Nov 25, 2012; Jacksonville FL, USA; Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook (89) runs in the second quarter of their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

The Real Reason The Titans Let Jared Cook Walk

All Titan fans know about Jared Cook and his potential.  It has been widely assumed up to this point that he would get the franchise tag placed on him.  We all now know that didn’t happen as the Titans elected to just simply let Cook walk into free agency.  How could they let such a crucial player with such great athletic ability simply walk away?  An asset just simply gone without a fight or compensation.

Cook wanted out. Period.

Fans will remember Cook’s disgruntlement with the Titans’ play calling and their lack of using him earlier in the season.  At one point he even said he wanted to be traded.  The Titans vowed to change that this off season and have changed offensive coordinators and the tight ends coach as well.

Had Cook been franchised, he was prepared to challenge being tagged as a tight end, and would argue that he was used more as a wide receiver, and therefor should be awarded a wide receivers price tag. (An extra $4.5M)  The Titans said they weren’t ready to fight that battle and run the risk of losing in arbitration.

Few think the Titans would have lost that battle.  The real problem is that Cook was unhappy and wanted out.  Even if the Titans had won the arbitration, under the new CBA, Cook could have skipped all the OTA’s and mini camps this off season.  All he would have to do is show up before the first game, sign his tender, and the contract is good.

It’s not a small leap to believe this was a prominent threat in the negotiations between the two camps.  Cook wanted out and he was playing hardball.

The word out of Baptist Sports Park has repeatedly been that the Titans planned on featuring Jared Cook in next years offense.  They were going to feed him as much as possible and let him be the play maker we all think he has the potential to be.  It’s pretty hard to design an offensive scheme around a player that’a not even there no matter how good he is.  Too little too late for the Jared Cook camp, and he had the Titans between a rock and a hard place.

It wasn’t the risk of losing arbitration that was too great for the Titans.  But rather the risk of a camp holdout of a key player you were trying to design an offense around, that you could then have to pay once the season started. 

Why It’s Going To Be Okay

The Titans brought in George Henshaw to be the new tight ends coach in order to help revamp the offense and feed the TE’s as a primary outlet for young Jake Locker.  Think Frank Wychek.  Do you remember Wychek splitting out into the slot 56% of the time?  Henshaw’s use of the tight end, combined with Dowell Loggains new system will be to get the ball out quick on shorter routes, in order to make things a little easier on Jake Locker.  Sure, you can take your shots from time to time, but consistent seam routes that take a long time to develop are not going to be a staple of the offense.

For all his athletic ability, Cook’s prowess was definitely not in the area of getting open quick.  He often failed to get separation from linebackers early and could only do so when able to use his speed on deeper routes.  These shorter crossing routes and hitches require more technique and less pure speed.  These shorter quicker routes were also where he was prone to dropping the “easy” catch.

You only gain the benefit of having such an athletic tight end when you get mismatches due to packages.  If your tight end never blocks, and usually splits out or runs routes, then the defense is going to treat him as a wide receiver and trot a defensive back on the field to cover him.  Part of what makes Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski so great is their blocking ability on running downs.  The defense has to pick their poison.

The Titans goal is to move the chains and run a simplified offense. They need to get into more manageable down and distance early, not air it out deep to a play maker constantly, that just serves as a decoy the rest of the time.  The Titans will find another guy in free agency and fit him into a scheme that won’t feature a Jimmy Graham type of tight end.  That’s okay.  Vernon Davis and Dennis Pitta don’t line up as wide outs all the time, and they were in the Super Bowl.

Time to step up Kenny.

 

You can argue with me on Twitter   @gunnelsj

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