The first little bits of detail about the contract between the Green Bay Packers and free agent tight end Jared Cook are starting to leak out.
After news of the impending contract signing was released this morning, we found out that the deal was actually in place since Thursday. Then, reports surfaced that the Packers were among four teams who had spoken at length with Cook about potentially signing him. Rand Getlin reported that Carolina, Chicago, and Atlanta were the other three teams involved.
However, the big follow-up news was just announced a few moments ago, and that is the length value of Cook's contract. We find that courtesy of Ian Rapoport of NFL Network:
For Jared Cook & #Packers, it's a 1-year deal worth $3.6M, source said. Hope is, as with FAs this time of year, to kill it & sign long-term— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 28, 2016
UPDATE: Even better than that, though, is the fact that the base value of the deal is about a million dollars less than that, as was reported at about 11:35 AM central time:
Base value of Jared Cook's deal with #Packers is 1 year, $2.75 million. The other $900K available in incentives for catches, TDs, Pro Bowl.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 28, 2016
Pelissero also followed up with us on the full structure of the deal. It's really good for the Packers, with another $400,000 tied up in the per-game active roster bonuses that the Packers have used so heavily in recent years:
@acmepackingco $825K signing bonus, $75K June roster bonus, $25K workout bonus, $400K in per-game active bonuses, $1.425M salary (non-gtd)— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 28, 2016
Since this is a one-year deal, that $2.75 million will hit the salary cap in 2016, and if the incentives fall into the "not likely to be earned" category as we expect, they will not hit the cap during the season. Since the Packers were listed as having about $13.2 million in salary cap space after their last signing (running back James Starks), the contract for Cook would drop that space down to about $10.5 million. They also will need to reserve about $1.75 million in space for the offseason cap hit that the 2016 rookie class will occupy, leaving the team with a little over $9 million in leftover room.
Ultimately, this is another "prove-it" deal, as Rapoport implies. Outside linebacker Nick Perry returned to Green Bay on a similar one-year, $5 million contract earlier this offseason. The main difference between these two approaches is that Cook will be 30 next offseason, while Perry will turn 26 in April.
Cook's deal appears to be quite the bargain, however, when put in the context of some of the other tight ends who have signed contracts this offseason, and it does not saddle the Packers with a long-term deal. Dwayne Allen re-signed with the Colts for four years and nearly $30 million; his former teammate Coby Fleener is now in New Orleans on a five-year, $36.5 million contract. Although each of those players is a few years younger than Cook, the average dollar value (less than half of Allen or Fleener) makes him seem to be a great bargain, especially when you consider that he has put up better and more consistent receiving statistics than either of them and has done so with far inferior quarterbacks.
The one-year term also ensures that the Packers will not be on the hook with Cook long-term if he does not play up to expectations. Furthermore, Green Bay should still be in the market for an athletic tight end in this year's NFL Draft. However, Cook's presence will allow any incoming players at the position to work into the offense gradually rather than being forced into a critical role early on in their rookie years.
This post was originally published prior to learning of the incentives in Cook's contract. It has been updated to reflect the new information.