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LA Chargers: Grading the surprising Jared Cook signing

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 12: Jared Cook #87 of the New Orleans Saints scores a 41-yard touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers during their NFL game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 12, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 12: Jared Cook #87 of the New Orleans Saints scores a 41-yard touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers during their NFL game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 12, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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The LA Chargers needed to find a replacement tight end for Hunter Henry and the team did just that on Thursday. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Chargers came to terms on a one-year, $6 million contract with veteran Jared Cook.

As Daniel Popper of The Athletic noted, $4.5 million is guaranteed for the 2021 season and should be the cap hit that the Chargers face.

With Donald Parham on the roster, this is likely the only move that the Chargers will make at the tight end position. A trade for Zach Ertz — which was the most expected move — is likely off the table.

Cook, a 12-year veteran in the league, is coming off of a 504-yard, seven-touchdown season with the New Orleans Saints. But was it the right move?

The LA Chargers get a D+ for signing Jared Cook.

I am not a fan of this move. While Cook’s numbers were impressive at a glance, he is not someone who really adds much to the tight end position. First of all, Cook is entering his age 34 season and is already showing signs of regression. His receptions and total yards have decreased in each of the last three seasons.

And if we are being honest, his numbers are likely inflated to begin with as he played for the New Orleans Saints. Yes, the Chargers have a great quarterback and have the Saints connection in Joe Lombardi, but Cook’s production last season was not worth $6 million — or maybe even $4.5 million.

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Cook also is not a good blocker, which is kind of a big deal as Parham is not that polished of a blocker, either. Pro Football Focus gave Cook a 57.6 run-blocking grade last season. PFF grades are far from fail-proof but Cook is a vertical threat tight end that is only getting older and slower.

There were better options available. Zach Ertz was on the table and while it would have taken a trade, the ceiling is much higher with Ertz and he would have been worth that fourth/fifth-round pick, especially the way Tom Telesco drafts in those rounds.

Heck, I would have much rather seen the team trade one of its two sixth-round picks for someone such as David Njoku. Njoku is at least on the way up and has the potential to get better. All signs point to Jared Cook getting worse at this point in his career. Njoku could have been a long-term solution, Cook is a one-year solution.

The LA Chargers are simply kicking the problem further down the road to eventually fill it. They might be high on Donald Parham but they are not going to draft a tight end early in the 2021 NFL Draft. And unless Parham shows big changes to his all-around game in 2021, the Chargers are yet again going to need tight end help in 2022.

Let’s do a fun stat exercise. Heath Miller and Owen Daniels were the last two 33-year-old tight ends to finish with 500-600 receiving yards, as Cook did, and did so in 2015. Neither of them was even in the league the following season.

Marcus Pollard was the last tight end before that and the following season he finished with 100 receiving yards. In the history of the NFL there have been seven tight ends to record 500 receiving yards at the age of 34 or higher: Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Shannon Sharpe, Pete Retzlaff, Greg Olson and Ben Watson.

In that list you have four Hall of Famers, a player from the 60s (Retzlaff), a player who had one productive season in his last four years (Olson) and an outlier who had the best years of his career at an old age and was not that great beforehand (Watson).

Hunter Henry was not worth top tight end money. Next

Simply put, I think the ship has sailed on Jared Cook and the LA Chargers are not going to get productive play out of him in 2021. I would love to be wrong.

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