Jared Cook

Patriots “Aggressively Courted” Jared Cook

Veteran tight end Jared Cook has agreed to sign with the Saints, and we had heard that the Patriots were monitoring his market prior to that decision. However, it seems as though New England’s interest went beyond the monitoring stage.

Per Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, a source close to Cook said the Pats aggressively courted the soon-to-be 32-year-old, who chose New Orleans instead because of the uncertain status of Rob Gronkowski. Gronk has still not committed to playing in 2019, but he may be leaning in that direction, so the Saints offer a clearer path to the top of the tight end depth chart.

The Patriots’ pursuit of Cook does not necessarily mean that they believe Gronkowski will choose to retire. If Gronk retires, Cook certainly would have been a worthy replacement, but if Gronkowski comes back, he and Cook could have teamed up to create a formidable tight end tandem (a la Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez).

Indeed, New England is in need of receiving help any way it can get it. The club made a push to sign free agent wideout Adam Humphries, and it was also in on Cole Beasley. Humphries and Beasley ended up signing with the Titans and Bills, respectively, outfits that do not profile as legitimate championship contenders in 2019.

Meanwhile, the Patriots have made a series of more low-key transactions, adding wideouts Maurice Harris and Bruce Ellington and re-signing Phillip Dorsett. Those deals could end up paying dividends, and it is never wise to discount New England’s offense, but the team would probably be feeling a bit better if Cook were in the fold.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints Nearing Deal With Jared Cook

The Saints are close to a deal with free agent tight end Jared Cook, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (Twitter link).

Cook, 31, just wrapped up the best season of his NFL career, leading the Raiders in receptions (68), receiving yardage (896), and receiving touchdowns (6). Cook ranked as a top-five tight end league-wide in all three of those categories, while Pro Football Focus grades him ninth at his position. Additionally, Cook finished fifth among NFL tight ends in Football Outsiders’ DYAR — which measures value over a replacement level player — and 11th in DVOA, which quantifies value on a per-play basis.

The Saints are losing Ben Watson to retirement, but still have Josh HillGarrett Griffin, and Dan Arnold at tight end. Cook, clearly, would represent an upgrade over any of those options, and would project to see the majority of snaps and targets at the position in New Orleans.

A number of free agent tight ends — Jesse JamesTyler Kroft, and Nick Boyle among them — have received multi-year deals worth $6-7MM annually, and Cook should be able to top those figures. Heading into free agency, he was widely viewed as the top tight end available on the open market.

New Orleans originally hosted Cook when the free agent market opened last Wednesday. At the time, both the incumbent Raiders and the Patriots were believed to be “monitoring” Cook’s market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: WRs, Steelers, Edwards, Cook

Some assorted notes from around the NFL:

  • The Saints, Seahawks, and Patriots are continuing to monitor the wide receiver market, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (via Twitter). Golden Tate is the best receiver still unsigned, but there are a number of other notable names available. New Orleans is reportedly interested in bringing back Dez Bryant, and veterans like Michael Crabtree and Randall Cobb still have some value.
  • The Steelers are working to re-sign linebacker L.J. Fort, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Fort was primarily deployed on passing downs in 2018 and was an underrated part of Pittsburgh’s defense last season, racking up 48 tackles and a sack. Fowler notes that Fort has generated interest from other clubs.
  • Defensive lineman Mario Edwards is set to visit with the Saints tonight, tweets Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. The 25-year-old was claimed off waivers by the Giants in September after having spent the first three seasons of his career with the Raiders. The former second-rounder proceeded to play in 15 games for the Giants, compiling 14 tackles, two sacks, and one forced fumble.
  • The Raiders continue to monitor free agent tight end Jared Cook, writes Scott Bair of NBCSports Bay Area. The writer cautions that it’s “hard to imagine” the veteran returning, as he’s visited with the Saints and received interest from the Patriots. The 31-year-old started 14 of his 16 games last season, hauling in 68 receptions for 896 yards and six scores.
  • Trent Brown isn’t all that concerned about his role with the Raiders, tweets Bair. After playing left tackle for the Patriots in 2018, Brown said he’d be receptive to a switch to right tackle. As of right now, Kolton Miller is expected to start on the opposite side of the offensive line.

