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Thursday, February 16, 2012
Could Chris Cooley be a 'cap casualty?'

By Dan Graziano

Jason La Canfora of NFL.com did a big thing on potential "cap casualties," and it caught my eye because of the photo of Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley right there at the top. Jason lists a number of players who, like Albert Haynesworth in Tampa Bay, Stanford Routt in Oakland and, very soon, Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, could be cut because their salaries don't fit into their team's salary-cap budget for 2012. And here's the part about Cooley:
And at tight end, as much as Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan loves tight end Chris Cooley, he is oft-injured and his $3.8 million base may be too steep, especially if Fred Davis is brought back.

So, couple of things here. First, I have little doubt that Davis will be brought back. The Redskins will almost certainly designate him as their franchise player, since the number is low, they like his talent and they're justifiably leery of making a longer-term commitment to a guy who's one bad drug test away from a one-year suspension. To me, Davis isn't the issue.

Nor, presumably, is Cooley's salary. The Redskins are about $47 million under the projected salary cap and can afford to bring Cooley back on his current contract if they so choose. The questions about Cooley are health and whether he's worth that $3.8 million. With Davis having taken over as the primary passing-game threat at the tight end position in Washington, Cooley is now being paid for numbers he no longer puts up.

That said, when I met with Redskins coach Mike Shanahan in December, he mentioned Cooley's injury as one of the bad turning points for the Redskins in 2011 and spoke of how much he liked being able to "set the perimeter" on offense with two very good tight ends. So my belief is that he'd like to have Cooley back. And even if the Redskins decide $3.8 million is too much and they need him to restructure, Cooley's kind of all-in with the Redskins and likely would be amenable to such an idea if it meant staying with the team he loves.

It's a situation worth watching, and anything's possible. But my guess is Cooley comes back to Washington in 2012, even if it's at a lower salary than the one he's currently scheduled to make.