-Of course you hate to see a player who has meant so much to the organization over the years leave, but it was hard to justify keeping him at a cap figure of $6.23 million. Even without the cap penalty that was a pretty unsustainable figure. By releasing him now, the Redskins should save $3.9 million this year, and pay cap hits of $2.33 million this year and $1.83 million next year (a far cry from his $5.75 million he was scheduled to count next year). The Redskins should get even further salary relief for next year assuming they don’t spend their savings this year (which given the late stage in the NFL calender seems unlikely), as any unused cap space transfers to the next year. So essentially that $4 million they saved can help them next year when they are in a tighter salary cap predicament.
-Having said all that in my first point, I don’t see money as the overall factor in this release. By all accounts, and Chris Cooley‘s own words, he wanted to stay a member of the Washington Redskins. Had the Redskins wanted to, I’m sure they could have gotten Cooley to reduce his contract quite a bit, saving almost nearly as much as they did by cutting him, and of course actually having him as part of the team. Which regardless of his capacity on the team should be preferable to having over $4 million in dead cap space these next two years combined.
– Though cited by the team as them allowing Cooley to find a starting job elsewhere, because he wants to start. Now I’m sure that as a competitor Chris Cooley absolutely wants to start, as should any professional athlete. That doesn’t mean that the Redskins had to start him or cut him. If starting was the only thing on Cooley’s mind he wouldn’t have worked so hard on his blocking this summer. In general the number two TE (and three for that matter) is more of a blocking option. That is even more true when your top TE is Fred Davis, who is among the worst blockers in the league. Asking Davis to stay into block on passing plays is a poor utilization of resources so that should fall on the number 2 TE if they need to keep someone in. Although you can’t sub him out on every running play (as that is a dead give away to opposing defenses), you want to get him out of there as much as possible. Also, if you are so concerned about being the starting tight end, then you probably aren’t going to volunteer to play fullback for the injured Darrel Young, as that hurts your chances of being a starter. In fact if anything Cooley was acting like a player who wanted to make the team anyway possible.
-I know the Redskins kept 4 TE’s at the start of the season last year, but this year is a tougher sell. Roster space is going to get tight this year as the team pretty much has to keep four running backs and nine offensive linemen given some of the injury concerns at those positions. Also, there are going to be tough battles down to the wire at linebacker and safety that the team could have used an extra spot.
Obviously the Redskins felt that Cooley could be replaced by Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul, and in many ways it makes sense. Paulsen of the four tight ends is the best blocker (though he struggled last year during the season), and he was having a fine camp. Though not incredibly athletic, he could offer a big target in the short area passing game. Paul’s blocking is basically on par with Cooley’s, and can probably help out in the back-up FB role as well. Paul is also perhaps the best special teamer on the team and was in no danger of losing his roster spot on either the 53 man or game day roster. An the active roster may have actually been Cooley’s downfall.
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Though the Skins kept four tight ends on the 53 man roster last year, most weeks only three dressed. With Fred Davis and Niles Paul a lock to dress if they’re not injured, that last guaranteed game day spot would come down to Paulsen and Cooley. Given how much of a weakness with the offensive line and Fred Davis, more likely than not the team would go with Paulsen given that is his specialty. The blocking concerns would make it pretty tough for Cooley to be on the active roster, even if he was still the 2nd best receiving TE or best safety net for RGIII.
-Cooley posted 428 receptions for 4,703 yards and 33 receiving touchdowns, as a part of the Redskins. Those numbers make him the all-time leader among Redskins tight ends. He’s 5th in the team in career receptions, and 9th in both career receiving yards and receiving touchdowns for the organization. He was also the longest tenured Redskin, and known as a leader and a mentor in the locker room.
Though he wasn’t expected to put up big numbers, he is just two years removed from a 70+ catch season, so if due to injury he was needed, he could probably produce relatively well. Also, Cooley has always succeeded based on being a smart, crisp route runner, who shows good awareness when either the quarterback is in trouble or there is a hole in the coverage He could have been a nice security blanket for Robert Griffin his rookie year, when things broke down. Above all else though his leadership and dedication to the Skins will be the hardest to replace, and missed the most.