Is Jared Cook Jon Gruden’s tight end or a surprise cut? There is not a clear-cut answer to those questions. This is a coin flip scenario, to be perfectly honest. There’s no guarantee Cook remains with the Raiders.
Let me explain:
- Cook gave the Oakland Raiders — namely, quarterback Derek Carr — something that has been missing at the position: A dynamic receiving option. Carr even reportedly told Cook during his free agency visit “We need you beat the Chiefs.” The 6-foot-5, 254 pounder certainly helped in that regard as he finished with 54 grabs for 688 yards and two touchdowns. The chemistry Cook built with Carr in the rudimentary schemes deployed by former offensive coordinator Todd Downing matters.
- Cook will earn $5.3 million this coming season (he signed a two-year, $10.6 million pact last offseason). That is a lot of coin for a soon-to-be 30-year-old tight end that has never topped the five-touchdown plateau in his nine-year career. A valid argument can be made a younger or cheaper replacement is: A. Already on the roster (Clive Walford and/or Pharoah Brown). B. Available via free agency (Trey Burton). C. Ripe for the taking in the upcoming draft.
Historically (during his tenure as an NFL head coach) Gruden prefers a blocking tight end as his starter. I would be remiss not to bring up more history.
Gruden had a Cook-type tight end at his disposal before — Rickey Dudley. An inch taller, Dudley was the catch-first type and produced 18 touchdowns in three seasons with Gruden in Oakland. He caught four more in three additional years in Tampa Bay with Chucky.
Nevertheless, what happened when Dudley bounced from Oakland? Roland Williams, a plodding blocking tight end took over as starter. Moreover, while Dudley was on the Buccaneers roster, Gruden’s starters were trench warriors Ken Dilger and Todd Yoder at tight end.
While Cook is not a terrible blocker, he is nowhere near the level of free agent tight end Lee Smith, for example. And Cook’s blocking prowess equates to either Walford or Brown.
Two things that benefit the Raiders when it comes to Cook: You know what his skillset if he remains on the roster and no dead money exists with his release.