Jim Wyatt from The Tennessean has reported that the Titans won’t use their franchise tag. They were expected to use it on Cook before he insisted that he was a wide receiver. That would’ve increased his price tag from $6.066 million to $10.537 million. The Titans also didn’t use their franchise tag on Rob Bironas, who’s scheduled to become a free agent.
Cook had a good chance of winning that argument. He played approximately 56 percent of his offensive snaps at slot receiver. That doesn’t include when he lined out wide. Former offensive coordinator Chris Palmer had trouble thinking of a way to fit him into his offensive scheme.
Cook won’t officially become an unrestricted free agent until Mar. 12. That gives the Titans approximately one week to negotiate a long-term contract. Although Cook could still re-sign, he seems like he’s ready to get out of town.
In 2012, Cook had 44 receptions for 523 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers don’t merit $6 million, much less $10.5 million. While fans can successfully argue that Cook’s numbers were poorer from the lack of supporting cast and offensive scheme, he’d have a similar supporting cast in 2013. His success would’ve depended on how Dowell Loggains used his tight end.
Could the Titans have handled this differently? In 2012, the Green Bay Packers faced a similar situation with Jermichael Finley. They eventually avoided an arbitration process when they agreed to a two-year, $14 million contract. As Finley enters the second year of that contract, the Packers must decide on whether they’ll release Finley before Mar. 27, saving $8.25 million.
Where do the Titans go from here? Do they want a wide receiver or tight end? They already have a stable of wide receivers that include Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Kendall Wright. Britt has been unreliable because of his injuries and legal problems. 23-year-old Michael Preston is a 6’5” wide receiver who has shown promise.
If the Titans want a wide receiver, then they’ll have plenty of free agents to choose from. Some free agents could include Wes Welker, Greg Jennings, Danny Amendola and Domenik Hixon. These are all pending on potential franchise tags. That doesn’t include draft prospects.
Despite Cook’s use as a receiver, the Titans may prefer to replace his production at tight end. They could look to add another player to a group of tight ends that include Craig Stevens and Taylor Thompson.
According to Pro Football Focus, Martellus Bennett (12.5), Delanie Walker (6.1) and Fred Davis (2.1) are some well-known free agents who rated higher than Cook (0.3) in 2012. The Titans could find his replacement in the 2013 NFL Draft. Don’t expect them to use anything higher than their second-round pick. The 10th-overall pick is far too high for a tight end.
The Titans have the money to sign one of these players. Can they convince them to join a team who has a coaching staff and front office who faces a do-or-die scenario during the 2013-14 season?
It’s a tough situation for management. While they don’t have Cook, they will have extra cap space. How will they use that money? It’ll determine whether many people have jobs beyond Jan. 2014.