EARTH CITY, Mo. -- We're moving closer to the start of the new league year and, along with it, the start of free agency. Which means over the next few weeks, the Los Angeles Rams will be taking a long look at the players already on the roster and determining whether they're worth their projected salary cap numbers.
Some teams have already begun the process of releasing high-priced veterans to create salary cap room. So this week, we'll take a look at some players who will come under the microscope for the Rams. (All numbers courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info)
Player: TE Jared Cook
Contract status: Signed through 2017.
2016 cap hit: $8,300,441
Potential savings: $5,699,558
Why he could go: For the most part, Cook's production as a Ram falls in line with what he did for the Tennessee Titans. That would be fine except for the fact that the production hasn't met the high price the Rams have paid him. Cook has also drawn criticism for his issues with drops and struggles as a blocker. Perhaps more than that, though, is the fact that Cook isn't really a fit for what the Rams want to be offensively. When the team signed him in 2013, it did so with the intent of spreading things out and throwing the ball all over the field. One Rams personnel executive said at the time that Cook was the perfect oversized slot receiver for what the Rams were trying to become. But that experiment only lasted four games before coach Jeff Fisher scrapped it and went back to his running game roots. In doing so, it put Cook in a spot where he was asked to perform as an inline blocker more than he had at any point in his career. It's a role that doesn't really fit Cook's skill set and has left him miscast in the Rams offense. The Rams also spent a good chunk of money to re-sign Lance Kendricks last year and have Cory Harkey set to hit free agency this year. Add all of that to a salary that makes him the 13th highest paid tight end in the league, a team that could use some extra funds to re-sign its own free agents and you have the recipe for a potential parting of ways.
Why he could stay: Since Cook signed in 2013, he's been the team's most productive receiving target. He's posted 142 catches for 1,786 yards and eight touchdowns in that time, with the first two numbers representing the highest numbers on the team. While the Rams should undoubtedly be in the market for a pass-catcher or two who can put up much better numbers than those, Cook has been durable and his overall production puts him in the top half of tight ends in the league. Cook ranks 13th in receiving yards and 14th in receptions among all tight ends since 2013 (though he's also tied for second in drops). And while he's still not a consistent blocker, his coaches believe he showed improvement in that regard as 2015 wore on. If the Rams release Cook, they'll need to find a pass catching tight end to replace him, which means they'd be creating yet another need on a roster that could have many.