So Jared Cook and the Packers aren’t close yet in contract negotiations.
And it got me thinking: How much is Aaron Rodgers worth to receivers? If anyone can understand that better than anyone on the Packers, it’s Cook. Remember, before he got to Green Bay, he bounced between dreadfully mediocre teams Tennessee and St. Louis. His best quarterback in seven years was none other than Matt Hasselbeck.
Things started slow for Cook last season because of a high ankle sprain that he suffered in Week 3. By Week 11, he tallied his first 100-yard receiving game since Sept. 8, 2013.
It’s obvious why the Packers should be rightfully making Cook their No. 1 free agent priority. They were 8-2 when Cook played and 2-4 when he didn’t. Cook added an average of four points a game because things opened up on the outside for Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb.
Cook’s value according to spotrac.com is $3.4 million per year on a four-year deal. I think that Cook is worth as much as $5 million a season. That’s how important dynamic tight ends are worth in this league.
But receivers are some of the most dependant athletes in professional sports. For example, how good would Jerry Rice have been if Ken O’Brien was chucking him passes? The passer-receiver relationship is built on timing, chemistry and trust. Receivers have to understand a quarterback’s nonverbals and they must develop an awareness of where to be when he gets in trouble.
Cook sealed his fate as a Packer when he made the unthinkable 35-yard toe-tapping snag in the NFC Divisional Playoff. One play later, Mason Crosby booted a 51 yarder for the game winner.
But does it behoove him to just take market value knowing that he likely won’t get a chance to play with someone of Rodgers’ caliber again? Or does the soon-to-be 30-year-old cash in because this will be his last chance at a payday?
I think it really comes down to what kind of a person he is. Look at Greg Jennings. His career arc was leaning towards becoming a Hall of Fame candidate when he was in Green Bay. He averaged 76 yards and .62 touchdowns a game in the 86 games he started as a Packer. But not long after he left Green Bay his selfishness began to pop up in Minnesota.
The offense was missing that extra something in 2015 and last year it showed up. Cook can get downfield and has soft hands to make catches at amazing angles.
But none of that really matters if Cook is only concerned about cashing in. Because if that’s the case, No. 1 priority or not, the Packers have a number and won’t go much higher than that, if at all.
If Cook wants a legitimate chance to win on a team with one of the best passers ever, then he stays put. He could put incentives into his contract and with Rodgers as his quarterback, getting 800 yards receiving and six touchdowns are both attainable — and both would be career highs.
Either way, Cook is going to be a happy man. He just needs to figure out to what extent Rodgers makes him happy.
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