|Will Jared Cook become the first tight end to receive the franchise tag as a wide receiver? (USATSI)|
At 6-foot-5 and 248 pounds, Jared Cook possesses a combination of size and athleticism to provide constant mismatches for opposing defenses when the Tennessee Titans split him out wide in their four- and five-wide packages.
Take for instance, Cook's 61-yard reception in Week 3 vs. Detroit when he eluded Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch on a seam route, outmuscled strong safety Erik Coleman to secure the catch and raced for a touchdown. In Week 14 at Indianapolis, Cook also made a sprawling catch in the end zone for the game's first score.
Cook, a fourth-year tight end, is expected to receive the franchise tag from the Titans by Monday's deadline. If Tennessee uses the designation on Cook, the former South Carolina tight end will reportedly seek to be classified as a tight end and designated as receiver. Both Cook and the NFLPA are prepared to file a grievance to the league, The Tennessean reported.
If reclassified for franchise tag purposes, Cook would be the first tight end in league history to earn the distinction. Packers tight end Jermichael Finley considered the idea in 2012 before signing a two-year contract with Green Bay.
The move could net Cook millions. Under franchise tag guidelines, a wide receiver will be given a one-year contract for $10.537 million in 2013. A tight end will earn roughly $4.5 million less at $6.066 million.
It could also set a league precedent because teams continue to spread rangy tight ends such as Jimmy Graham out wide to capitalize on mismatches. Last season, three tight ends finished with at least 85 catches, including Jason Witten, who set an NFL record for catches in a season by a tight end with 110. Also, six tight ends finished with at least 800 receiving yards. In 2008, only four tight ends finished with more than 70 receptions.
Two seasons ago, the Titans ran a formation with at least three wideouts on about 60 percent of their sets, according to footballoutsiders.com. Cook was spread out just as frequently in 2012 in the system employed by former Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer and current coordinator Dowell Loggains. Palmer was replaced by Loggains in November.
The potential grievance likely won't endear Cook to Titans management. In October, Cook reportedly sought a trade following the Titans' loss to the Colts in Week 8. At season's end, Cook said he considered himself a top-five tight end and wanted to be paid accordingly.
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