The Redskins released their 2-time Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley, a few hours after making some special teams’ chaos of their own by cutting kicker Graham Gano and replacing him with Billy Cundiff.
Coach Mike Shanahan claimed the decision came down to a matter of playing time. Fred Davis, who had a breakout year in 2011, has appeared as the new starting tight end, relegating Cooley to use duty as a backup at both fullback and tight end during preseason.
Cooley didn’t take questions at the end of his unplanned speech to reporters. He said lately that he needed to start, but that he was also at the point of his career that he would have liked to win after missing the playoffs in 6 of his 8 NFL seasons.
Shanahan expounded Cooley’s release was not about health or money. Cooley appeared in only 5 games last season after trying to play before sufficiently recovering from offseason left knee surgery.
“I thought he practiced well, he played well (in preseason), and I believe he’s got an opportunity to start in the National Football League,” Shanahan said. “I think he’s healthy.”
Cooley, whose Pro Bowl seasons came in 2007 and 2008, was also one of the most expensive players on the team, due $3.8 million in salary this year and $3.85 million in 2013.
Shanahan conceded that cutting Cooley is a “risky move” because Davis would be lost for the year for another violation of the NFL’s drug use policy. Davis was postponed for the final 4 games of last season after failing a drug test.
The coach failed to rule out having Cooley return if the 30-year-old tight end can not find an suitable team elsewhere.
For his part, Cooley appeared unsure what to do with himself.
“I have every belief that I will play football,” he revealed. “I have every belief that I can be not only a productive player but a starter in this league. I’m very confident in my abilities to play the game. It might be a tough decision for me to put on another jersey. It is something that I actually never had to imagine, so for now, I can take some time and make sure what I do in the future is exactly what I’d like to do.”
Gano’s release came one day after he appeared to win the kicking job, and 2 days after Cundiff was cut by the Ravens.
Gano, 25 years old, missed 11 attempts in 2010, tied for most in the NFL. He had a league-high 10 misses last season, though 5 of those were blocked. He beat out Rackers without attempting a field goal in the Redskins’ preseason games, coming out ahead based primarily on his performance during practice. Baseball lines
Cundiff’s statistics are only marginally better. The 32-year-old kicker has a career field goal rate of 76.7 with the Cowboys, Saints , Browns and Baltimore. He joined the Ravens in the 2009 season and went to the Pro Bowl season in 2010, going 26 for 29, but last season he missed a potential game-tying, 32-yarder against the Patriots in the waning seconds of the AFC title game.