Sitting at 4-3 with a home game against the Buccaneers lowly defense ahead of them, the Bengals are still in a decent position to accomplish something with their season. The 1-5 Raiders can’t quite say the same thing, and their head coach Jon Gruden probably knows it.
Before the start of the season, Gruden dealt away his best player Khalil Mack to the Bears in the blockbuster deal of the year. Without their 2014 first-round pick who was due for a gigantic new contract on the books anymore, conventional wisdom told us the Raiders were going to use that money to pay for their 2015 first-round pick Amari Cooper. Then trade rumors regarding Cooper started to surface and Gruden attempted to downplay them like any coach. But we know what happened next.
Jon Gruden on Amari Cooper in February: “He’ll be the focal point of our offense.”— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 22, 2018
Jon Gruden on Amari Cooper Trade Rumors Last Week: "I haven't heard that. I'm just sorry to have to deal with a lot of these reports.”
Today: Raiders trade Amari Cooper
Cooper was traded to the receiver-needy Cowboys for a first-round pick, giving the Raiders three of them including their own for the 2019 NFL Draft. If it wasn’t obvious before, it’s clear Gruden has his eyes on Las Vegas and Las Vegas only for when the Raiders move their in 2020, when he will still have eight years left on his contract.
So, who else is not in Gruden’s long-term plan? Well, if we asked Gruden, he’d say he’s done acquiring draft picks for players he doesn’t want.
When I mentioned Derek Carr, Gruden was quick and to the point: "We're not trading anyone else. We're trying to stay competitive and figure out a way to compete this next game (against the Colts." #Raiders— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) October 22, 2018
But we’re not so easily tricked.
Report: Janoris Jenkins, Gareon Conley involved in trade discussions ahead of deadline https://t.co/4Xc1nD0IF6— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) October 24, 2018
The Raiders are not the only team that has been and will continue to be busy before next week’s trade deadline, but they are a team that possesses an asset the Bengals could certainly use.
Tight end Jared Cook is on the second year of his two-year contract with the Raiders, so he’s not one of the free agents that Gruden brought in. At 31 years old, he doesn’t offer much long-term potential as a 10-year veteran. Cook is the Raiders leading receiver in every basic statistic besides touchdowns and yards per reception, which he’s second on the team in both. Aside from two outstanding games though, Cook has been just serviceable. In his last two games, he has 30 yards on eight targets.
The Raiders are 23rd in adjusted net yards per attempt and expected points on offense with Cook being essentially their No. 1 receiving option. They have just Lee Smith and Derrick Carrier behind him, but does Cook being around for the team’s second half of the season really mean anything?
He could mean something to the Bengals.
With Mason Schreck being the latest tight end to go down, the Bengals are left with just C.J. Uzomah, Matt Lengel, and Jordan Franks, who was promoted off the practice squad following Schreck’s designation to injured reserve.
The price for Cooks in a trade would also presumably be minimal. Aside from the Cooper transaction, trades from around the league have consisted entirely of day three draft picks. Running back Carlos Hyde was traded to the Jaguars for a fifth-round pick. Cornerback Eli Apple was traded to the Saints for a fourth-round pick and a seventh-round pick in 2020. And those were just underachieving players. All-Pro nose tackle Damon Harrison was traded to the Lions for a fifth-round pick.
In this market, Cook isn’t worth anything more than a fifth-round pick. To the Bengals, that’s valuable capital, but in reality, it isn’t.
Just look at this year. The Bengals had six draft picks beyond the fourth round of the draft. Only one, cornerback Darius Phillips, is on the active roster right now, and it took him five weeks to get on the field for the defense.
Cook would be able to come in and provide immediate depth for Uzomah for practically no cost. With his ability to stress defenses vertically, he may even be a better replacement for Tyler Eifert. What it comes down to is whether or not the Bengals believe they can truly compete for something meaningful from where they stand right now. Mike Brown and his staff does not give away draft picks very often, but there aren’t many better options in the short-term.
Despite Gruden’s words, the Raiders are selling to anyone who’s listening. The Bengals may’ve been screwed at the trade deadline last year, but they can accomplish something this time around in saving Cooks from the fire sale that’s surrounding him.