The Los Angeles Chargers signed 13-year NFL veteran Jared Cook to a one-year, $6M contract with $4.5M fully guaranteed. This addition fills a huge hole for the Chargers’ offense, who just lost Hunter Henry in NFL Free Agency, to the New England Patriots.
Since the departure of Henry, the tight end position became a priority, alongside the offensive line. Rumors were speculating on what the Chargers would do, with even a possibility that they could trade for Zach Ertz from the Philadelphia Eagles. General manager Tom Telesco and head coach Brandon Staley decided signing the former Saint was the cheaper option.
Chargers Free Agency Analysis: Jared Cook
Experience – After spending over a decade in the NFL, the experience trait from Cook becomes crucial – especially for a franchise that lacks the trait. The Chargers offense lost that last season when Philip Rivers took his talents to the Indianapolis Colts. That left Mike Pouncey, Casey Hayward and Melvin Ingram as the three main veterans for LA last season. Today, all three of them will not return to the Chargers for different reasons. Jared Cook brings the experience that the Chargers need and it will only help QB Justin Herbert grow as a player. Cook is also a two-time Pro Bowler with the Oakland Raiders (2018) and New Orleans Saints (2019).
The Lombardi Effect – Cook reunites with former Saints coach Joe Lombardi, who became the new Chargers’ offensive coordinator earlier this offseason.
Touchdown Machine – In the last three seasons, Cook scored 22 touchdowns combined for the Raiders and Saints. His red zone ability proved to be among the best in the game. Cook scored five TDs from the red zone last season, so that will help the Chargers, who ranked 20th in red zone efficiency in 2020.
Playmaker – Cook is a playmaking TE that extends plays constantly. Through 2017-19, Cook caught 40 combined catches that were 20+ yards. Last season, Cook caught three passes for 40+ yards. It is rare to see a TE extend plays or run wide open on a route. Although, Cook can put his hands in the dirt or move out to a slot and run routes from that position. Cook also has the Raiders record for yards in a game, with 180.
Peak production – Cook is 33 years old and is entering his 14th year in the league. His last three seasons were among the best in his career, but to say he is still in his prime would be false. His reception and yards-per-season rate has declined in each of his last two seasons, with 2018 being his best season as a pro. It is tough to see Cook have a better season than he has already had in the past, but the Chargers aren’t looking for him to catch 60+ passes anyway.
Drops – Prior to 2020, Cook dropped 27 total passes in the past five seasons combined. Those numbers cause for concern. because he has shown inconsistency with his hands, something the Chargers aren’t used to. Receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, and former TE Henry all proved to have great hands the past few seasons.
Expectations for the 2021 Season
Jared Cook is expected to be the starting TE for the Chargers to start the season. The Bolts also have Donald Parham as an option as well, and it is possible these two could form a great red zone dynamic duo. There is still plenty of time for the Chargers to explore other TE options, and Ertz could still be a possibility if the Eagles do indeed release him. It is now unlikely the Chargers will draft TE Kyle Pitts from the University of Florida if he is available at the 13th pick, but you never know.
As for now, Cook will bring experience and will be a red zone threat for Herbert and the offense in 2021.