With the NFL salary cap rising by more than $20 million between 2013 and 2015, teams have had more money to spend than they’ve known what to do with. Well, that’s not true, because they’ve known exactly what to do with it: They’ve spent it on moderately impressive free agents. Every year, a handful of players who were available for nothing as recently as the previous offseason sign with new teams for serious money. Most of the time, they’re about as good as the guys who were freely available.
Sound about right? In 2013, Cook signed a 5-year, $35.1mil contract with the St. Louis Rams, including a $5mil signing bonus, $16mil guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $7,020,000. That’s a lot of dough.
Please don’t think I saw the flaws in all of these deals when they were first signed; the Cook contract is one I would have endorsed at the time, and it just hasn’t worked out. It’s not hard to see what the Rams saw in the freakishly athletic Cook, who had exhibited flashes of brilliance in Tennessee. The Titans focused too heavily on his flaws and tried to turn Cook into an inline tight end, and so naturally it seemed clear that the Rams were going to try to take Cook and his 4.49 speed and use him as a downfield burner.
It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Cook, who has the 6-foot-5 frame to be a red zone terror, scored twice in his first game with the Rams and has just six touchdowns in his ensuing 31 contests. He’s averaged just more than 40 yards per game in St. Louis, which is actually a decline from his final two seasons in Tennessee, and by the end of 2015, the Rams will have given him more than $20 million.