The Redskins’ decision Tuesday to place veteran tight end Chris Cooley on injured reserve casts doubt on his future with the organization. He’s under contract for two more seasons, but coach Mike Shanahan will have to decide whether Cooley still fits.
Cooley’s lingering left knee injury limited his effectiveness this season. He missed most of training camp, and although he was effective in the reduced role coaches carved out for him, he wasn’t the same playmaker the team and its fans have come to expect since 2004.
Meanwhile, fourth-year tight end Fred Davis has emerged as one of the Redskins’ best offensive weapons. On an offense suffering from a dearth of playmakers, he has the athletic ability to create mismatches against linebackers and defensive backs. His blocking also is adequate, maybe even improved.
Davis’ contract expires at the end of this season, so the Redskins must decide how much money they’re willing to devote to the tight end position.
According to a source with knowledge of Cooley’s contract, the Redskins would save approximately $2 million against the 2012 salary cap by releasing him before June 1 and $3.8 million if they released him after that date.
The Redskins would incur a 2012 salary cap hit of $4.16 million if they released him before he earns his $100,000 offseason workout bonus in the spring. The dead money would be $4.26 million if they released him after he earned the bonus but before June 1. Cooley would be off the 2013 books in that scenario.
If the Redskins released Cooley after June 1, he would count $2.43 million against the 2012 cap, and the remaining $1.83 million of his unamortized bonus money would count against against the 2013 cap. He is scheduled to earn a base salary of $3.8 million in 2012.
Those numbers aren’t astronomical, but the amounts are significant. Ultimately, whether his tenure continues depends on several different factors, including whether the Redskins want to spend that money on other players, Cooley’s health and Shanahan’s projection of Cooley’s future effectiveness.
Cooley will turn 30 next July. I’m not sure that’s a big deal, even though Shanahan has stated his desire to make the roster younger and has acted on it in several cases last offseason. If Cooley can play at a high level, it won’t matter how old he is. The health of his knee is the big concern.