Did the Rams pay too much for Jared Cook?

Marc Serota

St. Louis made the former Titans tight end one of the league's highest paid players at that position.

Free agency is kind of like the draft in some ways, certainly in how we react to it. A team signs a player, we react, others react and then we try to assess it without having seen that new player in action with his new team. It makes it tough to grade. We end up judging moves more based on the contract dollars that player gets. Long-winded intro out of the way, I'm wondering if the St. Louis Rams didn't overpay for tight end Jared Cook.

Cook, as you may recall, signed a five-year, $38.5 million deal, that includes $19 million guaranteed. That is more guaranteed money than any tight end in the NFL can boast under their current contracts. UPDATE: Correcting an error here. Cook's guaranteed money is hefty, but it's not on par with the $23 million in guarantees that Vernon Davis got from the Niners.

At 26, Cook still has the prime of his career to look forward to, and lots of experts, from fantasy forecasters to professional pundits, are picking him for a big breakout this year in St. Louis. He never reached his potential during his first four years in Tennessee, topping out with 49 receptions, 759 yards and three touchdowns in 2011. Of course, those Titans teams were plagued with a host of issues, namely iffy quarterback play, and the Rams are betting, and betting big, that Cook's time in the Music City was just a preview of what he can do rather than another NFL prospect unable to completely match talent with production.

Here's what Football Outsiders had to say about the Cook signing:

But just because a guy gets overpaid in free agency doesn't mean he's going to break out. If Cook were truly a breakout star, he would have broken out in Tennessee. Instead, he proved to be nothing more than a decent straight-line runner who is flexible enough to work the seams and middle of the field out of the slot. That's nice but not special.

That is certainly a different way of looking at it. Did the Rams pay to much? Have we seen all we're going to see from Cook? A few thoughts.

1. Cook was said to be in relatively high demand as a free agent, though the Rams snapped him up fast with that lucrative offer. What we don't know is what the market was valuing him at. Obviously the Rams had the winning bid and a chance to reunite with Jeff Fisher. If Cook was getting similar offers from other teams, then the Rams paid market value ... even if markets do get overpriced at times.

2. There weren't many other options out there for adding a playmaker to the offense. Compared to the deals signed by wide receivers at the top of the market, Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings, the Rams paid less for a playmaking tight end that does help a stagnant offense. The tight end market didn't offer much in playmakers beyond Cook. There were deals to be had for more traditional types and H-backs, but the Rams have a player like that in Lance Kendricks.

3. If Cook has hit his ceiling, then the Rams really did overpay. However, adding a tight end that can stretch the field in the seam, from the slot or lined up outside is still a net plus for the offense. A tight end that adds 700 yards of offense would top any player on the Rams recent stable of receivers or tight ends since Torry Holt. Hopefully, the team finds receiver help in the draft and the players on the current roster take the next step forward. If that happens, Cook's 700 yards of offense, which will put him in the top 10 to 15 tight ends, adds tremendously to the team's production.

4. So did the Rams pay too much for Cook? Probably. Could they have waited for the market to settle? Yes, but it's unlikely they would have landed Cook without jumping the gun on an offer. There was also the draft, but the team has a wide variety of other needs and players to acquire there, and it's hard to find rookies who can contribute at that level right away ... and the jury is still out on Snead and Fisher's ability to identify offensive prospects.

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