After eight years of starting at tight end for the Washington Redskins, Chris Cooley is moving on. The Redskins released him on Tuesday.
Cooley believes he's good enough to be a starter in the NFL, but the Redskins don't believe Cooley is good enough to be a starter for them. Fred Davis, a second-round draft pick in 2008, has finally played himself into the starting job.
It's really hard to picture Cooley in a uniform other than Washington's. The last couple of years have been a struggle for him, but he was a consistent producer for the Redskins for a long time. Drafted in the third round in 2004 out of Utah State, he made himself a valuable contributor to the Redskins and a popular guy in the community. He made two Pro Bowls in his eight years there.
His release doesn't come as a complete shock, though. In two of the last three years, Cooley has played in seven games or fewer, thanks to injuries to his ankle and knee. He'd actually spent time this offseason working at fullback, while Davis took the first-team tight end repetitions. In 2010, Cooley's most recent full year as a healthy tight end, he was very productive ‒ 849 yards on 77 catches.
It's a transaction without hard feelings. Of his time with the Redskins, Cooley said, "It's been awesome." Shanahan said of Cooley's desire to seek a starting job elsewhere, "I think he's earned that right."
Cooley will land somewhere else, though it's hard to imagine any team saying to him, "Yes, you will be our immediate starter." There are a few teams out there to whom Cooley would represent an immediate upgrade ‒ the Raiders, Vikings and Rams come to mind ‒ but being 30 years old makes Cooley a tougher sell.