Should Cook be paid like a tight end or a wide receiver?
"And really, I didn't want to mess with it," Titans coach Mike Munchak said from the NFL owners meeting at the Arizona Biltmore resort.
2012 TE Comparison
And so the Titans, fearful Cook would challenge his classification as a tight end if the team named him its franchise player, watched one of their core young players sign with the St. Louis Rams for $7 million a season.
"I think what he got from the Rams was not far off from what we would have done with him if there was more patience involved," Munchak said, "but it worked out that way and it made sense for us not to tag him."
Such are the calculations teams sometimes have to make. The Titans suspected Cook might wait until deep into training camp before signing if the team named him its franchise player. They moved on from Cook to the San Francisco 49ers' Delanie Walker. Both are tight ends, but Walker is a different type of player.
"It's hard to find a tight end that is comfortable inserting on the back side blocking through the A gaps and B gaps, and then he can be out and run routes that way," Munchak said. "A lot of guys don't know how to do that. They run into guys and don't have a knack for it. They lose the receiver getting out, they can't get to the linebacker."
Walker can do those things. That is why the stats listed in the chart explain only part of the story for Walker.
The Titans envision becoming more like the 49ers in how they run their offense.
Munchak, a Hall of Fame guard, said his teaching principles line up with the ones San Francisco advocates in utilizing Walker's versatility as a blocker on the back side of the formation. He thinks Walker and in-line tight end Craig Stevens can open up opportunities for running back Chris Johnson while making life easier on young quarterback Jake Locker.
"Since I've been the line coach there, when Chris Johnson has had his most success is when we've had a guy that can move and felt comfortable as that second tight end moving around and creating formations and opening up the defense," Munchak said. "[Walker] can line up in the slot, he can line up at tight end, he can line up in the backfield, he can start in the backfield and end up in the slot."
Walker did those things for the 49ers, especially since Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman took over the offense before the 2011 season. One question in San Francisco is to what degree the offense might change without Walker, a player whose role was more significant than his receiving stats would ever indicate.
Cook, meanwhile, gives the Rams a speed element the team hopes will stretch opposing defenses.
"Jared has a chance to do special things," Munchak said, "but maybe this guy [Walker] ultimately does more for us. I'm sure the Rams are happy, we're happy and so maybe it was good for both of us."