|Cooley now will look for a starting job. (Getty)|
In 2008, Chris Cooley was the second-most productive ball-catching tight end in the league. Only behind Tony Gonzalez, Cooley caught 83 passes that year for 849 yards, and it turned out to be the peak of his career.
We thought at the time he could move into that Gonzalez-type pantheon of tight ends for the next half-decade or so. But the next season, a broken ankle limited Cooley to seven games and 29 catches. Though he bounced back in 2010, catching 77 passes, he was a disaster last season, playing only five games with a knee that had to be drained 15 times.
"The Washington Redskins are releasing me today," an emotional Cooley told reporters (via NFL.com). "This will be my last day as a Redskin. I'm very fortunate to have played for a team and a fan base that have embraced me like they have. This team changed my life. I have every belief that I can still play football at a high level. I'll take some time ... not sure I could wear another jersey."
Coach Mike Shanahan said afterward that Cooley wanted to be a starter, and with Fred Davis cemented in that role in Washington, Cooley would have to look somewhere else besides the Redskins. Shanahan wouldn't say whether Cooley asked for his release, but that would be a decent assumption.
It's also unlikely the Redskins wanted to pay a backup tight end a base salary of $3.8 million this season, so the move also works well for the team.
Although Cooley apparently is 100 percent healthy, the Redskins supposedly were only going to use him sparingly this season. Obviously, that's not the role Cooley wanted to play. If another team in need of tight end help feels differently, I imagine we'll find out soon enough.
"We all know what Chris means to this organization,” Shanahan said. “He's a guy that we've leaned on a lot since I've been here."
Maybe, however, this release is best for Cooley and his future plans. After all, he'll never have a better chance to train full-time in the cage in order to prepare himself for his next meeting Tony Romo.