Saints To Host Jared Cook

The Saints plan to meet with free agent tight end Jared Cook on Thursday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Meanwhile, both the Patriots and the incumbent Raiders are monitoring Cook’s market, tweets Vic Tafur of The Athletic.

Cook, 31, just wrapped up the best season of his NFL career, leading the Raiders in receptions (68), receiving yardage (896), and receiving touchdowns (6). Cook ranked as a top-five tight end league-wide in all three of those categories, while Pro Football Focus grades him ninth at his position. Additionally, Cook finished fifth among NFL tight ends in Football Outsiders’ DYAR — which measures value over a replacement level player — and 11th in DVOA, which quantifies value on a per-play basis.

The Saints are losing Ben Watson to retirement, but still have Josh Hill, Garrett Griffin, and Dan Arnold at tight end. Cook, clearly, would represent an upgrade over any of those options, and would project to see the majority of snaps and targets at the position if he lands in New Orleans.

A number of free agent tight ends — Jesse James, Tyler Kroft, and Nick Boyle among them — have received multi-year deals worth $6-7MM, and Cook should be able to top those figures. Heading into free agency, he was widely viewed as the top tight end available on the open market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Rumors: Martin, Cook, Trgovac

Here’s the latest out of Oakland:

  • The Raiders say they want to hold onto Marshawn Lynch, but they are also still intent on keeping pending free agent Doug Martin, Vic Tafur of The Athletic writes. Martin finished out the year with 723 rushing yards, four touchdowns, and a yards per carry average of 4.2, his best showing since 2015. In late November, Jon Gruden was adamant about re-signing Martin, so it’s little surprise to hear that he remains in the team’s plans.
  • Gruden also said the Raiders will work hard to re-sign tight end Jared Cook, Tafur writes. “I had a good meeting with Jared before he left,” Gruden said. “And we’ll do the best we can to get him back. It will be competitive. I’m sure there are a lot of teams who look at the tape and put him on their wish list.” Cook was named to the Pro Bowl as an alternate after he hauled in a career-high 68 catches for 896 yards and six TDs.
  • Former Buccaneers defensive line coach Brentson Buckner has taken the same job with the Raiders, but former DL coach Mike Trgovac is still in the team’s plans. Gruden says he’ll remain with the club in an advisory role.

Raiders Want To Re-Sign TE Jared Cook

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden expressed his desire to re-sign tight end Jared Cook, who is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2018 season, according to Vic Tafur of The Athletic (Twitter link). “Whoever the GM is, we’ll show him some tape and show him how important Jared is,” said Gruden.

As Tafur notes, no matter whom the Raiders select to replace the recently-fired Reggie McKenzie, Gruden figures to retain either de facto or outright control of the club’s personnel. Therefore, if Gruden is highly interested in retaining Cook for 2019 and beyond, it stands to reason Oakland will be competitive with an offer to the veteran tight end.

Cook, 31, is in the midst of the best season of his NFL career, leading the Raiders in receptions (61), receiving yardage (825), and receiving touchdowns (6). Cook ranks as a top-five tight end league-wide in all three of those categories, while Pro Football Focus grades him fourth at his position. Additionally, Cook is third among NFL tight ends in Football Outsiders’ DYAR — which measures value over a replacement level player — and fourth in DVOA, which quantifies value on a per-play basis.

Despite his age, Cook should easily garner the most significant free agent tight end contract next spring. Other available options at the position are uninspiring at first glance, as free agents will include C.J. Uzomah, Jeff Heuerman, Josh Hill, Geoff Swaim, and Jesse James, among others.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Mack, Perryman, Rams

We heard last week that the Raiders and star linebacker Khalil Mack are not close on an extension, and Mack has not yet reported to the team’s offseason workout program. GM Reggie McKenzie, though, remains confident that a new deal will get done, and there does not seem to be any reason to believe otherwise at this point. Scott Bair of NBCSports.com takes a crack at the value of Mack’s next contract, and he suggests that a six-year, $120MM pact (with around $65MM in guarantees) could be in play. He also says the team is unconcerned about Mack’s absence at this point, though the Raiders do want to get a deal in place before training camp.

