Buccaneers Could Sign 2-Time Pro Bowler, Says Analyst

Jared Cook

Getty The Buccaneers could target tight end Jared Cook.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could sign a former two-time Pro Bowl tight end.

Greg Auman of The Athletic compiled a list of reasonable free agent tight end options in the aftermath of Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. One of the logical targets Auman mentioned was none other than two-time Pro Bowl tight end Jared Cook.

Cook spent last season with the Los Angeles Chargers, posting respectable numbers while catching 48 passes for 564 receiving yards and four touchdowns. While the Buccaneers would certainly welcome that type of production, Cook’s more notable asset is that he’s made a career out of being a journeyman; Tampa Bay would be his sixth team in the past eight seasons.

“The Bucs would be the sixth team in eight seasons for Cook, 35, who has been a much better tight end in his 30s than he was in his 20s,” explains Auman. “He made the Pro Bowl in 2018 and 2019 with the Raiders and Saints, and he has 26 touchdown catches over the last four years. He has had at least 500 yards in each of the last five seasons, including a solid 564 on 48 catches with four touchdowns for the Chargers last year.”

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Why Buccaneers Could Seek Another Veteran TE

The 35-year-old remains a free agent in the early portion of July. Cook played under a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Chargers last season and it’s unlikely he’ll command any more than that if he plays this year.

The Buccaneers’ projected starting tight end is none other than Cameron Brate, who has been a member of Tampa Bay since the 2014 season. While Brate has previously served as a starting tight end, the last time he played the role on a full-time basis was during the 2016 season when he started 10 of his 15 appearances. That just so happened to be the year in which Brate posted career-highs of 57 catches for 660 yards and eight touchdowns.

However, Brate hasn’t started more than six games in a single season since then. Furthermore, he disappointed in his short stint as the team’s starter when Gronkowski missed five games due to an assortment of injuries last season. The 31-year-old tight end caught just 11 passes on 28 targets (39.2 percent) for 115 yards and one touchdown in seven games (three starts) between Weeks 4 through 11.

Why Buccaneers Could Pass on Cook

According to Pro Football Focus, Brate produced just a 57.0 offensive grade and 46.7 pass-blocking grade last season. By comparison, Cook posted a 61.9 offensive grade and a horrendous 28.1 pass-blocking grade. For perspective, that was the worst pass-blocking grade of any full-time tight end last season.

Cook certainly brings a much-needed element of pass catching to a Buccaneers squad suddenly needing it. But considering there are better and younger overall options on the free agency market — Kyle Rudolph and Blake Jarwin are possibilities– Tampa Bay should probably pass on the one-dimensional Cook.

For example, Rudolph posted a 63.5 offensive grade and 62.9 pass-blocking grade last season. Considering the Buccaneers’ primary backups at tight end are rookies, Tampa Bay certainly needs another viable veteran option at the position.

If the Buccaneers sign Cook, he’ll have to be used primarily for receiving plays, or with Brate in as the blocker in double tight end sets.

With Rudolph available, Tampa Bay should sign the former Minnesota Vikings tight end over the older Cook if they decide on bringing in another veteran before training camp.

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