When the Redskins cut Chris Cooley nearly two weeks ago, they left open the possibility for his return. Then, Friday, they increased that chance even more.
General manager Bruce Allen told an audience at the National Press Club that the team will meet with Cooley, one of their most popular players of the past decade, next week. Cooley, though, was unaware of any meeting until Friday afternoon.
“It’s not like I don’t have a good relationship with Bruce,” Cooley said. “We talked about maybe playing golf, but that had nothing to do with playing football…. I haven’t heard anything from the Redskins and I didn’t expect to hear much until after the first week.”
But Cooley said he would “definitely still be open” to returning to the Redskins. He also said he’s heard from a few teams and knows who’s legitimately interested in him. However, no starting offers have materialized.
“I don’t know if there’s a lot of starting spots out there,” he said. “Beyond that I know what’s available for me to go to. It hasn’t gotten super involved. My thought process was next week I’ll start to see what the real offers were. I haven’t been in any hurry to go anywhere. I haven’t had a million dollar contract offer so I am hanging out.”
Coach Mike Shanahan said he did not know when that meeting would take place. Cooley had said many times, including the day he was cut, that it would be difficult to play elsewhere. He has been contacted by teams.
“We’ve always left the door open for Chris,” Shanahan said. “We gave him an option to see if there’s anything out there where he has a chance to start. He’ll weigh his options.”
If the Redskins re-signed him, it would be hard to look at his release as anything other than a financial one. His base salary would have been $3.8 million (with a$6.2 million cap hit). And that money would have been guaranteed. By releasing him, the Redskins free up cap space that they can carry into next year. If he re-signs at some point, his contract is not guaranteed and it would be for the veteran minimum ($825,000).
It could still be an unlikely occurrence; Cooley would have to accept returning after having been cut and at a reduced rate. Another team could call him and offer him a chance to start. And Cooley sounded more open to playing elsewhere, something in the past he admitted would be tough.
But there’s a caveat.
“I’m not going to play somewhere else in the role that I was planning to play for the Redskins,” Cooley said. “I was fine and I made that obvious that I’d do anything in any capacity for our team. Someone will get hurt later in the year, things will happen and if I go somewhere it’ll be on my terms to be in the role I want to be in. I have a lot of loyalty to our team and our players and coaches. I would have played in any role here. That might not be the same anywhere else.”
The Redskins have three tight ends — Fred Davis, Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen. If the Redskins re-signed Cooley, he’d also serve as a backup fullback to Darrel Young. A backup making league minimum is more doable than one making $3.8 million.
“When you have three tight ends it’s not like we’re very deep,” Shanahan said. “With one fullback, we’re not very deep. I can’t tell you for sure what’s going to happen at this time. But we’d like to have as many options as possible and we’ll get a chance to talk next week.”
Tight end Logan Paulsen said, “As a person and as a player I’d love to have him around. I think the team would benefit from having him around. Nine years in the league and the type of intellect that he is when it comes to football is invaluable. In terms of my role that changes where I’m at. But that’s management’s decision and I’ll respect that and adapt to whatever they give me.”