Jared Cook, Delanie Walker: $35.1M Potential vs. $17.5M Versatility


Dec 2, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook (89) catches a pass against Houston Texans safety Danieal Manning (38) during the first half at LP Field. Mandatory credit: Don McPeak-US Presswire

Potential or false perception?

Tennessee Titans enthusiasts have another reason to follow the St. Louis Rams. On Mar. 12, Jared Cook “Took his potential to the Gateway to the West” when he joined Jeff Fisher in St. Louis. Cook spent his first two seasons under Fisher’s supervision. Fisher left after the 2010-11 NFL season.

According to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, Cook signed a five-year, $35.1 million contract with $19 million guaranteed. That’s an average of $7.02 million per season with 54 percent of it guaranteed. This contract makes Cook the NFL’s sixth-highest paid tight end.

That’s a lot of money for an “over-sized wide receiver” who has 131 receptions in four seasons. All because Cook has been labeled with great potential  It’s more like limited potential when one considers that he’ll likely never develop into an average—much less quality—inline blocker.

Will a change of scenery help Cook to develop into an elite player? With the limited options in the Rams offense, Cook should have plenty of opportunities to display his talents. He joins a division that stars the physical defenses of the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers and the up-and-coming Seattle Seahawks.

To replace Jared Cook, the Titans will go with a player who’s more versatile and a more-complete tight end: Delanie Walker. Walker agreed to a four-year, $17.5 million contract with $8.6 million guaranteed. He’ll join a stable of tight ends that include Craig Stevens and Taylor Thompson.

At age 29 (in Aug.), the seven-year veteran has 123 career catches for 1,465 yards and eight touchdowns. He has spent most of his career as a No. 2 tight end behind Vernon Davis. While Walker is a quality blocker and an athletic weapon in the passing game, the question is whether he can catch the football. According to Pro Football Focus, Walker had 21 catches—and nine drops—in 2012.

It’s obvious that Cook didn’t want to stay in Nashville. That seems even truer now that the Titans have been linked to rumors surrounding free-agent wide receiver Danny Amendola. Amendola would require a similar salary to what Cook received. Cook wanted to challenge that his franchise-tag price should’ve been $10.54 million instead of $6.066 million. Then he signs elsewhere for $7.02 million per season.

It’ll be interesting to see how the trio of Walker ($17.5 million), Stevens ($15 million) and Thompson ($2.3 million) compare to Cook ($35.1 million). Cook’s contract is worth more than all three of the Titans’ tight ends—combined. Whereas Cook will have the stats that impress causal fans, Walker will do the dirty work that other fans appreciate from blockers and contributors on special teams.