Chris Cooley has been a popular figure in his eight-year tenure with the Washington Redskins, capturing the hearts of their fans while contributing as a dangerous and versatile presence from the tight end position.
Cooley became one of the most dominant—and yet underrated—receiving tight ends in the NFL. He recorded at least 700 receiving yards in five seasons between 2005 and 2010, thriving as a run blocker and in anything he was called to do as well.
Unfortunately—as with many professional athletes—injuries have a way of cutting an exceptional career short, as it appears may be the case for the 30-year-old Cooley in the midst of his prime playing years. He played in just five games last season, suffering a broken finger and then being placed on the injured reserve list due to lingering knee problems from offseason surgery.
Cooley insists his knee is fine, but as he ages, blossoming young stars like Fred Davis and Niles Paul make him an expendable puzzle piece.
As a result, the Redskins have released their beloved tight end just two seasons removed from catching 77 passes for 849 yards and three touchdowns.
“Today, for the time being, will be my last day as a Washington Redskin,” Cooley announced to the media on Tuesday. “I’ve been very, very fortunate to play for a franchise that has embraced me and for a fan base that embraced me the way they have.”
Cooley, the Redskins’ franchise leader for career receptions by a tight end with 428, was expected to make $3.8 million in base salary this season. Ultimately—though the Redskins have not said so—Cooley’s potential output simply did not match the financial burden his current contract weighed on them.
Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan stated that the team and Cooley did not discuss the dependable pass-catcher’s contract.
The dynamic Cooley wants to be a starter in the NFL. He was more than willing to do whatever it took to accomplish that, filling in at fullback for injured incumbent starter Darrel Young in each of the Redskins’ three preseason games.
So what’s next for Cooley? The versatile utility player—capable of playing a multitude of positions if needed—believes he still has something to offer an NFL team out there.
“I’m very confident in my abilities to continue to play the game,” he said. “I have every belief that I can be not only a productive player, but a starter in this league.”
It would be a shock for another team to not take a stab at Cooley and see what the veteran has to offer. His blue-collar attitude will have a positive impact on any NFL locker room and should have no trouble impressing any of the game’s head coaches.
If there were any ideal fits that come to mind, the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders could certainly be potential landing spots for Cooley. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin loves guys who are hard-working, motivated and capable of contributing by any means necessary. The Raiders, meanwhile, are in dire need of a tight end and one of Cooley’s caliber could do wonders to help shape up a suspect Raiders offense.
Cooley’s release from the Redskins is a devastating blow, for the Redskins as much as it is for Cooley. He has been a key member in Washington D.C. for quite some time and his presence will surely be missed. As is life and business in the NFL, however, Cooley must prepare to move on—though his career with the Redskins is not definitely at an end just yet—and there are plenty of options that should open up for him in the coming days and weeks.