Barring a last-ditch deal, then sometime on Monday, the Tennessee Titans are expected to place the franchise tag on tight end Jared Cook.
For the Titans, the emphasis of that sentence is not “franchise tag” or even “Jared Cook.” It is on “tight end,” which is what the team drafted Cook to be and will regard him as, as it pertains to applying the franchise tag.
That cost will be $6.07 million to the Titans, but Cook, as has been reported numerous places, could be angling to be tagged as a wide receiver, given that he played more than half his snaps lined up in the slot position. The receiver franchise tag is a much more lucrative $10.54 million.
One veteran agent said he doesn't blame Cook for trying, and that he would do the same thing if he represented the tight end. But he said that doesn't necessarily mean it is a fight Cook's representatives can win.
“I don't think that makes a case for being tagged as a wide receiver, but if I was his agent, I would be using it as an argument,” the agent said.
Cook caught 44 passes last season, and the Titans are in the process of making the offense more tight end friendly, and Cook is being counted upon to be a big part of that.
While talks apparently haven't progressed well, they could become even more strained if the tight end's agents, Christina Phillips and Drew Pittman, following through on the notion of challenging the tag as a tight end. The Titans' main objective in applying the tag to Cook is two-fold: It buys them more time to work on a long-term deal, and in lieu of that, it provides one more year for the team to gauge exactly what Cook is worth as it relates to his productivity.
I spoke to Pittman at the Senior Bowl and he was in kind of “wait-and-see” mode regarding Cook's status. He pointed out that the Titans were tailoring their offense to help accommodate Cook, but also said that being in a winning situation is important to his client as well.
I talked to Phillips at the NFL Combine, and she played it close to the vest regarding Cook's future as a Titan and with the contract talks.
Either way, other tight ends who have become big parts in the passing game, like New Orleans' Jimmie Graham, will be watching the situation closely.