Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean indicated the team didn’t like the idea of fighting through an arbitrator with regard to whether Cook was a tight end, as they would have tagged him ($6.066 million) as opposed to the wide receiver tag he would have sought ($10.537 million). But had the team lost that arbitration, it would seem they simply could have pulled the tag if it got changed on them. Not intending to use it on anyone else, what would they have lost? What would have happened if, while a grievance was in process, Cook signed the tight end tag but then an arbitrator changed it to the receiver tag? There was room for a great deal of complication in a month during which the Titans have a lot of other issues to sort through. They decided they were unwilling to deal with those headaches in exchange for attempting to hold on to Cook.
Contract talks apparently broke down along the lines one would expect -- the Titans were looking at production and Cook was looking at potential. The question will now be what other team will pay him more for the potential than the production?
New tight ends coach George Henshaw was brought in to help get the Titans back to the short passing game that was a staple of the Steve McNair-Frank Wycheck era, when Henshaw previously coached the position. The Titans will have to get him a veteran to work with now. Options include Martellus Bennett of the Giants, Dustin Keller of the Jets, Brandon Myers of the Raiders and James Casey of the Texans, who’s been used as a fullback but has tight end pass-catching skills.
The Titans loved Taylor Thompson when they drafted him out of SMU in the fifth-round last year. He was a defensive end in college with a tight end background and looked raw as a first-year player. Tennessee can’t be envisioning him as its primary pass-catching tight end, he’s still very much a developmental player. Craig Stevens can make some plays, but is more of a blocker.
Since we learned that Mike Munchak would remain on as the head coach, there has been a distinct feel that he will sink or swim with his guys. I thought Cook ranked as enough of a playmaker to qualify as a guy he intended to swim with. But whether he was or wasn’t, a too-high price tag appeared to weigh things down and the Titans simply weren’t willing to go there.
When the Titans drafted Cook in 2009, they did so with a third-round pick they acquired from New England in exchange for a 2010 second-rounder. The production out of that expenditure: 59 games, 131 catches, 1,717 yards, a 13.1-yard average and eight touchdowns. The side effects: A lot of questions about his ability to be reliable and a lot of questions about how they failed to get the most out of him.
The Titans were already heading into free agency and the draft with multiple needs on the interior offensive line as well in search of a pass rusher and perhaps a safety even after signing veteran George Wilson. The big down side to this move is they've created another need.