It's fluid and intangible, but there's a formula in place that each NFL front office uses to determine a player's worth. It's a sad reality that said formula revealed to the Washington Redskins that Chris Cooley was no longer worth having on the roster.
That's why the team released the veteran tight end on Tuesday.
Yes, it's a business. And even after factoring Cooley's positive presence in the locker room into the formula, the 30-year-old wasn't worth anything close to his $3.8 million base salary.
He's a great leader, a great blocker and a versatile contributor. But Fred Davis is a young star, Logan Paulsen has exceeded expectations as both a blocker and receiver and the team believes in Niles Paul.
Other young teams might have been more reluctant to cut a man like Cooley loose. But in that formula, the 'Skins might also have been taking into account the presence of Santana Moss and London Fletcher, both of whom are able to serve as exceptional veteran leaders while still contributing as effective starters on game days.
What's next for Chris Cooley?
"I have every belief that I can play football. I have every belief that I can be not only a productive player, but a starter in this league," Cooley said in a statement Tuesday (via the Washington Times). "I'm very confident in my abilities to continue to play the game."
Maybe that's why this divorce is happening. Maybe the Redskins tried to get Cooley to take a paycut to stay on board as a reserve tight end and potentially even as a contributor at fullback (Mike Shanahan says they didn't discuss his contract), but maybe he still thinks he can play a bigger role elsewhere.
And if that doesn't transpire, maybe Cooley will be prepared to return for less money. He said in his statement that "today, for the time being, will be my last day as a Redskin" (emphasis added).
"There's a lot of scenarios that could still occur," Shanahan said, according to the Washington Post. "... Chris wants to be a starter in the National Football League."
So there's a chance this isn't the last that Redskins fans will see of Cooley, which might at least help make his departure less difficult. Regardless, Cooley is and always will be a fan favorite in D.C., and he'll always have a special relationship with members of Redskins Nation.
His superb numbers—eight seasons, 108 games, 428 catches, 4,703 yards, 11.0 yards per reception, 33 touchdowns, two Pro Bowls—don't do it justice.
During a difficult time period in this franchise's history, Cooley has been a near-constant bright spot.