2019 Saints Season in Review: Jared Cook
In the Sean Payton era, the tight end position for the New Orleans Saints can be summed up with one name: Jimmy Graham. Even before Graham, Jeremy Shockey brought a fiery passion to the table that was extremely memorable. However, since Graham was traded away to the Seattle Seahawks after the 2014 season, there felt like something was missing in the Saints offense. Fans caught a glimpse of what could be when Benjamin Watson had a career year in 2015, but he left in free agency for the Ravens while the Saints brought in Coby Fleener in the hopes of boosting the offensive production even more.
Sadly, Fleener didn't live up to the hype, and was released two years into a five-year, $36 million contract. The concussion issues were still lingering for the Stanford product in June 2018, as he told The Athletic. The Saints ended up bringing back Watson for a second stint in the 2018 season, using a combination of him, Josh Hill, and Dan Arnold. However, it didn't go over so well.
Last offseason, New Orleans was in a battle with the New England Patriots to get the highly sought-after free agent tight end commodity in Jared Cook. With Rob Gronkowski hanging it up, it only made sense with Cook coming off a stellar year with the Oakland Raiders. There were even rumblings of the Saints and Jimmy Graham possibly reuniting, but he chose the Green Bay Packers. Although things didn't start off great for Cook in the Saints offense, they were tremendous on the back half of the season.
Jared Cook - At a Glance
- Approximate Value: 7
- Pro Football Focus Grade: 78.3
- Pro Football Focus Rank: T-8th out of 67
- Receiving Grade: 80.8
- Total Snaps: 534
- Total Receptions: 43 (65 targets)
- Receiving Yards: 705 (16.4 average)
- Receiving Touchdowns: 9
Cook made his Saints debut in Week 1's game against the Houston Texans, playing in his 150th career game. However, he finished with just two receptions for 37 yards, although one of them was a big 31-yard completion from Drew Brees. Still, Cook's first six games in New Orleans were nothing to brag about, as he had 15 catches for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns. He'd then be inactive for two straight games against the Bears and Cardinals, and at that point, it felt like he was just going to be another free agent bust signing for the Saints.
That's when a lot changed for Cook, as he'd post 28 receptions for 537 yards and 7 touchdowns in the back half of the season. There were games where you could see how much him and Brees were on the same page, with Cook making some insane catches that were reminiscent of a certain other tight end that many Saints fans fell in love with.
Cook also proved how much he could do in the open field, scoring against the Titans with some great downfield blocking by Alvin Kamara. That 61-yard receiving touchdown by Cook ended up being the longest regular season reception by a Saints tight end since Larry Hardy in 1978.
Cook was promoted to the Pro Bowl in early January along with Andrus Peat, which at the time gave the Saints a franchise record nine players. They'd finish with 11 total. In 2020, Cook will play out the second and final year of his original two-year, $15.5 million contract that he signed with New Orleans. He'll turn 33 in April, and looks to be a big part of the Saints quest for a deep postseason run.