Now let’s round up a few notes from west division clubs, starting with more out of Oakland:

  • Jared Cook has been mentioned as a potential cap casualty this offseason given that he is owed a $5MM salary and can be cut without any dead money remaining on the books. But Bair does not believe the Raiders will part ways with Cook, though that could change if the team selects a tight end in the early rounds of this month’s draft.
  • The Chargers‘ run defense was the weakest part of an otherwise strong unit in 2017, and with only Denzel Perryman locked in as a starter at linebacker for 2018, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times believes the Bolts could make a play for an LB early on in the draft. If the team does not trade up to select a talent like Tremaine Edmunds or Roquan Smith, Rashaan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch should be available when the Chargers are on the clock with the No. 17 overall pick. As Woike notes, the team also needs to decide what it wants to do with Perryman on a long-term basis, as the Miami product is entering the last year of his rookie deal.
  • In a separate piece, Woike suggests that the Chargers could look to bolster their run defense by selecting a defensive lineman in the early rounds of the draft, with Vita Vea and Da’Ron Payne being tied to the team in various mocks. Los Angeles has stayed out of the free agent market for linebackers and defensive lineman thus far, and Woike notes that Jay Bromley could be a name to watch if the team cannot fill its DL needs in the draft.
  • One team that decidedly does not need to draft a defensive lineman is the Rams, although Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times said the team could still be on the lookout for DL depth in the later rounds of the draft. Klein notes in a separate piece that the Rams — who will not be on the clock until the third round — do need to address their LB corps. The team has three fourth-round selections and four sixth-round picks, and Klein says Los Angeles will be on the lookout for LBs, especially edge rushers.

North Notes: Packers, Williams, Bengals

The Packers made a rare foray into the non-street free agent portion of the offseason waters by signing Martellus Bennett. That move figures to pay off, in the eyes of some anonymous NFL personnel men.

Bennett is way better than Jared Cook,” one personnel director said, via Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in an expansive piece. “And he’s smarter. And he’s not as selfish. He’s going to be loud, but you’ve got to live with that.”

Chiming in on this debate, a scout told McGinn: “Cook is faster straight-line, yes, but their body type is totally different. When you walk up on Bennett, that is a man. Cook can’t block you or me. Bennett can. He can seal an edge.”

While these evaluators said the deal for Bennett comes with risk because of the pass-catcher’s age (30) and recent injury struggles. Bennett injured an ankle last season and reinjured it to the point he might require offseason surgery. One GM also mentioned 12 tight ends he would rather have than Bennett next season — a list that included Jack Doyle, Jermaine Gresham and Kyle Rudolph — but the same GM told McGinn he would only take two of those tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Rudolph) over Bennett as a blocker.

Here’s more from the Norths as free agency nears its third week.

  • Lance Kendricks‘ two-year Packers accord will be worth $4MM, with $1.2MM guaranteed, per McGinn. This could prove to be a value-re-establishing pact for Kendricks, who saw the Rams get out of a four-year, $18.5MM deal by cutting him.
  • Brandon Williams received interest from beyond Baltimore, but the Ravens succeeded on a persistent push to retain him. The fifth-year nose tackle wasn’t keen on being the latest impact Ravens UFA defection. “I wanted to come back. I tried to kind of leave hints,” Williams said, via Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Ravens signed their former Division II find to a five-year, $52.5MM deal. That pact includes a $12.5MM signing bonus. The Bills’ decision to revert back to a 4-3 look will make Williams the league’s highest-paid nose tackle by a wide margin.
  • Despite Kevin Minter pledging to come to Cincinnati for the 2017 season, Reuben Foster remains an option for the Bengals with their No. 9 overall pick, Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. Minter signed a one-year deal, and Foster — if taken at No. 9 overall — would be under team control for five. Plus, Minter has positional versatility that would allow him to play alongside the Alabama middle linebacker.
  • Ricky Jean-Francois left his Bears visit without a contract, and the UFA defensive lineman will make his way to Seattle for a scheduled Seahawks summit, Josina Anderson of ESPN.com tweets. Anderson added

