2019 NFL Free Agency: Should Oakland Raiders re-sign Jared Cook?

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images /

In our new series looking towards 2019 NFL free agency and the decisions facing the Oakland Raiders, we discuss whether or not Jared Cook should be re-signed.

Believe it or not, we’re only a month away from the start of 2019 NFL free agency. Between now and March 13, the Oakland Raiders will have to decide what to do with their pending free agents. To re-sign or let walk — that is the question.

In hopes of answering that question for a few of the Raiders’ top pending free agents, we’re putting together a series asking whether or not they should be re-signed? To start this series off, we’re turning the spotlight towards Jared Cook, the Raiders’ starting tight end and top pass-catcher from a season ago who’s set to be an unrestricted free agent.

Now this is a tough one. I know it seems like a no-brainer to re-sign Cook after his “breakout” 2018 performance, but it’s more complicated than that. Luckily for you, we’re going to sift our way through those details and come to a conclusion before you’re done reading this.

So what are the complications with re-signing Cook?

For starters, it’s not going to be a cheap endeavor for the Raiders. Yes, they have nearly $70 million in cap space to work with this offseason (via Spotrac.com), but I don’t foresee Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock spending frivolously. They’re going to be smart with the money they have, especially with all of the holes in need of filling heading into 2019.

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The other part of the equation here is that Cook will be 32 by the time the 2019 season begins. Even at the tight end position, that’s about the age where productivity and effectiveness starts to taper off (if it hasn’t already). If Cook demands a long-term deal, the Raiders could shy away from handing it over to an aging veteran who seemed nearly over the hill prior to this past season.

With all of that said, re-signing Cook makes plenty of sense for Oakland.

First and foremost, Cook proved himself to still be a valuable weapon in 2018. While he may have lost a step in the speed department, he continues to make up for it with consistent production, smart route running and excellent hands. Remember the below play that many considered a candidate for catch of the year?

Cook spent the entire 2018 campaign making big plays like that. By season’s end, he had asserted himself as Derek Carr‘s go-to target. This is evidenced by the fact that he turned in career highs in receptions (68), receiving yards (896) and receiving touchdowns (6) during what was his tenth NFL season.

Was it a fluky effort spurred by a lack of other options in the Oakland passing game? Possibly. And yet, you can’t discount the rapport Cook developed with Carr. The young gunslinger is going to need some semblance of continuity heading into 2019, and Cook can provide that.

Plus, it’s not like the alternatives at tight end are any better. Lee Smith is purely a blocking tight end. Derek Carrier is a project who hasn’t panned out at this point. Darren Waller and Paul Butler have potential, but are extremely raw and unproven.

Put simply, Cook is the Raiders’ best option unless they plan on targeting a tight end early during the 2019 NFL Draft. Even then, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to re-sign him to a short-term deal and let him work as a veteran mentor to a young, early-round rookie. The tight end position rarely sees early-career production, so having Cook to carry the torch for another season makes too much sense.

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Yes, Cook may be slightly more expensive than seems ideal. But that’s what happens when a player shines during a contract year. If he can put on an encore of his 2018 campaign, re-signing the grizzled veteran will be well worth the price of admission.