For eight seasons, tight end Chris Cooley has been a loyal and lovable member of the Washington Redskins. But a recent role change may be a clear sign that Cooley's days in the nation's capital are numbered.
In Washington's preseason opening win over the Buffalo Bills, Cooley started at fullback, which proved to be awkward for the two-time Pro Bowl tight end.
“It’s hard to assess my play,” said Cooley, via Fredericksburg.com. "I don’t want to be judged strictly on my play at fullback."
That's a good thing because there was nothing to assess. On six plays in his new role, Cooley rushed for one yard on one carry. He also got a few more snaps at tight end, but failed to catch a pass.
So why is Cooley practicing and playing fullback for Washington?
Remember the comedy movie Office Space, featuring a mumbling employee named Milton who was slowly phased out of an IT company by his micro-manager?
The manager forced Milton to move his desk numerous times. He was also asked to do assignments that were outside of his job responsibilities. That sounds a bit like Chris, doesn't it?
So with Washington's 53-player roster limit due by August 31st, let's analyze Cooley's status from the organization's perspective.
Should Washington keep Chris Cooley for at least one more year?
“I think Chris is a pro," said head coach Mike Shanahan, via The Washington Post. "He’s come back and he looks good. I don’t see any signs of a hamstring, a groin, or the knee [injuries that caused Cooley to miss 11 games in 2011]."
Shanahan's words appear to be genuine, but they also could be part of a clever sales pitch to unload Cooley to another team.
The Redskins can certainly move forward with starter Fred Davis and converted receiver Niles Paul at tight end. The franchise also needs to reduce overhead.
If Cooley's presence is not necessary, or if his productivity does not justify his cost, he is expendable. He just may not be aware of it yet.
Just last weekend, ABC's 20/20 featured a former human resources executive who described some startling tactics used by corporate America to hire, fire and lay off employees.
Cynthia Shapiro warns workers to "beware of the new assignment," which can be a subtle message that their skills are not needed anymore at the company.
To protect themselves from disputes, businesses also follow protocols while seeking to cut ties with employees. In Cooley's case, the Redskins may have some in place, but they are not going to show their true intentions unless they are sure they can complete the process.
According to RedskinsHogHeaven.com, Washington general manager Bruce Allen confirmed (in a recent radio interview) that he has had discussions with Oakland about a trade that will help both teams. Cooley's name was not specifically mentioned, but the Raiders have a need at tight end and Cooley would be a welcome addition to an offense that could use his blocking and catching ability.
With a 2012 cap hit of $6.23 million, Cooley's future with the Redskins has been a hot topic for debate. But with the recent slew of training camp injuries to key offensive linemen, Washington may have no choice but to trade or cut the 30-year-old fan-favorite.
In his blog for RedskinsHogHeaven, Greg Trippiedi predicted that a Cooley trade won't yield much for Washington.
"We're looking at either a projectable offensive tackle prospect such as 2011 third-rounder Joe Barksdale, a veteran like Khalif Barnes (one-year, $2 million contract), or a conditional pick in the 2013 NFL draft," wrote Trippiedi.
But trading Cooley would be better than releasing him (and eating his $3.8 million salary). The Redskins could also use more depth along the offensive line.
"If you ask me what I want to do, I want to start at tight end and catch 80 balls this year," said Cooley, via Fredericksburg.com. "But at the same time, I want this team to be successful, this offense to be successful, [and for] us to win football games, so I really don’t care where I am if we’re doing that.”
Cooley may catch 80 passes and Washington may win football games this year. It just may not take place together for Captain Chaos and the Redskins.