Sometimes threats can work.
At the heart of the decision was a late maneuver by Cook's agents to reclassify him as a wide receiver. Based on the fact that Cook spent most of his time in a receiving position, his agents argued he should fall under the receiver tag.
That move may well have scared the Titans into not using the franchise designation, as it would have potentially cost them more than $10.5 million to retain exclusive rights to Cook in 2013.
Cook has had a tumultuous season and offseason, as he clashed with former offensive coordinator Chris Palmer over how he was used. Still, the Titans are interested in bringing him back for obvious reasons.
Despite his relatively down season off his tremendous 2011 campaign, Cook is still a fantastic target and is only 26 years old. Cook has already posted an elite season at the position, and his catch rate remained strong even as both his quarterbacks struggled to complete passes.
Cook gives the Titans offense a flexible dynamic that was underutilized by Palmer.
Now that Cook has avoided the tag, he's free to negotiate the best possible deal either from the Titans or on the free-agent market. He'll almost assuredly score better than the $6 million and change the Titans wanted to lock him up for.
Tennessee has cap room to work with, but now they have to decide just how critical Cook is to their plans. They have another week to negotiate with him before the league year ends and he becomes a free agent at 4 p.m. on March 12th.
Given his age and the versatility that having a top-shelf tight end can afford an offense, letting Cook go would be a mistake. Should he walk, the Titans would be forced to count more on 2012 draft pick Taylor Thompson to develop.
Thompson caught just six balls in 2012 as he adjusted to his new role in the NFL.
Given that the entire coaching staff and front office is very much on notice for 2013, expect the Titans to make a hard push to secure Cook before tight end becomes yet one more roster hole that must be plugged before the season begins.
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