Contract Details: Taylor, Cook, Willson

The latest contract details from around the NFL:

  • Tyrod Taylor, QB (Bills): Taylor earns an additional $500K if the Bills make it to the divisional round of the playoffs in 2017, which becomes $1MM if they advance to the AFC Championship, and $2MM if they advance to the Super Bowl. The same package of incentives applies to 2018 (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk).
  • Jared Cook, TE (Raiders): Two years, $10.6MM, $1.6MM in incentives (effectively a one-year $5.3MM deal with $800K in incentives) (Twitter link via Ben Volin of The Boston Globe).
  • Luke Willson, TE (Seahawks): One year, $1.8MM, $1MM in incentives (Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle).
  • Kayvon Webster, CB (Rams): Two years, $7.75MM. Salaries of $2.75MM (guaranteed), $3MM. $1MM 2017 roster bonus guaranteed, $500K 2018 roster bonus guaranteed. (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Sean Spence, LB (Colts): One year, $2.5MM. $750K signing bonus. $500K in incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Kendall Wright, WR (Bears): One year, $2MM. $250K signing bonus. $2MM in incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).

NFC Notes: Giants, 49ers, Eagles, Vikings

The Giants would like to re-sign free agent defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, but they’re unlikely to offer him anything more than a one-year, $4MM deal because of their lack of cap room, according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. That probably won’t suffice for Hankins, who’s reportedly seeking upward of $10MM per year. Free agency hasn’t unfolded to Hankins’ liking, and one reason is that some around the NFL don’t see him as “an impact player,” sources told Vacchiano. Hankins went without a sack during a nine-game 2015 campaign and only notched three last year, Vacchiano notes. For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus wasn’t impressed with Hankins’ performance in 2016, as it graded the 24-year-old just 72nd out of 127 qualified interior D-linemen.

More from the NFC:

  • The 49ers have used one of their 30 pre-draft visits on Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, who met with the team Friday, according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan (Twitter link). Despite a less-than-ideal showing at the scouting combine, Foster figures to be among the first players chosen in this year’s draft, meaning he might end up with the 49ers at No. 2 overall. Of course, considering general manager John Lynch is willing to trade the pick, it’s possible San Francisco could move down a few selections and and still nab Foster.
  • The Eagles seem to be targeting offensive playmakers as they get ready to pick 14th pick in the draft. Along with the previously reported Dalvin Cook, the Eagles hosted LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams on Friday, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links).
  • Tight end Jared Cook‘s decision to accept the Raiders’ two-year, $12.2MM offer (including $5MM guaranteed) Thursday came after he turned down a significantly higher amount of guarantees from the Vikings, per Caplan (Twitter link). This is speculation, but both the Raiders’ quarterback (Derek Carr) versus the Vikings’ (Sam Bradford) and the fact that Cook clearly wouldn’t have been the best tight end on Minnesota’s roster may have tipped the scales in Oakland’s favor. The Vikings have a star tight end, Kyle Rudolph, who caught 83 passes last year. At the same time, Raiders tight ends Clive Walford and Lee Smith combined for 44 receptions.
  • Although former Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan wanted to sign Kirk Cousins to an extension during 2015 training camp, the club waited on a new Cousins deal due to concerns over how fellow quarterback Robert Griffin III would react, writes Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com. McCloughan was given the go-ahead to negotiate with Cousins in December 2015, but by then Cousins already had a season of solid production under his belt. Since that time, Washington has placed two consecutive franchise tags on Cousins at a cost of nearly $45MM.

Zach Links contributed to this post.