The New Orleans Saints apparently waited until the second wave of free agency to address some key needs and are reportedly set to sign arguably the best tight end on the free agent market in former Raider pass catcher Jared Cook. The Saints have been looking for a reliable pass catching tight end ever since the great Jimmy Graham was traded after the 2014 season and look like they’re hoping Cook can finally fill that void. New Orleans has attempted to make due with players like Ben Watson and Josh Hill over the past few seasons, but neither provided the production they really wanted to see from the position. If the contract does indeed go through (and again, this isn’t official), the move will have some real dynasty impact. Let’s take a look at the players involved.
Jared Cook, TE NO
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Cook had a long-awaited breakout season last year as he caught 68 passes for 896 yards and six touchdowns, all career highs for the ten-year veteran who has a respectable 425 catches for 5,464 yards and 25 career touchdowns with stops in Tennessee, St. Louis (LA), Green Bay and Oakland. Cook has never longed for talent, he just never found a way to really put everything together until last year. In New Orleans, he’d line up with the best quarterback he’d ever played with and would likely be able to end his career posting back-end TE1 numbers. While Cook is no Jimmy Graham, he looks like an upgrade for the Saints and would provide them with some creative options on offense.
If signed, Cook should have a chance to replicate his numbers from last year and while touchdowns are hard to predict, he looks like a safe bet for a contending dynasty team if he does indeed land in the Crescent City. If I was a contending team and was looking to upgrade the position, Cook would be a prime trade target. He certainly won’t cost you as much as a player like Zach Ertz or Travis Kelce (he won’t quite give you their production, either), but he could end up giving you numbers that at least bridge the gap a bit more with the truly elite tight ends, all at a cost that should be reasonable based on his age. There’s also a real comfort in having a “plug and play” tight end to use every week – not having to carry three average tight ends who you rotate based on matchups could clear you up a valuable roster spot. I’d expect Cook’s ADP to rise slightly if he does indeed end up with the Saints.
Josh Hill, TE NO
Hill was a popular pickup after Graham left New Orleans, but he was simply never able to put everything together and only posted 63 total catches the past four seasons even with Graham out of the picture. Hill just isn’t a natural pass catcher and the signing of Cook would indicate the Saints have really thrown in the towel on the six-year veteran being a productive player for them. In fact, they may have done that when they signed Ben Watson back for the past two seasons and had them split time. At this point, Hill looks like a pretty safe drop in dynasty leagues. In fact, he has been for quite some time.
Ben Watson, TE FA
Watson announced his retirement at the end of last season and the signing of Cook would clearly make that decision final.
Drew Brees, QB NO
Adding weapons like Cook are never a bad thing for an elite quarterback. While Brees isn’t quite the fantasy dynamo he was a few years ago, he really hasn’t had to be, either. With a more balanced attack, Brees can really pick and choose how to attack a defense. Cook should be able to hit on a lot of seam routes and be a nice safety valve for the Saints. Brees is going to be a QB1 next season, though it’s fair to wonder just how many years he has left. The Saints are clearly “all in” for 2019.
You could also make the case the addition of Cook could eat into the production of the Saints receivers, but I don’t really buy that. Brees is always going to find players who get open and even though they have plenty of talented pass catchers who can do just that, Brees is going to throw the ball 500 times next year and that should be enough to keep everyone happy.
Derek Carr, QB OAK
Don’t feel too bad for Carr. While the loss of Cook is a significant one, the Raiders replenished their pass catching corps with the likes of Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams and JJ Nelson. Carr is in line for a pivotal season in both reality and fantasy. The Raiders have done a good job of giving him the best possible chance to be successful. Time will tell if he can do it, but his ADP should be steady.
The Raiders have a war chest of draft picks and will undoubtedly be looking at upgrading this tight end corps. With no clear starter on the roster, this seems like a glaring need for Oakland. If they fail to make any other free agency moves, I’d be surprised if a rookie like TJ Hockenson, Noah Fant, Irv Smith Jr or Jace Sternberger aren’t somehow on the roster in May.
And hey Paul, good luck keeping that number 84 on your jersey.
Ken is on Twitter at DLF_KenK
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