After A Lengthy Flirtation Period, Jared Cook And The New Orleans Saints Have (Basically) Officially Gotten Into Bed With One Another
With the slow and steady way things have gone since the Saints actively started courting Jared Cook, I suppose Sean Payton's mildly non-comittal "understanding" that the premier tight end on the market has joined one of the offenses most likely to maximize his talents is the best we could have hoped in terms of an official announcement. In fact, the coyness of it is actually quite fitting of what's felt like a sitcom-esque inevitable relationship, in which the New England Patriots played the cameo role of the attractive suitor that ultimately ends up making the two parties realize exactly what they've seen in each other all this time. Of course, what really took so long was really the master class in cap economics that Mickey Loomis was undoubtedly putting on for Jared Cook and his agent. However, it was still reassuring to hear that not even a call from a Super Bowl champion with a first ballot HOF-sized opportunity available could get him to change courses before the final drop date.
As for how Jared Cook fits into a Sean Payton offense that's never met a mismatch it wasn't overly anxious to exploit, I can't help but feel like I'm a bit late to the game in realizing how perfect it has the potential to be. I don't know if I underrated his athleticism due to the sheer incompetence of Jeff Fisher's Rams, or the inability of Aaron Rodgers-led offenses to get the most out of the tight end position, or the irrelevance of the Oakland Raiders, but what Jared Cook lacks in career consistency was more than made for by his versatility the last two seasons.
It might be premature to think of him as much more than a rich man's Coby Fleener. Still, with the way he's able to exploit the seam, execute double moves, and use his size and speed to his advantage, you can definitely envision a reason to believe he could provide the production of a poor man's Jimmy Graham plus the occasional block or two. Especially in a Saints' system that's become more reliant on intermediate routes as their quarterback's accuracy has aged more gracefully than his arm strength. Now more so than ever before, Drew Brees needs to work with hand-in-hand with the scheme around him and there's nothing Sean Payton loves to do more than find ways to make the most of unique offensive skill sets. What's undeniable is that Jared Cook absolutely has one of those and it happens to match what the Saints have been missing at the flex tight end position for awhile now.
If what's being reported is at all accurate then the only risk that comes with investing in a 31 year old player who is reliant on his athleticism has been minimized by a short deal that's front loaded in guaranteed money and backloaded in roster flexibility. Therefore, until further notice, there really isn't anything to dislike about an addition that helps open up an offense that probably wouldn't have needed to leave their fate in the blind eyes of officials if they had another prominent and experienced pass catcher available to them during the postseason. At least in theory, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and Jared Cook should all make each other more efficient, and they were are all pretty damn effective in their own right as is.