The football world was abuzz in the NFL last week. Why? The Green Bay Packers really signed a free agent, when they signed tight end Jared Cook. Yes, it seems like Ted Thompson and the Packers never sign free agents, but that’s actually not true.
The Packers sign some undrafted rookie free agents each season. Examples include Sam Shields in 2010, Don Barclay and Sean Richardson in 2012, Andy Mulumba, Lane Taylor and Myles White in 2013, Jayrone Elliott and Mike Pennel in 2014 and LaDarius Gunter last season.
The Packers also sign “street” free agents as well. Players who have not really made their mark in the NFL yet. Examples are Tramon Williams in 2007, Brett Goode in 2008, Tim Masthay in 2010 and Chris Banjo and Scott Tolzien in 2013.
When signing “pure” free agents, players who have had nice careers in the NFL before they sign with the Packers, the team prefers that the player is first released from their previous team. Why? That way the signing of that particular player won’t be put into the equation for the formula which determines compensatory picks for the following season.
Examples of this type of signing would include Charles Woodson (Oakland Raiders) in 2006, Julius Peppers (Chicago Bears) in 2014 and this year with Cook (St. Louis Rams).
That formula has worked out well for Thompson and the Packers.
For instance, in his seven-year career with the Packers, Woodson put together a brilliant resume. Woodson picked off 38 passes, including nine for touchdowns. Woodson also forced 15 fumbles, recovering six more. Woodson had 11.5 sacks to boot.
In addition to that, Woodson was also named the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Plus, Woodson was named to four Pro Bowls and finally won a Super Bowl ring.
Peppers is also off to a great start with the Packers in his first two years on the team. In 2014 and 2015 combined, Peppers had 17.5 sacks, forced six fumbles and picked off two passes, both of which were returned for touchdowns. Peppers also went to the Pro Bowl this past season.
Cook has also had some nice moments in his seven-year career with both the Tennessee Titans and the Rams. The 6’4″, 235-pound Cook has 273 receptions for 3,503 yards and 16 touchdowns in his career so far.
Cook has had that production without the help of a top-flight quarterback in both Tennessee and St. Louis. That will change in Green Bay, as Cook will now catch passes from Aaron Rodgers.
There is a huge difference between Rodgers and the likes of Austin Davis, Sean Hill, Vince Young, Rusty Smith, Jake Locker, Kellen Clemens and even Matt Hasselbeck, who all were quarterbacks who Cook played with.
Cook is the type of tight end the team has been looking for ever since Jermichael Finley was forced to stop his NFL career due to a neck injury. Cook has the ability and speed to be a seam-stretcher down the middle of the field for the Packers.
As a rookie out of South Carolina at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2009, Cook ran a 4.50 40-yard dash. Cook had reportedly ran a 4.37 40-yard dash and posted a 39.5-inch vertical leap in 2007 at South Carolina.
Cook is very excited to be in Green Bay. Even if it’s just on a one-year deal worth $3.65 million.
In a teleconference with the beat writers for the Packers earlier this week, Cook was excited about the possibilities in 2016 with No. 12 throwing him the football.
“It was more than the top priority I was looking for,” Cook said. “It was imperative that I find a person that’s known for getting the job done and is good at what they do. I think he’s probably one of the best in the league at doing it, clearly.”
To me, I believe that the combination of Cook and third-year player Richard Rodgers will be a very nice combination for the team in 2016. Similar to the production that the duo of Keith Jackson and Mark Chmura had for the Packers in 1995 and 1996, when Brett Favre was throwing them the ball.
In those two years, Jackson had 53 receptions for 647 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Chmura had 82 receptions for 1,049 yards and seven touchdowns. Jackson was the deep threat, while Chmura was the short-to-middle yardage weapon.
Richard Rodgers has fabulous hands, but is just a short yardage or red zone threat, due to his lack of speed and his inability to break tackles. In 2015, Rodgers had 58 receptions for 510 yards and eight touchdowns.
That adds up to just an 8.8 yard average per reception for No. 82, and that number was buffered by the 61-yard game-winning Hail Mary pass he caught versus the Detroit Lions in Week 13.
But if you add Rodgers and Cook together, the Packers could be looking at quite a dynamic duo.
I wanted to get an opinion about the signing of Cook by NFL scout Chris Landry. Landry chimed in to me about the signing yesterday.
“Jared has been a little inconsistent, but this is BY FAR the best quarterback he will have played with,” Landry said. “They have wanted a nice size athletic tight end who can work down the seam and he definitely fits that mold.
“He and Richard Rodgers gives them versatility. If the offensive line can stay healthy and if Eddie Lacy stays in shape, this offense could be great this year.”