The Washington Redskins have announced that they have released popular tight end Chris Cooley. The writing was on the wall for the eight year veteran. Last season, Cooley was injured and only played in five games. After a promising 2010 season from TE Fred Davis, Davis stepped into the starting role and caught 59 passes for 796 yards and 3 TDs in12 games. Davis was suspended for the final four games. Regardless, Davis established himself as the premier tight end in Washington, earning the franchise tag from the Redskins in the off-season.
With a $6 million cap hit, Cooley's chances of maintaining a position with the team were suspect at best. During the OTAs, the Redskins converted promising wide receiver Niles Paul to tight end, further complicating any chance of a Cooley spot on the roster. The Redskins also like third year TE Logan Paulsen. Paulsen caught 11 passes for 138 yards last season. Paulsen however is known for being an excellent blocking tight end.
Cooley was drafted by the Redskins in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft. In 8 seasons with the Redskins, Cooley caught 428 passes for 4,703 yards with 33 touchdowns. He became one of the most popular figure for the Redskins over the past eight seasons.
The decision likely became a bit easier for Washington because Chris Cooley still believes he can start in the NFL. However, given Fred Davis' presence, he would not have been starter in DC. Releasing him early allows Cooley to move quickly to another team. According to HC Mike Shanahan, Cooley was told he would not start, and Cooley wanted the chance to see if he could start elsewhere.
At the podium at Redskins Park, Cooley commented that "The Washington Redskins are releasing me today. This will be my last day as a Washington Redskin. I've been very fortunate to play for a team like the Washington Redskins. This organization has changed my life. I've loved every minute of playing here . . . There's really no hard feelings. It's OK with me in the direction the team is moving . . . Thank you to our fans. It's been great!"