The New Orleans Saints, with exactly two weeks to go until the start of free agency, have released tight ends Jared Cook and Josh Hill. While Cook was slated to become a free agent on March 17, the release of Hill clears about $2.5 million in cap space.
A third-round pick in the 2009 draft, Cook signed a two-year, $15 million deal with the Saints in 2019. During his first season in New Orleans, Cook made his second consecutive Pro Bowl after catching 43 of 65 targets for 705 yards and nine touchdowns. Last season, Cook caught 37 of 60 targets for 504 yards and seven touchdowns. He finished as the team's third leading receiver, behind running back Alvin Kamara and receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
Despite his success, Cook's run in New Orleans ended unceremoniously. With the Saints holding a 20-13 lead over the Buccaneers in the divisional round of the playoffs, Cook's fumble set up the game-tying touchdown. The score was the first of 17 unanswered points by the Buccaneers, who defeated the Saints en route to the franchise's second Super Bowl win.
While Cook has already played for five different teams, Hill spent the first eight years of his career in New Orleans. A former undrafted rookie, Hill inked a three-year, $8.85 million extension with the Saints at the end of the 2018 regular season. Valued more for his blocking than his receiving, Hill caught just eight passes for 46 yards and a touchdown in 2020, his lowest totals since his rookie season.
With Cook and Hill no longer on the roster, second-year tight end Adam Trautman has risen to the top of the Saints' depth chart. The 105th player selected in the 2020 draft, the former Dayton standout made six starts in 15 games during his rookie season. A big target at 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, Trautman caught 15 of 16 targets for 171 yards and one touchdown last season.