including playoffs), Cook had seven receptions of at least 24 yards.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers pushed for Cook’s return, saying Cook “needs to be near the top of the priority list” to re-sign. That, ultimately, might have played a role in why he didn’t re-sign. Given Rodgers’ support and general manager Ted Thompson’s free-agent history, Cook’s agent likely believed she had the negotiating leverage. Little did Cook know that Thompson had Martellus Bennett on Line 2. Bennett received a three-year, $21 million contract that included a $6.3 million signing bonus. Then, Thompson grabbed another tight end, Lance Kendricks, with a two-year, $4 million contract that included a $1.2 million signing bonus.
Cook’s contract averages $6.1 million per season; Bennett’s contract averages $7.0 million.
Cook is the seventh free-agent defection, following T.J. Lang, Micah Hyde, J.C. Tretter, Eddie Lacy, Datone Jones and Julius Peppers. The only free agents to return were outside linebacker Nick Perry — the team’s most important free agent — and offensive lineman Don Barclay.
Green Bay has two unsigned free agents: backup running back Christine Michael and long snapper Brett Goode. There's a good chance neither player is asked to return.
Also on Thursday, defensive end Connor Barwin signed with the Los Angeles Rams. The one-year deal was worth $6.5 million and could be worth up to $7.95 million. Barwin was considered an option for the Packers at outside linebacker, a position in which they lost Jones and Peppers.
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.