Chris Cooley is done for 2011, and many believe, that he's played his last game as a tight end for the Washington Redskins.
All of that might be true, and people I have spoken to inside the organization quietly say that is the most likely scenario.
HOWEVER, that is far from absolute certain. It is simply way too much time between now and early March when the decision would most likely have to be made, and even if it is made at that point -- there is NOTHING that would prevent the two sides from working out another deal that allows Cooley a chance to try and come back and show how his knee is progressing.
Here's what I know for sure - Chris Cooley has been the guy that has defined the most recent era of Redskins football, more than anybody.
London Fletcher gives him a strong run for the money, and Santana Moss has quietly been a warrior - but Cooley is the guy that has been the public face of a franchise in constant turmoil and upheaval.
He's been the guy that the fans have had the most passion for. It doesn't mean anything at all to Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen (nor should it) but when the franchise desperately needed likeable players that were talented, Cooley was the guy on top of that chart.
He's reached out and embraced Redskins Nation in a more transparent way than Fletcher or Moss has. That's not a criticism to London or Santana, it is a compliment to Chris.
It should be noted -- that I write this based on what I see and know, not for any other reason. I have a good, professional relationship with Cooley, as I do with many others. I have tremendous respect for him, and I think he has respect for what I do. In other words, I am not writing this or saying nice things about him -- because I have this great personal relationship with him. I am writing it, because it is the truth.
Cooley may leave and play for another team if things don't work out for 2012 - but something tells me that he will be back. He will be given a chance. He should be given a chance to prove himself in burgundy and gold, not in black and gold or any other color scheme.
He proved that he is a more then capable and willing blocker. I only remember a few times (once against the Giants, once against the Cardinals) that Cooley lost his block after initially striking a blow. He may not be the best blocker - but he's better at it, then he gets credit for.
Sure, he's no longer the receiver that he used to be. The knee obviously was never right, the Quarterback situation was unstable and his role called for him to be used in a different way. That's not Chris not being able to play and contribute, that's a leader stepping up and saying 'hey I may not love this role, but if it helps the team, let's do it.'
Maybe Cooley wouldn't say it that way, he's always been a little bit unconventional - but it is part of what Redskins fans and the media liked about him. You get the point.
If your lasting impression of Cooley, was getting blown up on a screen by Nnamdi Asomugha - so be it. That might be his final catch in a Redskins uniform. If it is, at least he went down being tough. I'll choose to remember his first carry in his NFL career (for a first down) in Dallas on Monday Night Football earlier this year, and the very next play - Cooley lined up in the backfield -- on the right hash -- ran a route right down the seam and connected with Rex Grossman for a nice gain of 17 yards. It wasn't a touchdown, but it was important at the time. He was playing a hybrid TE/FB position, working some out of the I and working in essentially a H-Back alignment. It wasn't the old Chris Cooley, but it was the new Chris Cooley. He should be given credit for that.
Shouldn't he? Of course, there is another element to this situation.
Our Washington Times/ESPN 980 Redskins Insider Rich Campbell broke down the salary implications of keeping Cooley for 2012 here http://wtim.es/tPTxvF -- and while it makes perfect sense to just cut the rope before June 1st and absorb the dead money hit all on next years cap -- you can make the very strong argument that Cooley should be given the opportunity to go to camp, play in the preseason and see how the knee responds. If it doesn't, release him before Week 1 when his base salary is guaranteed for the year.
It was a different situation, but many thought (including myself) that Mike Sellers would not be around this year, and he still is. Sellers is much older, valuable in a different way, and healthy -- but the point is -- it should not be an easy decision for Allen and Shanahan.
Of course, you could always try and restructure Cooley's contract, but the days of mortgaging the future -- for the now -- are over. I wouldn't expect that, unless Cooley and the NFLPA are OK with the veteran surrendering a signfican't chunk of cash.
Fred Davis will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2012 season -- and will certainly be looking to cash in. That's fine, he probably deserves it - but if he's looking to break the bank -- he might have to look elsewhere. Huge contracts, even to young players, are not going to happen very often in Ashburn.
You can still have Davis under a nice contract, Cooley under a reduced base salary arrangement, and Logan Paulsen who is only going to get better under the same roof.
Why couldn't you?
Even if a contractual situation with Cooley doesn't work out -- for some reason -- I see him choosing to take a year off and maybe even retire, rather then going to a situation that might not be what it seems. Cooley has many unique interests, and has a support system in this area. He would have to uproot his wife, brother, mother and other family. I don't see it.
I think if things don't work out with the Redskins for 2012 -- Cooley stays patient - stays in the area and maybe he gets a great opportunity to leave, but maybe he gets the perfect multi-media opportunity to stay in the Washington area.
In other words, home.
Cooley's a Redskin, true and true. It hasn't worked out, team success wise. That's obvious, but "Captain Chaos" as he was once called has tried to be what no other player that I can think of has been for a long time.
Here in the greater Washington area, there are guys that are Redskins. You also have guys that are pure Redskins.
Cooley is as close to 100% as you can get, despite his unique style. Cooley is a true Redskin, a real Redskin, a pure Redskin.