The list of impact free agents available to the Miami Dolphins at positions of need just got bigger upon the announcement that the Tennessee Titans will not stick the franchise tag on tight end Jared Cook (per The Tennessean).
Cook, who will be 26 at the start of the 2013 season, will be entering his fifth season in the league having already caught 131 passes for 1,717 yards and eight touchdowns with the Titans. The 6'5", 246-pound tight end has been used both as a tight end and as a slot receiver since 2011, when the Titans hired head coach Mike Munchak.
Cook's best season came in 2011, when he caught 49 passes for 759 yards and three touchdowns. However, he did score four touchdowns in 2012 despite catching five less passes.
At issue with Cook and the Titans had been whether the Titans wanted to consider him a wide receiver or a tight end for franchise tag purposes. Cook wanted to be considered a wide receiver, which would've paid him the tag number of $10.537 million, while the Titans considered Cook a tight end, which would've paid him $6.066 million.
According to The Tennessean, Cook does have the Collective Bargaining Agreement on his side in this case:
According to Pro Football Focus, of the 485 snaps Cook played last season he lined up in the slot on 276 (56 percent). He was also lined up wide on other plays, which would increase his percentage as a receiver.
Article 9, Section 2 of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement states 'that the tender will apply to the position in which the player participated in the most plays.'
However, it's likely that the most Cook will get from the Titans or any other team in the NFL will be somewhere between that, which is where the Miami Dolphins come in.
The Dolphins are in great need of help in their receiving corps. While there is some potential at tight end with Charles Clay and possibly (and that's a stretch to even say that) Michael Egnew, Cook offers Miami a sure thing for a decent price.
Should the Dolphins make a run at Titans' Tight End Jared Cook?
It is likely that a four-year, $25 million deal with about $18 million guaranteed should be able to reel Cook in, especially since there's a good chance that he would see more snaps in Miami both at tight end and in the slot than he would with the more conservative Titans offense. The shorter deal would also give Cook the opportunity to have at least one more big contract in his future.
As great as that sounds, the question is whether the Dolphins should sign Cook. The answer depends on how they feel about bringing back the same tight end corps that we saw last year, as well as how far the Dolphins feel Michael Egnew has progressed and whether or not either Zach Ertz or Tyler Eifert will be available in the second round.
It doesn't seem like Miami has much interest in Cook, at least according to Miami Herald columnist Armando Salguero, who tweeted:
I don't know that to be true. RT @jords_mac: Jared Cook. Dolphins have to be interested right?— Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) March 4, 2013
However, Cook would add to Miami's tight end corps and allow them to let go of Anthony Fasano, who is not as good of a fit for its offense. It also underscores a truth about football, as tweeted by ProFootballTalk's Twitter feed:
The argument that modern TE position includes playing in the slot is something that some NFL team needs to nut up and make.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 4, 2013
The answer is yes, Miami should sign Jared Cook. The price should afford Miami to go after both him and Mike Wallace this offseason while addressing some of their other needs. While Charles Clay has progressed well, there are still enough issues with Michael Egnew's development, or lack thereof, to not consider looking towards upgrading Miami's tight ends in 2013.
This would also allow Miami to perhaps use a second-round pick on a player like FIU's safety Jonathan Cyprien instead of bringing back Chris Clemons.